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Data Science Scholars

Stanford Data Science Scholars are current Stanford PhD students at the university who are involved in the challenging use of data science at the frontiers of their research. Scholars are provided with 50% of their compensation over two years so that they may spend half of their time together with our wider faculty and research community taking on new challenges in data science and bringing what they have learned back to their home departments.

Scholars have space and support to develop their intellectual pursuits while also serving as bridge builders between the campus-wide data science activities and researchers from their PhD domains. While Data Science Scholars are expected to spend time in the program, much of this time will include the intellectual freedom to follow their own research interests with the sole priority that the scholar takes advantage of their colleagues and surroundings and use the opportunity to expand their research in a direction that would not be possible alone. We also expect each Data Science Scholar to participate in activities that help to build a diverse community of data science researchers at Stanford and advance the practice of data science for all.

Stanford Data Science (SDS) is part of the university's Long Range Planning efforts and aims to make Stanford a data-enabled university. SDS works to weave data science into the fabric of the university so that we can most effectively respond to our most pressing societal and research challenges. Stanford Data Science Scholars play a pivotal role in developing a diverse community of researchers that are at the forefront of developing and applying modern data science methods to all fields of scholarship.

Our goal is to bring together a diverse cohort of researchers with data science skills who are looking to make new advances by collaborating across disciplines that learn from each other while advancing solutions to their own unique domain challenges.

Funding, benefits, and eligibility

In order to be considered for this opportunity, candidates must be current PhD students who have finished their qualifying exams¹ and with at least two years left in their program in any of Stanford University’s Schools, departments, or research organizations. Scholars are provided with 50% of their compensation (RA'ship, salary, benefits and/or fees) over a two-year period beginning in the Fall Quarter of the year of admission. Funding for the second year is conditional upon the scholar’s adequate participation during the first year in line with the criteria for selection.

These funds will not supplement current compensation, but rather will replace 50% of a Scholar's current compensation allowing for half of the scholar's time to be spent with SDS. A candidate’s advisor must sign off on this arrangement before finalizing. On a case-by-case basis, we will consider candidates who will be at Stanford for less than two years.

In addition to funding support, SDS provides a common working space, mentorship opportunities, and an energetic atmosphere that encourages innovative thinking.  Scholars have excellent opportunities to develop close relationships and research developments with a strong cohort of experts from a variety of domains and method fields enabling new insights from subject areas far outside of their own experience. The new cohort will also have the opportunity to work with the cohort continuing from the previous year’s selection to help shape the future of the program, and of the wider data science efforts across campus.

Scholars are students in a very wide range of disciplines, from research in computational and statistical methods to traditional sciences such as physics, astronomy or biology to any field where valid learning from data is needed. The diversity of backgrounds has proved very rewarding for participants and is one of our goals for this community. Successful candidates contribute to and benefit from the Scholars’ community


Candidate Application: Criteria and Procedure

Candidates who are eligible as above can apply by submitting a CV, letter of intent (LOI) and optional additional material as detailed below. 


To qualify for selection, the LOI needs to address each of three criteria for Scholars:

  1. Planned research: 
    What are the goals of your research? How do they relate to broader goals of the discipline?  How are they related to overall data-intensive research?  (This last can be quite different for different fields, as explained below.)

  2. Benefits from participating in the Scholars’ community:
    The SDS scholars and fellows form a unique community of motivated and cooperative researchers from an extremely diverse range of disciplines.  How will you take advantage of this?  For researchers applying data science techniques, this can be in extending your capabilities; for researchers in the techniques themselves (e.g., computer science and statistics), the benefit can be a deeper understanding of the science, in general, or for particular areas. 

    Think seriously about this aspect – it’s key to the value of being a Scholar.

  3. Contribution to the Scholars’ community and beyond:
    The Scholars are key contributors to building their own joint community, the broader Stanford community, and beyond, through information, education, and other outreach. These activities have current benefits and build for the future.  Tell us about relevant activities and interests of yours, past, current, and planned for.

Application Procedure

In order to apply, please fill in the form linked on the main program page to submit:

  1. Letter of Intent - no more than two pages, 1” margins, 12 point font, single-spaced following the guidelines above.
  2. CV
  3. Optional: We strongly encourage you to provide links to any publicly accessible code and visualizations that you have developed and/or articles or websites that describe efforts that you have led.
  4. Optional: Letter of recommendation from your advisor for your application and for the overall plan for Scholars’ activities.  Any comments on your qualifications will be helpful, but we are not asking for a detailed assessment. Have your faculty advisor(s) upload their letter here:

The application period is generally April - May each year and will be announced specifically on the website during that period. 

We expect final decisions in mid-summer and the selected Stanford Data Science Scholars will begin at the start of the Fall quarter of the next academic year.




  • 50% financial support (usually a 25% RA'ship/TA'ship, or Stipend)
  • Additional $2,000 / year research support stipend
  • Coworking space, including monitors and standing desks, with Data Science Scholars
  • Connection with faculty involved in Stanford Data Science
  • Help shape the future of data science at Stanford
  • Build a life-long community of data science practitioners using advanced techniques to conduct breakthrough research


  • Work on your data science related research projects
  • Regular attendance in weekly scholar’s seminars, events & lectures
  • Participation and leadership in various campus-wide data science activities and projects


  • Field trips to local data science oriented companies and nonprofits
  • Work with Research Data Scientists and Software Engineers on campus to create and extend open-source research software
  • Get trained as a Carpentries Instructor and teach workshops

¹ We understand that not every department requires qualifying exams by the end of your first year. If you have not taken your qualifying exam(s) or papers, but have successfully completed your first year, please feel free to apply and note in your CV the estimated date by when you expect to complete your department's qualification requirements. Please have at least two years left in your PhD program as of Fall quarter start date.