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Application Guidelines

Goal: The primary goal of the WiSE Merit Award for Current Doctoral Students is to encourage outstanding doctoral students at USC to pursue careers in science and engineering, thereby increasing the representation of women in these fields. The WiSE Program awards up to four WiSE Merit Awards (two in USC Dornsife and two in the Viterbi School of Engineering) each year to recognize exceptional research. Each WiSE Merit Award carries a one-year stipend of $1,500, during which time the student must be full-time, in residence at USC. This award is not to be used in lieu of any other funding.

Eligibility: Two Awards may be given to Ph.D. students in USC Dornsife and two in the Viterbi School of Engineering. In order to be eligible for a WiSE Merit Award, the students must be enrolled full-time in the upcoming Fall and Spring semesters, be in at least their fourth year of study or passed their qualifying exams, and be funded by a 50%-time research assistantship, teaching assistantship, or fellowship during that period. Expected date of graduation should not be earlier than the Spring semester. The student must be nominated by their faculty advisor based on the quality of their doctoral research. Any faculty member (research or tenure track) with Ph.D. supervision privileges is eligible to nominate a student. Research faculty without these privileges may also nominate students together with a tenure-track member in an advisory role. Nominations by faculty should be sent to their department chair.

Nomination Process: Each WiSE-eligible department may nominate candidates based on the size of the department or section’s PhD Program, as follows:

  • departments/sections with 1-75 students: max of 1 nomination
  • departments/sections with 76-175 students: max of 2 nominations
  • departments/sections with > 175 students: max of 3 nominations

ranked in order by emailing electronic nomination materials to the WiSE Program office The following information must be submitted for each nominee:

  • A letter of application. Please download the following application form, PhD Merit Award Application Form, fill it out and email it to
  • A letter of recommendation from the research advisor which estimates the expected date of defense of the dissertation, details the exceptional work of the student, and explains how the WiSE Merit Award will serve to increase the representation of women in science and engineering.
  • A written one-page statement by the candidate, describing their current research accomplishments and estimating their expected date of completion.
  • The candidate’s current CV listing accomplishments and publications
  • A brief cover letter of nomination by the department chair ranking the candidates and explaining how the candidates achievements are compared to those of other students in the department.