U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Energy Education & Workforce Development – EERE Postdoctoral Research Awards

Frequently Asked Questions

This section is meant to cover the most common questions regarding the EERE Postdoctoral Research Awards. The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are divided into several broad categories: general information, applications, eligibility, selection process, stipend and benefits, taxes, conditions and requirements, and travel. If you have questions about information not covered in this FAQ, please email: EEREpostdocs@orise.orau.gov.

General Information

What are the EERE Postdoctoral Research Awards?
Who administers the EERE Postdoctoral Research Awards?
Who do I contact for more information?

Applications

How do I apply for a Research Award?
What disciplines are the focus areas of the EERE Postdoctoral Research Awards?
What are possible research topics?
What are the components of the research proposals?
Where are the Awards located?
If selected, do I get to choose my location? Can I select a research facility?
How do I select a research facility/research mentor?
Do I have to have a research mentor before I submit an application?
When is the application deadline?
Can I submit more than the required two references?
When are my references due?
Must I submit an official transcript?
How will I know when my application is complete?
May I update my application after I have submitted it?

Eligibility

What are the eligibility requirements for the program?
Can I apply if I am not a citizen of the United States?
Are applicants who are U.S. citizens attending foreign institutions eligible to apply to the program?
Is a security clearance required before beginning an EERE Research Award?

Selection Process

How does the selection process work?
How and when is an applicant notified of an award?
What determines the start and end dates for the Award, and can they be changed?

Stipend and Benefits

What benefits does the Award provide?
When and how will Participants be paid?
How long is a Research Award appointment?
Can Participants assigned to a facility overseas use electronic fund transfer?
What if I participate only part of a month?
Is health insurance required during my appointment?
How soon does the ORISE health insurance become effective?
Is COBRA coverage and option when my appointment terminates?
What if I have an accident while engaged in activities related to my appointment?
Are Participants employees of ORISE, ORAU or EERE?
Does the program provide funds for purchasing equipment, software, books, etc, needed for the proposed research?
Does a Participant earn vacation of sick leave during the appointment?

Taxes

Does ORAU/ORISE withhold federal and state income taxes for Participants?
Are EERE Participants exempt from paying self-employment taxes?

Conditions and Requirements

To whom do I report the first day of my assignment?
Can EERE Participants submit grant proposals and serve as Principal Investigators during an EERE appointment?
Can EERE Participants receive income from other sources during a research appointment?
Can an EERE Participant receive a monetary award or some other type of award for professional recognition?
What are the requirements for publications?
Are there guidelines regarding copyrights and patents?
Is there any required reporting by Participants?
What if I need to terminate my appointment before the official end date?

Travel

When is reimbursement allowed for relocation?
Does ORISE assist with relocation to the appointment site for the EERE Participants?
When I terminate my appointment, will I be reimbursed for outbound relocation?
Is professional and programmatic travel paid for during the research appointment?
Are the unused travel funds from a previous year carried over when the appointment is extended?
Does ORISE have a travel agent to assist with travel arrangements or will we make our own travel plans?
Can a Participant make his/her own travel arrangements, pay for it or any part of it up front, and still be reimbursed by ORAU?
Can a Participant have personal travel during an appointment?
How far in advance should the Participant submit an approved Travel Authorization Request (TAR) to ORISE?

 


General Information

What are the EERE Postdoctoral Research Awards?
The Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Postdoctoral Research Awards for 2014 support innovative research in renewable energy by offering recent Ph.D. recipients the opportunity to conduct applied research at universities, national laboratories, and other research facilities. The objective of the 2014 EERE Postdoctoral Research Award is to create the next generation of scientific leaders in renewable energy by attracting the best scientists and engineers to pursue breakthrough technologies in renewable energy sources. Participants are expected to go on to permanent staff positions in academia, at national laboratories, or in industry at the end of their appointment. Former participants of the program are now faculty and staff scientists at major research institutions and national laboratories.

