I. Format

The proposal format should be single column, Times New Roman (or equivalent), minimum 11-point font.

The project summary (~½ page), project description (2-3 pages), and biographical sketches (1-2 pages) should be on separate pages. Citations / bibliography do not count toward the page limit.

Tip: For any proposal being submitted to any agency, always review the length and formatting guidelines carefully! In real NSF applications and for many conference submissions, not following the specified format can result in an automatic denial.

II. Project Summary

Each proposal must contain a summary of the proposed project not more than one half page in length. The Project Summary consists of an overview, a statement on the intellectual merit of the proposed activity, and a brief statement on the broader impacts of the proposed activity (you will expand on the brader impacts in the Project Description section). The summary should read and present similar to an abstract- that is, it should be written in the third person and consist of text only and not include citations or images; should be informative to other persons working in the same or related fields; and, insofar as possible, understandable to a scientifically or technically literate lay reader.

The overview includes a description of the activity that would result if the proposal were funded and a statement of objectives and methods to be employed. The statement on intellectual merit should describe the potential of the proposed activity to advance knowledge. The statement on broader impacts should describe the potential of the proposed activity to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes.

Check out some general tips for writing a compelling proposal here (PDF).

III. Project Description

The Project Description should provide a clear statement of the work to be undertaken and must include the objectives for the period of the proposed work and expected significance; the relationship of this work to the present state of knowledge in the field, as well as to work in progress by the PI under other support. You are encouraged to highlight your related work and how it positions you for the work described in the proposal.

The Project Description should outline the general plan of work, including the broad design of activities to be undertaken, and, where appropriate, provide a clear description of experimental methods and procedures. Any research that involves human subjects requires a plan to get UW IRB approval within the timeframe of the grant, or an explanation for why IRB approval is not needed.

Proposers should address what they want to do, why they want to do it, how they plan to do it with the help of an undergraduate student, how they will know if they succeed, and what benefits could accrue if the project is successful. The project activities may be based on previously established and/or innovative methods and approaches, but in either case must be well justified. These issues apply to both the technical aspects of the proposal and the way in which the project may make broader contributions.

Additional required elements:

(a) The Project Description must contain, as a separate section within the narrative, a section labeled "Broader Impacts". This section should provide a discussion of the broader impacts of the proposed activities. Broader impacts may be accomplished through the research itself, through the activities that are directly related to specific research projects, or through activities that are supported by, but are complementary to the project. [Note: For Allen School postdoc research awards, the proposal scope and funding is typically not large enough to have very large broader impacts; however, it is important to start thinking about how to address this issue in larger proposals, and thus we encourage you to make an attempt in your postdoc research award proposal. At a minimum, each of you will be able to highlight the benefit of education the next generation of researchers by advising an undergraduate student. Try to identify other areas of broader impact from the list below.]

NSF values the advancement of scientific knowledge and activities that contribute to the achievement of societally relevant outcomes. Such outcomes include, but are not limited to:

  • Full participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)
  • Improved STEM education and educator development at any level
  • Increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology
  • Improved well-being of individuals in society
  • Development of a diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce
  • Increased partnerships between academia, industry, and others
  • Improved national security
  • Increased economic competitiveness of the US
  • Enhanced infrastructure for research and education.

(b) Undergraduate recruiting and mentoring plan. Discuss your plans for how you plan to recruit and mentor an undergraduate student. You may borrow freely from the suggestions provided here.  You don't already have to have an undergraduate lined up to do research in order to apply for an award. It is common to find one after winning the award. It is also easier to recruit an undergrad once you have funding to offer.

(c) Budget and timeline.

Please present your project's budget and timeline in tabular form.

Project budgets may not exceed $10,000 and proposals should include a budget with a breakdown of how funds will be used, including:

  1. Undergraduate research salaries ($18/hour minimum).
  2. Any conference travel or other travel required for the project.
  3. Any equipment or specialized software licensing needs.

The proposal should also include a rough timeline for completing the various stages of the work (note that awards are initially active for one calendar year and you must request an extension if the work is not complete by this time).  Projects should be planned to conclude within one year or at the end of the postdoc's appointment in the Allen School, whichever comes sooner.

(d) Independence of proposed work.These awards are intended to further your development as an independent researcher. Thus, you must explain how the proposed work is distinct from work funded by your postdoc advisor.

IV. Biographical Sketch

A biographical sketch (a short CV, limited to two pages) is required for each individual identified as senior personnel (just the submitting postdoc in this case).

Do not submit any personal information in the biographical sketch. This includes items such as: home address; home telephone, fax, or cell phone numbers; home e-mail address; driver's license numbers; marital status; personal hobbies; and the like. Such personal information is not appropriate for the biographical sketch and is not relevant to the merits of the proposal.

(a) Professional Preparation 
A list of the individual’s undergraduate and graduate education and postdoctoral training (including location) as indicated below:

Undergraduate Institution(s)




Degree & Year

Graduate Institution(s)



Degree & Year

Postdoctoral Institution(s)



Inclusive Dates (years)

(b) Appointments 
A list, in reverse chronological order, of all the individual's academic/professional appointments beginning with the current appointment.

(c) Products 
A list of: (i) up to five products most closely related to the proposed project; and (ii) up to five other significant products, whether or not related to the proposed project. Acceptable products must be citable and accessible including but not limited to publications, data sets, software, patents, and copyrights. Unacceptable products are unpublished documents not yet submitted for publication, invited lectures, and additional lists of products. Only the list of ten will be used in the review of the proposal. Each product must include full citation information including (where applicable and practicable) names of all authors, date of publication or release, title, title of enclosing work such as journal or book, volume, issue, pages, website and URL or other Persistent Identifier. If only publications are included, the heading "Publications" may be used for this section of the Biographical Sketch.

(d) Synergistic Activities 
A list of up to five examples that demonstrate the broader impact of the individual’s professional and scholarly activities that focuses on the integration and transfer of knowledge as well as its creation. Examples could include, among others: innovations in teaching and training (e.g., development of curricular materials and pedagogical methods); contributions to the science of learning; development and/or refinement of research tools; computation methodologies, and algorithms for problem-solving; development of databases to support research and education; broadening the participation of groups underrepresented in STEM; and service to the scientific and engineering community outside of the individual’s immediate organization.