This article is published in the March 2011 issue.

CIFellows Descend on Washington

Nearly 80 Computing Innovation Fellows ( descended on Washington, DC, in mid-December for the 2010 CIFellows Project Research Meeting and Career Mentoring Workshop ( by the National Science Foundation and run by the Computing Research Association and Computing Community Consortium, this meeting provided the 2009 and 2010 CIFellows with opportunities to network with one another and to receive career advice from leading experts in the field.

Microsoft’s Peter Lee kicked things off with a captivating dinner keynote presentation, describing his career trajectory, recent clean-slate initiatives he implemented at DARPA, and important observations and lessons about “Being a CIFellow.”  He implored the CIFellows to be independent thinkers, to always keep in mind the value of basic research, and to simply be great researchers. ”If in your research you are not failing occasionally, that probably means you are not thinking big enough,” Peter said. ”You have to be willing to take risk and… have a few sleepless nights… to really accomplish great things.”

The meeting continued over the next two days with:

  • Talks by NSF/CISE, DARPA, and the Laboratory for Telecommunications Sciences about funding opportunities and how to write compelling proposals;
  • A one-minute madness (during which each of the CIFellows had 60 seconds to describe his/her background, research interests, and future career aspirations);
  • A poster session with presentations by second-year CIFellows;
  • A tutorial on how to write good proposals; and
  • A series of talks on planning one’s research career, networking, teaching, mentoring and managing students, landing a permanent position in academia or industry, and managing the work/life balance.

In preparation for the meeting/workshop, the CIFellows uploaded their CVs, one-page research abstracts, one-minute madness slides and—in the case of the second-year

CIFellows—research posters to a new community Web portal for and about the CIFellows: Be sure to check it out to learn more about the CIFellows and their cutting-edge research projects.

Special thanks to Mary Jean Harrold (Georgia Tech) and Carla Ellis (Duke) who helped organize the program—and to all the speakers who devoted their time and energy to the meeting!

The CIFellows Project was first funded in 2009 to enable recent Ph.D.s in computer science to obtain one- to two-year postdoctoral positions at academic institutions and industrial organizations with basic computing research and education programs. The initiative sought to forestall the permanent loss of research talent likely to occur as a consequence of the financial crisis, and to enable new Ph.D.s to develop additional experience, making them more effective researchers and/or teachers in the long term.

Following a successful first year—in which nearly all the CIFellows and their mentors reported positive experiences, and over a quarter of the 60 CIFellows landed permanent positions within academia and industry—the CIFellows Project was funded again in 2010 by NSF. The 2010 class of CIFellows, comprising 47 recent Ph.D. graduates from 34 different Ph.D.-granting colleges and universities within the U.S.—with assignments to mentors at 36 unique host organizations—was announced in early January:


Dr. Erwin Gianchandani is the Director of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) and the Computing Innovation Fellows Project(E-mail:;Ph: 202-266-2936; Fax: 202-667-1066).

CIFellows Descend on Washington