Who administers the EERE Postdoctoral Research Awards?
The program is administered for EERE by Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). The primary business of the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) is to administer internships, fellowships, and research appointment programs for federal agencies. ORISE is managed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), a university consortium leveraging the scientific strength of more than 100 major research institutions to advance science and education by partnering with national laboratories, government agencies, and private industry.

Who do I contact for more information?
Potential applicants and research mentors should send questions to Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) at EEREpostdocs@orise.orau.gov.

 

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Applications

How do I apply for a Research Award?
All pertinent information, including application components, research proposals, research topics, forms that must be completed, research facilities, etc. is available in the How to Apply section. All application materials must be submitted via email to EEREpostdocs@orise.orau.gov by April 30, 2014.

What disciplines are the focus areas of the EERE Postdoctoral Research Awards?
The EERE Postdoctoral Research Awards are sponsored by the Solar Energy Technologies Office. You can find a link to the program in the Research Topics section.

What are possible research topics?
The 2014 Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Postdoctoral Research Awards are intended to be an avenue for significant innovation in renewable energy in research topics of Solar Energy Technologies. These topics are listed in the Research Topics section. Research proposals must be related to the topics listed for solar energy technologies).

Applicants may select up to three research topics. Each research proposal must be specific for the research topics; therefore, a separate research proposal must be submitted for each research topic selected. Proposals must be approved by the research mentor listed in the application for each research topic.

What are the components of the research proposals?
EERE Postdoctoral Research Awards are designed such that 80% of the Participant's time is allocated to the core research project - the EERE research and development project that targets a topic of interest identified by the EERE program sponsoring the Award. The proposal must be specific for the research topic listed in the application and should be sufficiently complete for outside peer review. The proposal must include the following elements:

  • Title
  • Statement of Problem
  • Background and Relevance to Previous Work
  • General Methodology and Procedure
  • Explanation of New or Unusual Techniques
  • Significance and Application of Research
  • Milestones
  • Literature Citations including authors, year of publication, title, full name of journal volume number and page numbers

The maximum length is five pages, including all listed elements except the Milestones. The Milestones should be submitted using the template provided in the Research Proposals section. The proposal should be double-spaced using a 12-point font.

The remaining 20% of the time is allocated to innovation, which gives Participants an opportunity to develop projects related to renewable energy about which they are passionate and can take ownership. As part of the research proposal, applicants must provide a description of their initial idea(s) for using this 20% of their time.

  • Description of Idea(s) for Innovation Project(s) and Relevance to EERE
  • Timeline
  • Success Evaluation: How will you judge if your project is successful? What benchmark will demonstrate interim progress toward that success?
  • Literature Citations (if applicable) including authors, year of publication, title, full name of journal volume number and page numbers

The maximum length is one page, including figures and citations; double-spaced; 12-point font.

Where are the Awards located?
The Awards are located where the research mentor is working. Research mentors are scientists and engineers committed to support and guide the applicant's research activities during the Research Award. Research mentors must be currently conducting or directing research in an area related to the research opportunity selected by the applicant at a Department of Energy (DOE) laboratory, a university or other domestic or foreign facility supporting the EERE mission.

If selected, do I get to choose my location? Can I select a research facility located overseas?
If selected, you will be assigned to the same location at which your research mentor is working. This can include foreign facilities supporting the EERE mission. Because applicants may select up to three research topics and therefore submit up to three research proposals specific for the research topics, the final location will be dependent upon which research proposal is selected for the Award.

How do I select a research facility/research mentor?
The best way to select a research facility and research mentor is to look through the links for renewable energy listed on Research Topics for information about research partners, research facilities and program areas. You may not select your Ph.D. advisor as your research mentor for your Award, even if he/she changes research institutions.

Do I have to have a research mentor before I submit an application?
Yes. You must include a research mentor letter of support as part of your application. See For Research Mentors for detailed information about the expectations and responsibilities of research mentors.

