Advice to Prospective Miller Fellows

I’ve received a number of requests for advice on obtaining a Miller Fellowship.  So, here it is:

  1.  Stay big picture in your proposal.  When I was applying for the fellowship, my PhD adviser (Vijay Pande) passed on this advice from David Chandler (former director of the Institute): write as if you’re trying to convince somebody that you would be good company at lunch.  I thought this was just a cute way of saying to stay big picture but now I realize there’s a lot of truth to it.  Everyone involved in the Miller Institute really does get together for lunch once a week.  So, highlight big interesting questions you would like to address that will capture other scientists’ imaginations.   Give some information about the great methods you will use, but don’t get into lots of technical detail.  If you can’t communicate the context of your research in an engaging way in your application, you probably won’t be good company for all those lunches either.

  2. Know your audience.  Ultimately, the Miller executive committee chooses the Miller postdoctoral fellows.  The committee members’ names are listed on the website.  Go checkout their research.  You don’t have to propose something in their fields, but you at least need to phrase things in a way they’ll understand.

  3. Contact prospective hosts at Berkeley.  When you apply, you have to list potential host departments.  These departments will have a chance to rank everyone who proposes to join them.  Get in touch with people you might like to work with so they can push for you.  Consider visiting Berkeley and giving a talk if you can.

  4. Show that you’re quantitative.  The Miller Institute is very broad but one common theme is that everyone is pretty quantitative.  It won’t hurt to communicate that you fit this mold.