Forward Fellows

Forward Fellows is a funded, transition program designed to broaden participation in science and engineering. Eligible graduate students will have the opportunity to come to UW–Madison for the month prior to the official start of their graduate programs. The program provides students an opportunity to conduct research, acclimate to the university and campus, and build community with a group of diverse graduate students from across multiple STEM disciplines.

Program Start Date:
July 28, 2024

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis, January through April. Nominees are later asked to submit a brief form.

Nomination Form


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Program Advantages

  1. Provides one month of salary (plus health insurance) to do research in home department.
  2. Participants network and build community with people from across campus.
  3. Professional development activities foster early research skills.


Any faculty from MRSEC-participating departments (listed below) can nominate an incoming graduate student in a PhD or Research Masters program for Forward Fellows.

Departments include:

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Nuclear Engineering Engineering Physics
  • Pharmacy
  • Physics

Students must have financial support and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Frequently Asked Questions

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What are the selection criteria for the Forward Fellows?

The ideal candidate should demonstrate a strong desire to participate in this bridging program, which offers an opportunity to facilitate transition into graduate school by gaining early research skills and by building community with a group of diverse graduate students from multiple disciplines.

The ideal candidate should provide specific examples of qualities, skills, and lived experiences that they will bring to the program. Examples include (but are not limited to):

  • Examples of current studies and involvement in campus and community activities that have prepared the student to achieve their aspirations.
  • Description of exemplary leadership, outreach, and service.
  • Unique circumstances that might have impacted the student’s life (e.g., family or financial responsibilities, unique challenges or difficulties faced, obstacles overcome).

Do the students need a research mentor during the program?

Yes, the nomination form required a mentor whose lab the student will work in during the program.  Students are expected to do research for the duration of the Forward Fellows program.

If students are in the Forward Fellows program, can they also be in other programs such as GERS?

Yes, absolutely.  We encourage you to nominate students to multiple programs.

Will the students receive funding?

Yes, the MRSEC will fund the students as Research Interns in the Materials Science and Engineering Department from the start of the program until their home department picks up their appointment.  The students will be paid at the same rate their home department pays so there will be no change in pay between the Forward Fellows program and their graduate program.

Will the students have health insurance?

Yes, the students will have health insurance as part of their appointment.

When does the program start and end?

The 2024 program will start on July, 28, 2024 and will consist of four weeks of programming for the students.  However, the funding end date will be the date the student’s home department takes over their appointment.  The program is designed so students have no gap in funding or health insurance between the Forward Fellows program and the start of their graduate program.

How many students can each department nominate?

The selection committee is not limiting the number of students each department can nominate.  However, the MRSEC currently has funding in hand for approximately 12 students and the selection committee will strive to admit a diverse cohort of students.

When are the nominations due?

The Forward Fellows selection committee will accept nominations on a rolling basis January through April.

When will faculty and departments be informed that a student they nominated has been selected for the FF program?

The selection committee will send out program acceptance information on a rolling basis with the goal of having the first round of acceptances sent out by April 1.

When do students need to accept their admission into the Forward Fellows program?

Students will need to accept a position in the program by mid May, 2024.

Do the students need to do materials science research to be in the program?

No, as long as the student is from one of the qualifying departments, they can do research with any faculty member in that department.

What departments can nominate students for the Forward Fellows program?

  1. Materials Science and Engineering
  2. Engineering Physics
  3.  Computer and Electrical Engineering
  4.  Physics
  5.  Chemistry
  6.  Pharmaceutical Sciences
  7.  Chemical and Biological Engineering
  8.  Biomedical Engineering
  9.  Civil and Environmental Engineering
  10.  Mechanical Engineering

Will Forward Fellows provide housing for students?

No, the program does not currently have funding for housing.  Forward Fellows administration may be able to assist students in finding short-term housing for the program.

Will Forward Fellows provide any moving expenses for students?

No, the program does not currently have funding for moving expenses.

Contact Information

For general questions:
Anne Lynn Gillian-Daniel

For questions about the nomination process or selection criteria:
Victor Zavala

The Forward Fellows program is supported by the NSF-funded Wisconsin Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) DMR-2309000 and by the UW College of Engineering Office of Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity in Engineering.