When is the application deadline?
April 30, 2014, 11:59 p.m. EDT

Can I submit more than the required two references?
Yes, however, only two are required.

When are my references due?
Reference letters are also due on April 30, 2014.

Must I submit an official transcript?
Yes. Transcripts from your current institution or from the institution that awarded the Ph.D. must be submitted directly to ORISE by the academic institution. Transcripts from foreign institutions must be accompanied by an English translation.

Electronic copies including official university/college markings may be sent via email to EEREpostdocs@orise.orau.gov on or before the application deadline. Personally identifiable information (PII) such as Social Security Numbers (partial or complete), dates of birth (partial or complete), and student IDs must be removed from all pages of the transcripts. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that the institution does not send transcripts containing any of the above mentioned or other PII that, if lost or compromised, could cause serious harm (including identity theft) to the applicant.

Transcripts submitted via postal mail must be postmarked on or before deadline and sent to:

Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education
EERE Postdoctoral Research Awards, MS-36
P.O. Box 117
Oak Ridge, TN 3783

How will I know when my application is complete?
You will receive an email confirmation of a complete application when it has been received in its entirety by EEREpostdocs@orise.orau.gov.

May I update my application after I have submitted it?
You may update your application after submission if the update is received before April 30, 2014.

 

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Eligibility

What are the eligibility requirements for the program?

  • Have a Ph.D. for no more than five years from the application deadline or be expected to complete all the doctoral degree requirements by May 31, 2014.
  • Have U.S. citizenship or Permanent Resident ("green card") status by April 30, 2014.
  • Be available to start by September 1, 2014. Exceptions to this requirement may be considered for applicants with previous commitments. Contact ORISE for additional information.
  • Have received support to submit an application from a research mentor who holds a principal investigator position at a research facility.
  • Be eligible to obtain security or visitation clearance, if one is required, by the host facility.
  • Have demonstrated commitment to pursue innovative research in EERE areas of interest.
  • Have a superior academic performance record.
  • If you are currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program and planning to complete the degree requirements by May 31, 2014, you must have the graduate dean, registrar, or other authorized university official provide a signed statement that all requirements for the doctorate degree are expected to be met by May 31, 2014. You may not begin the Award until all degree obligations have been met.
  • If you are currently holding a postdoctoral position, you may select your current research mentor as long as you have not been in his/her lab for more than two years. However, if selected for aa Award, you must rescind from all employment or affiliation commitments before the beginning of the Award.
  • You may not select your Ph.D. advisor as your research mentor for your Award, even if he/she changes research institutions. Moreover, it is preferred that you do not stay at the same university for your Award where you received your doctorate. Exceptions may be considered when scientific reasons (e.g., new research mentor expertise or the availability of specialized equipment) make it necessary to remain at the same university.

Can I apply if I am not a citizen of the United States?
Only foreign nationals with Permanent Resident status (green card) by April 30, 2014 are eligible to apply. No exceptions are allowed.

Are applicants who are U.S. citizens attending foreign institutions eligible to apply to the program?
Yes.

Is a security clearance required before beginning an EERE Research Award?
Assigned research facilities have different requirements for security clearances. Appointments are contingent on the Participant's receipt of the necessary clearance to access the assigned research facilities.

 

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Selection Process

How does the selection process work?
ORISE receives application materials and verifies that they are complete and that the eligibility criteria are met. Application packages will be reviewed by subject-matter experts from universities, national laboratories and industry. Each application will receive three independent reviews. ORISE will compile all merit review data and provide results to EERE for final decisions. EERE program offices have the final selection authority.

How and when is an applicant notified of an award?
All selection notifications will be conducted by ORISE. It is anticipated that both selected and non-selected applicants will be notified by e-mail in June 2014.

What determines the start and end dates for the Research Award, and can they be changed?
Upon approval from the research mentor, the Participant's appointment may start within a few weeks from the date he/she has been notified of the award. Preferably, appointments will start before September 1, 2014. Exceptions will be considered for applicants with previous commitments. All contingencies of the appointment offer must be met before the selected applicant can begin an appointment.

