What we look for when we evaluate student proposals for funding:
1. Quality of the candidate: You are your best advocate, so tell us in detail how getting summer funding will help you achieve your goals. Include with your application your Yale transcript and a CV, including in it what activities you did in high school. It is very important that you describe any previous research experience you have, even if it was not at Yale or was in high school. Let us know this in your personal statement section (if requested with your fellowship application) and in your CV.
2. Quality of the research proposal: Your research proposal should be at least 4 pages long in order to provide enough detail for the reviewers. The main goal of your research proposal is to demonstrate to the reviewers that you thoroughly understand the research you will be conducting (both the technical aspects and the overall goals) and can explain it coherently in your own words. You should assume that the reviewers are science literate, but are NOT experts in your field of research or discipline. You should use resources from your lab and mentor, including grant proposals, but you must make sure that it is written entirely by you. We are very good at spotting what you have written, and what’s your mentor’s work. It is not appropriate to lift portions of your mentor’s grant proposals, even when explaining experimental design details. The only exception is preliminary data from your mentor’s lab that you need to include in your proposal to justify your research aims. If you do this, you need to properly cite the source of the material.
Provide enough background to demonstrate to the reviewers that you understand, not only the technical details of your project but also the scientific basis for the experiments you have proposed and what you will learn from the results. Definitely propose a hypothesis on which your research is based and/or an explanation for how your research, if successful, will help to move the field forward. Make sure to define ALL abbreviations and properly and completely cite your sources.
3. Quality of the research experience: Yale labs typically provide a good research experience, but it is important for your mentor to mention how he/she will specifically mentor you over the summer. How often will your primary mentor (the lab PI) meet with you? Will you get to present your research data to the mentor? To your lab members? We want you not to only learn the technical aspects of doing science, but also to constantly discuss your data with your mentor, brainstorm any problems you might encounter and present your data in lab meetings.
4. Quality of mentor’s letter of support: Be sure your mentor mentions the quality of the research experience (#3) in his or her letter of support. Ask for the letter AT LEAST several weeks before the deadline for the application so she/he knows what is expected and will have the time to write a well though-out letter for you. If you are new to your lab, but have previous research experience from high school be sure to include a letter from your previous mentor as well. Get to know your mentor so she/he can craft a strong letter of support for you.