NHFP Fellow-Graduate Student Mentorship Program

Statement of Purpose

The 2020 Decadal Survey has emphasized the need for astronomers to take an active role in removing barriers to pursuing careers in astronomy. The recent NASA Hubble Fellowship Program Review has highlighted the underrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx fellows and the concentration of fellowship awards among a small number of institutions. The past few years have also been especially challenging for early career astronomers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted research and reduced networking opportunities.

We are piloting a new virtual mentorship program in which current and previous NHFP fellows will provide professional and academic advice and support to PhD students performing astronomy-related research, especially those who may not have the same level of access to the resources and connections that many NHFP fellows have benefited from. We seek to improve the diversity of recipients of independent postdoctoral fellowships, which have traditionally served as key stepping stones for leadership positions in astronomy.

This program is independently organized by NHFP fellows and is not managed or sponsored by the NASA Hubble Fellowship Program. Participation in this program does not influence the NHFP application review process. Opinions expressed by individual fellows do not represent those of the NASA Hubble Fellowship Program.


Mentors are recruited from current and former participants of the NASA Hubble Fellowship Program and its predecessor programs (Hubble, Einstein, Sagan, Chandra, Fermi, Michelson, Spitzer). Mentor bios for 2022-2023 are available here.

Student application and selection process for 2022-2023

The application deadline has passed for 2022. Thanks to everyone who submitted applications!

We hope to accommodate as many students as possible. However, since the number of interested students may exceed the available mentorship capacity, we ask all interested students to fill out an application form, which will open March 15, 2022 and close April 22, 2022. If you are unable to access Google Forms, please e-mail us at nhfp.equity@gmail.com.

We welcome applications from Ph.D. students (including students from outside the U.S.) who are performing research relevant to astronomy and have completed any required coursework and preliminary/qualifying exams. Since most mentors will be located inside the U.S., students may need to be flexible in what time they are willing to meet in order to facilitate getting matched with a mentor. If the number of interested students exceeds the available mentorship capacity, we will prioritize the following applicants:

  • Students with backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in astronomy, especially Black, Latinx, and Indigenous (including native Pacific Islander) scholars.

  • Students who come from institutions that have not historically fielded or hosted many NASA prize fellows.

  • Students who are planning to apply for astronomy-related postdoctoral positions during the mentorship period.

  • Students who have demonstrated evidence of leadership and/or significant contributions to their institution and/or to the broader astronomical community through their research, service, outreach, teaching, and mentorship activities.

We will match mentors and mentees based on their stated experiences, goals, and interests, as well as time-zone compatibility. We will separately contact mentors and mentees to confirm the matches.

Program Structure

  • For the initial iteration of this program, the mentor/mentee commitment is expected to be 12 months long (from mid-May 2022 to mid-May 2023), with possibility for extension upon mutual agreement. During this time, the mentor and mentee are expected to meet at least once a month for an hour (or shorter but more frequently). These meetings are intended to be virtual; however, if circumstances allow and both participants are amenable, the mentor and mentee can meet in person. We recommend setting up a regular meeting time to establish a routine. Mentors and mentees are mutually responsible for maintaining a regular meeting schedule. If one of you needs to reschedule, please give the other person as much advance notice as possible. Please contact one of the organizers or e-mail us at nhfp.equity@gmail.com if your mentor/mentee becomes unresponsive. Outside of the monthly meetings, we also encourage asynchronous communication between mentors and mentees through e-mail or another medium of their choice.

  • At the outset of the mentorship program, mentees will be asked to fill out a self-assessment describing their goals, the timeline, and how they plan to achieve them. The mentor and mentee should discuss this self-assessment at the first meeting and revisit it periodically throughout the year to track progress.

  • Helping students navigate the academic job market is a core goal of this program. Therefore, mentors should be prepared to do the following, if requested by the mentee:

    • Provide advice on reaching out to potential postdoctoral advisors, networking, putting together a professional website, CV, and job negotiations.

    • Give detailed feedback on a job talk and at least one set of job application materials. Mentees are responsible for providing these materials sufficiently in advance (at least 10 business days before the deadline, or fewer if agreed upon in advance by the mentor).

  • Otherwise, the scope of the mentor-mentee discussions is intended to be open-ended. Additional discussion topics may include (but are not limited to):

    • how to start and sustain independent research programs

    • time management and work-life balance

    • how to design and give effective presentations

    • shared scientific, technical, and outreach interests

    • making the transition from graduate school to postdoctoral life (moving, meeting new people, forming new collaborations, etc)

    • what it’s like to live and work in the U.S. compared to other countries

    • addressing bias related to gender, race, health, sexual orientation, family status, national origin, faith

    • how to find/obtain institutional resources (travel grants, short-term funding, etc)

    • effective collaborating (data rights, authorship, etc.)

  • All participants are expected to read and adhere to the AAS code of ethics. Mentors and mentees should treat the personal details of their conversations as confidential unless explicitly given permission to share with others or if they fall under the scope of mandatory reporting obligations. Misconduct should be reported immediately to one of the organizers. Serious violations will result in removal from the program. Depending on the nature and severity of the misconduct, we may also contact NHFP, the AAS Ethics Committee, and/or the home institutions of the mentor/mentee.