 

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Stipend and Benefits

What benefits does the Award provide?
Benefits include a yearly stipend of $65,000, a research allowance of $10,000, health insurance, and possible relocation travel up to $5,000.

When and how will Participants be paid?
Stipends are paid on the last business day of each month. ORISE uses electronic fund transfer (EFT) to make stipend, travel reimbursement, and other program-related payments.

How long is an Award appointment?
Award appointments are for up to two years. The initial appointment period is awarded for a 12-month period. The appointment may be extended once for a total of two years, contingent upon the continued relevance of the research to the EERE Program's goal and missions (see Conditions and Requirements for additional details).

Can Participants assigned to overseas facilities use electronic fund transfer?
Possibly. ORISE can make electronic direct deposits only to U.S. financial institutions. Overseas Participants must verify that their financial institution has a U.S. transit routing number.

What if I participate only part of a month?
If your appointment begins after the first day of the month or terminates before the final day of the month, your stipend for that month will be prorated.

Is health insurance required during my appointment?
Yes. A stipend supplement will be provided to cover the cost of the individual or family health insurance plan offered by ORISE, which includes medical coverage and a prescription drug plan.

How soon does the ORISE health insurance become effective?
If a Participant does not have coverage at the start of the appointment, the effective date will be the first day of the appointment. If medical coverage requires a change from another insurance company, then the effective date will be the day after the other insurance ends, unless a participant requests an earlier effective date.

Is COBRA coverage an option when my appointment terminates?
Yes. COBRA provides temporary continuation of health insurance at group rates, available for up to 18 months at full cost to the Participant.

What if I have an accident while engaged in activities related to my appointment?
Participants are not covered by accident and death/dismemberment insurance (worker's compensation-type insurance). Expenses related to accidents must be covered by a personal health insurance policy.

Are Participants employees of ORISE, ORAU or EERE?
No. An EERE Participant is not an employee of the Department of Energy (DOE), ORAU, ORISE, the host facility, or any other office or agency. No commitment with regards to future employment should be inferred or expected by the offer or acceptance of a Research Award.

The Participant is affiliated with ORISE/ORAU for the administration of the appointment through the Letter of Appointment and Terms of Appointment. Participants will be required to sign and abide by the appointment letter, the Terms of Appointment, and other documents required by EERE.

Does the program provide funds for purchasing equipment, software, books, etc, needed for the proposed research?
Participants will receive a research allowance of $10,000 per Award year to cover expenses related to their research and/or scientific and professional development activities. The research allowance may be used for the following purposes:

  • Travel (domestic and foreign) to research-related activities, professional development experiences, scientific/technical research conferences, or professional meetings.
  • Purchase of laboratory research supplies, including books and minor equipment.
  • Subscription to trade/technical journals.
  • Purchase of memberships to trade/technical organizations.
  • Purchase of computers, software, and peripherals.

Does a Participant earn vacation of sick leave during the appointment?
Participants are not employees; therefore, there are no employment-related benefits such as paid vacations, sick leave, or unemployment compensation. With the approval of the research mentor, however, a Participant may be excused from participation for brief periods due to personal leave, illness, emergencies, or other unforeseen circumstances.

Participants will be expected to maintain a full-time schedule during the appointment except for normal holidays recognized by the host facility and approved by the research mentor.

If a Participant needs to be off for any extended period of time and cannot make up the time, then the research mentor will notify ORISE and the participant will be put on leave-without-pay status until he/she returns.

 

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Taxes

Does ORAU/ORISE withhold federal and state income taxes for Participants?
No. Since Participants are not employees and since they receive awards (not wages), ORAU/ORISE does not withhold state or federal income taxes from award payments for U.S. citizens. Participants should consider filing Form 1040-ES on a quarterly basis and paying estimated federal income taxes in order to avoid late payment penalties. Travel expense reimbursements (including relocation costs) are not taxable.

