Frequently Asked Questions

Please note that the responses have been developed by a number of Downs Fellowship Committee members to provide general guidance on the Downs Fellowship and may not be directly applicable to your particular application. The information here does not represent official policies of the Committee and will be amended as necessary. All applications will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

All graduate students proposing to conduct biomedical research in resource-poor countries and/or with marginalized populations are eligible to apply. This includes both masters and Ph.D. students in the health professional schools (Medicine, Nursing, Public Health, and PA program), and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
The Downs Fellowship Committee includes representatives from the Schools of Nursing, Medicine and Public Health, the Physician Associate Program, as well as former Downs fellows. The current Committee member list is posted on the Downs website:

Please see the Downs home page for current important dates. 

Proposal Writing Workshops:
Each Fall there are 5-6 proposal writing workshops that are sponsored by the Downs Committee. They are intended to provide students with a basic understanding of epidemiologic, biostatistics, qualitative research, and ethical principles that will enable them to write, organize, and perform a research study abroad. Although this workshop is not mandatory for applicants, attendance will be taken and considered by the Down’s Committee. In addition, only students who attend 50% or greater of the workshops will be eligible for help from the instructor on their research proposals. 

Proposal Submission:
All applicants who submit their research proposals by the deadline will be matched with two Downs Committee to serve as a mentor. The applicant will be notified of the committee members they were matched with and must take the initiative to contact and schedule an appointment as soon as possible with their mentor. The Downs Committee member does not serve as or replace faculty advisors. ONLY applications received by the deadline will be considered for mentor matching. It is recommended to take advantage of this opportunity as the final application process is highly competitive. These proposals must be emailed to Anjuli Bodyk by the strict deadline. 

Final Applications:
All final applications must be submitted on the Student Grant & Fellowship Database by the deadline. Only final applications submitted through this database will be considered. Interviews will then be scheduled and decisions announced in March.

The award provides round trip airfare and ground transportation to overseas project sites, cost of visa (if applicable) and cost of pre-departure medical expenses. Each award recipient will also receive a modest stipend before leaving and upon return.
The interview is a part of the overall evaluations of your application and gives the Committee members an opportunity to meet you in person and to assess your ability to respond to their questions and concerns about your study.
Beyond scientific research experience, the Downs Fellowship aims to provide students with a novel cultural experience. Therefore, students are encouraged to consider sites/countries for their study in which they have not spent significant time before. Nevertheless, the Committee will consider all applications on a case-by-case basis. We are working on facilitating feedback from Downs Committee members on research sites as well as the overall proposals before the final submission. We encourage applicants to pay close attention to the input provided by Downs Committee members on the project site and to develop strong arguments for why returning to a site they are familiar with still represents a significant cultural experience. In addition some schools have travel restriction policies for certain countries. Please contact the Dean of Students (or other appropriate administrative contact) at your School for more specifics.
Any Yale faculty member with an interest in your study.

This can happen in a variety of ways. For example:

  • You have a particular geographic region to which you want to travel. With this information in mind, you look for faculty members who are doing work in this area and find out if there are opportunities for you to work with them. 
  • You have a particular area of interest (i.e. maternal and child health, nutrition, health and conflict, etc.). With this in mind, you search for faculty members who are doing work on this topic or have similar interests to discuss if you can work with them or if they can connect you with others in the same field. 
  • You know that you want to conduct a particular type of research (i.e. qualitative, a specific kind of study). You then search for faculty members who have expertise in this type of methodology to discuss ideas for summer research projects. 
  • Some past fellows have also contacted organizations directly that do work that interests them. 
  • Finally, please do not underestimate the resourcefulness of your peers in helping you find a project. Talk to your classmates and to past Downs Fellows for ideas of projects, organizations and faculty members to meet.
The Committee is interested in all types of studies related to biomedical sciences. The scientific and ethical rigor of the study, rather than a particular methodology (e.g. quantitative, qualitative), is the main concern of the Committee.
Downs fellows must have a faculty advisor here at Yale AND a preceptor on-site. It is important that applicants show they have institutional support in their host country. Sometimes students find a project through another academic institution and/or organization. If this is the case, please keep in mind that you will still need to have a Yale faculty advisor for your project. Any Yale faculty member can serve as an advisor regardless of the school or department affiliation at Yale.
Completing a thesis using your Downs research is not a requirement of the Downs Fellowship, but fellows are strongly encouraged to develop theses based on their Downs projects, as well as develop and submit manuscripts to peer-reviewed journals.
You are expected to design your own project, but conduct your research under the supervision of an organization working in the country and your faculty advisor at Yale.
The scientific and ethical rigor of the proposed study, its feasibility, personal safety considerations, as well as the quality of the cultural experience to be gained.

The final application should be accompanied with two letters of support; one from the Yale Faculty adviser and the other from the host country sponsor. 

Ideally, the sponsor letter should include: 

  • Statement that they and their institution / agency agree to be a collaborator 
  • Length of your project 
  • Your main responsibilities 
  • Relevance of your research and its significance to their ongoing work 
  • Any relevant local resources (equipment, library, etc.) for your project
To conduct your study upholding the highest scientific and ethical standards; adhere to the Fellowship rules and instructions as communicated by the Chair of the Downs Fellowship Committee; submit a report of your project upon return to Yale in the fall; present your project results at the annual Downs Fellowship event in the fall; participate in the annual Downs Fellowship Symposium in April; be willing to serve as a resource to fellow students in applying for Downs Fellowship.
The Committee acknowledges the importance of language in terms of the quality of the research and cultural experience of Downs-supported projects. While fluency in a particular language is not an absolute requirement of the Fellowship, the Committee will assess whether the applicant’s language competency is sufficient to conduct the proposed research adequately and take full advantage of the cultural experience. If the applicant’s language skills are deficient, the Downs Committee will expect the applicant to have a plan to address this during his/her preparation for and execution of the research (i.e. hiring a language tutor prior to departing, hiring Research Assistants and/or interpreters as needed, etc.). Applicants should keep in mind Yale has great resources through the Center for Language Study.
The Committee expects applicants to develop research plans that are feasible in the funded research period. The expectation is that students finish their data collection while in-country, and subsequently work on data analysis and writing up their results upon their return. Applicants should be prepared to address delays and unforeseen circumstances by establishing systems for data collection to be ongoing after their departure.