Participants should consult a tax accountant or other tax professional regarding state and federal income tax requirements.

EERE Participants receive award payments from ORAU, which are reported to the IRS as Miscellaneous Income- prizes and awards as defined in IRS Code Section 74. All payments by ORAU/ORISE should be reported on the Participant's federal income tax return, form 1040, as "Other Income" and be identified as a "Fellowship Award."

Are EERE Participants exempt from paying self-employment taxes?
Yes. Since EERE Participants are not employees and since they receive awards (not wages), they are exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes.

 

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Conditions and Requirements

To whom do I report the first day of my assignment?
Your research mentor will be responsible for coordinating security and badging procedures, orientations, safety briefings, logistical arrangements, and other aspects of your appointment. When you arrive at the appointment facility to begin your appointment, you must report to your research mentor or assigned facility coordinator as instructed by your research mentor.

Can EERE Participants submit grant proposals and serve as Principal Investigators during an EERE appointment?
Participants will be expected to focus on the research proposed in the EERE application and publish the results in peer-reviewed journals. While Participants are encouraged to contribute to the development of research proposals, Participants shall not be required to generate or to submit proposals to secure funds to facilitate the research proposed on the application.

Since the Participant will not have an institutional affiliation (an institution is needed for proposal submission and funds administration), in order to submit a proposal, the Participant must list the research mentor as the official principal investigator and the host facility should administer the funds. The funds cannot be used to supplement the Participant's EERE stipend.

Participants must acknowledge the support of EERE on publications and presentations that are related to the research conducted during the appointment and to provide a copy of such publications to EERE and ORISE. Pursuant to Title 35 U.S. Code, Section 212, no provision of the ORISE Terms of Appointment or any other document to be completed by a participant may contain any provision giving ORISE any rights to inventions made by the Participant. However, host facilities may have different interests in this regard and may impose additional requirements as a condition to conduct research at the facility. Participants are expected to comply with the policies of the host facility regarding the intellectual property rights and dissemination of research information.

Can EERE Participants receive income from other sources during a research appointment?
No. Participants are not allowed to supplement their stipends through simultaneous employment, grants, or other sources of income that compete with the Award activities. During their appointments, Participants shall only perform research related to the core and innovation projects stated in the proposal submitted with the EERE application.

Can an EERE Participant receive a monetary award or some other type of award for professional recognition?
Awards, prizes, review, panel honoraria, scholarships, Veterans Administration benefits, sabbatical leave, and any other payments may be accepted by an EERE Participant provided that these payments do not represent dual payment for the same activity.

What are the requirements for publications?
Participants are encouraged to publish their research findings in peer-reviewed open literature. They are required to adhere to the host facility's requirements for prior review and approval of all material, whether written or prepared for oral presentation. Participants must acknowledge the support of EERE on publications and presentations that are related to the research conducted during the appointment and to provide a copy of such publications to EERE and ORISE.

Are there guidelines regarding copyrights and patents?
Pursuant to Title 35 U.S. Code, Section 212, no provision of the ORISE Terms of Appointment or any other document to be completed by a participant may contain any provision giving ORISE any rights to inventions made by the Participant. However, host facilities may have different interests in this regard and may impose additional requirements as a condition to conduct research at the facility. Participants are expected to comply with the policies of the host facility regarding the intellectual property rights and dissemination of research information.

Is there any required reporting by Participants?
Yes. Each EERE Participant must submit quarterly progress reports and a Final Report prior to the completion of the 2-year appointment. The Final Report should summarize the research accomplishments during the appointment.

Attendance to an Annual Research Meeting for EERE Participants may be required. The meeting is scheduled for 2015. Travel and accommodations for the Annual Research Meeting will be provided by the EERE Program sponsoring the Award. During this meeting, Participants will have the opportunity to learn more about DOE, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and the agencies affiliated with EERE, and to meet with and present their research to other EERE Participants, EERE staff, and representatives from DOE national laboratories and other research facilities supporting the EERE research mission.

What if I need to terminate my appointment before the official end date?
You must immediately inform your research mentor and ORISE. The written notification should be submitted at least 60 days before the early termination date.

If you terminate your initial appointment with fewer than twelve months of participation, you must repay in full any reimbursed relocation expenses you may have received. You must also submit a final report and settle any outstanding travel expense statements.

 

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Travel

When is reimbursement allowed for relocation?
If a Participant resides more than 50 miles from the assigned facility, reimbursement of expenses for relocating from the Participant's current residence address to the area of the assigned facility will be provided, up to $5,000. Relocation expenses may include transportation, shipment of household goods within the United States, temporary lodging, and per diem.

Reimbursement of any allowable expenses must adhere to the Federal Travel Regulations and ORAU/ORISE Travel Guidelines.

Does ORISE assist with relocation to the appointment site for the EERE Participants?
Yes. Before you make any arrangements to relocate, if applicable, you should contact ORISE staff as indicated in the offer letter. Relocation travel arrangements must be approved by ORISE and adhere to Federal Travel Regulations and ORISE travel guidelines. ORISE staff can provide information, assistance and approvals for your relocation travel arrangements.

When I terminate my appointment, will I be reimbursed for outbound relocation?
No. Postdoctoral Participants will not be reimbursed for outbound moving expenses when their appointments end.

Is professional and programmatic travel paid for during the research appointment?
Yes. Participants will receive a research allowance of $10,000 per Award year to cover expenses related to their research and/or scientific and professional development activities. The research allowance may be used for the following purposes:

  • Travel (domestic and foreign) to research-related activities, professional development experiences, scientific/technical research conferences, or professional meetings.
  • Purchase of laboratory research supplies, including books and minor equipment.
  • Subscription to trade/technical journals.
  • Purchase of memberships to trade/technical organizations.
  • Purchase of computers, software, and peripherals.

Additionally, the Participant's travel and accommodations to an Annual Research Meeting will be provided. This meeting will be organized and hosted by EERE. The meeting is scheduled for 2015.

Are the unused travel funds from a previous year carried over when the appointment is extended?
No.

Does ORISE have a travel agent to assist with travel arrangements or will we make our own travel plans?
ORISE has in-house travel staff to assist with EERE travel. The Participant will prepare a Travel Authorization Request (TAR) form and submit it to ORISE with EERE-required approvals at least two weeks prior to the departure date for domestic travel, at least 40 days in advance for foreign travel to a non-sensitive country, and at least 55 days in advance for foreign travel to a sensitive country as designated by the Department of State. ORISE will then make travel arrangements for the Participant, if requested. Once travel is completed, the Participant will complete the Travel Expense Statement (TES) form to document travel expenses and request reimbursement.

Can a Participant make his/her own travel arrangements, pay for it or any part of it up front, and still be reimbursed by ORISE?
Yes. Travel reimbursement will be in accordance with the ORISE Travel Policies. We strongly advise that the Participant consult with ORISE prior to the scheduled travel to ensure that the Travel Authorization Request is completed accurately and that expenses will be reimbursable.

Can a Participant have personal travel during an appointment?
All personal travel must be pre-approved by the research mentor. If the stipend is to be continued during the personal leave, the research mentor must provide ORISE with approval of the personal travel and the continuation of the stipend at least two weeks in advance of your departure date.

How far in advance should the Participant submit an approved Travel Authorization Request (TAR) to ORISE?
The Participant will prepare a Travel Authorization Request (TAR) form and submit it to ORISE with mentor-required approvals at least two weeks prior to the departure date for domestic travel, at least 40 days in advance for foreign travel to a non-sensitive country, and at least 55 days in advanced for foreign travel to a sensitive country.

 

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