PiTech PhD Impact Fellowship
Fellowship details for PhD students
The PiTech Impact Fellowship is a paid opportunity for Cornell University PhD students in technical fields. Fellows will develop and apply their expertise on behalf of the public interest and in a real-world context.
We have identified projects at organizations working across public interest issue areas, including both non-profits and the public sector, such as:
- Public health, including community health, aging in place, and accessibility.
- Social justice, including food insecurity, criminal justice reform, and economic inequality.
- Trustworthy media ecosystems, including combatting racism, hate speech and misinformation.
- Public services, including transit, civic engagement, and childcare.
- Environmental and climate goals, including urban emissions and conservation.
The projects will apply students’ technical skills, such as: data analysis/modeling/ visualization, Machine Learning, AI ethics, User-Centered Design, privacy and security, Information Architecture, virtual and augmented reality, and rapid prototyping.
Students apply for the project(s) and organization(s) they are most interested in. And if selected, Cornell Tech will fund a summer Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) to lead the project in partnership with the host organization.
Starting on December 10, 2021, please apply here no later than January 20, 2022 to join the 2022 cohort.
If you would like to find out more about the PiTech Impact fellowship, join us for an info session at 12PM on November 12, 2021 or 12PM on December 10, 2021. You can sign up for either session here, or by emailing email@example.com.
Cornell University has a long-standing commitment to advancing diversity, inclusion, access, equity, and excellence in graduate education.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Public Interest Tech (PiTech)?
Public Interest Tech is an emerging field where scholars and professionals develop and deploy technologies in service of societal good, often with a focus on under-resourced communities and needs. This work is done at civil society organizations, within government, and by research institutions. We’re focusing our efforts on the critical societal issues of public health, trustworthy media ecosystems, social justice, public services, and environment and climate goals.
What is Cornell Tech?
Cornell Tech is a campus of Cornell University located on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan, New York City. Cornell Tech’s academic environment encourages tight integration across disciplines, couples fundamental research with practice, and supports societal and commercial ventures alongside research and education. In addition to world-class academic work, a distinguishing characteristic of our research is that it engages deeply with external communities, organizations, and industry to address real-world problems and contexts that amplify the direct societal and commercial impact of our research. Learn more.
Who can apply?
You are eligible to apply if you are a PhD student in Cornell’s Bowers College of Information Science, College of Engineering, or the Center for Applied Mathematics. We welcome students from both Ithaca and NYC campuses.
What kind of support will I receive in this program?
You will receive standard Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) summer funding. In addition, you will have access to relevant Cornell Tech resources. Non-NYC resident applicants may apply for a modest housing stipend.
Who are the partner organizations?
We will work to pair you with a compelling public interest organization that is prepared to advance its mission with assistance from your contributions. The inaugural group of PiTech host organizations for Summer 2020 were the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism, Consumer Reports Digital Lab, Blue Ridge Labs @ Robin Hood, and Cornell Tech Maker Lab with NYC H+H: Coler Hospital.
What will be asked of me?
The primary goal of this program is to position you to contribute to advancing the public interest mission of your partner through the application of your technical expertise. At the end of the fellowship, you will be asked to produce a summary report or blog post for your portfolio, and you will be invited to stay involved in Cornell’s growing PiTech and DLI communities.
I’ll be located outside of NYC in the summer. Am I eligible to apply?
We will work with partner organizations based in New York. Remote participation may be possible in certain cases, although we will encourage active participation on site in New York City (or State depending on the organization’s location). As this is a standard GRA, the Fellowship need not count towards CPT. Remote work from an international location is not possible.
How do I apply?
Applications for Summer of 2022 will be open from December 10, 2021 until January 20, 2022. A detailed list of organizations and projects will be available at that time.
For potential Impact Fellow Host Organizations
We are always looking to expand our community. If you work at or know of an organization or public sector team that might be a good host for a technical PhD Impact Fellow, please fill out our open nomination form.
PiTech Impact Fellowship hosts are based in New York and ready to leverage emerging tech toward their public interest mission. We’re looking for organizations that can provide mentorship and oversight of a fellow’s technical project, as well as professional experience like attending strategic meetings and collaborating with a variety of teams. You can learn more from our PiTech Impact Fellowship one-pager.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of support will we receive in this program?
Cornell Tech will recruit and fund a technical PhD student to join your organization and contribute to a strategic project for the duration of the fellowship. The fellowship runs from late May to mid-August in the summer or on a part-time basis over the academic year from September to May. Fellows will be asked to contribute their expertise and robust skill sets to a mutually-agreed upon project that advances your mission.
What will be asked of host organizations?
We ask host organizations to direct and support their Fellows as they work on the selected projects. This should include a weekly check-in with a consistent manager for the duration of the fellowship, regular meetings with project collaborators, as well as broader organization exposure when possible. Cornell PhD students are adept at self-guided research and coursework, and we encourage regular ongoing communication to help align expectations and outcomes, and support students in learning about the organization and its mission.
When does the fellowship take place?
The fellowship places technical Cornell PhD students in internships with organizations during the summer term (May 21 – August 20), with opportunities to extend into the academic year.
What kind of projects do Fellows work on?
In our experience, the applicants’ interest in the host organization’s specific project(s) is a major factor in securing a productive match with a Cornell Tech PhD Impact Fellow. Due to the fellowship’s limited duration, we generally encourage host organizations to engage fellows in projects they’ve been wanting to take on (exploring a potentially rich but thus-far neglected data set, for example) rather than provide operationally-critical labor (like developing the software for a startup’s main product).
Our students’ expertise typically ranges from data (machine learning, data science, natural language processing, optimization, fairness), to human-centered design (human-computer interaction, accessibility, design explorations), to emerging technology (mixed reality, Internet of Things), and security and privacy.
Are any of your students software engineers who can help us build our product?
While many PhD Impact Fellows have software development skills, the relatively short duration of the fellowship makes it ill-suited to providing operationally critical software development support. Projects exploring emerging technologies, data modeling, and/or user-centered design are more likely to match Fellows’ skills and interests and the fellowship timeframe.
Who are the other partner organizations?
The inaugural group of PiTech host organizations for Summer 2021 included the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism, Consumer Reports Digital Lab, Blue Ridge Labs @ Robin Hood, and Cornell Tech Maker Lab with NYC H+H: Coler Hospital. You can read about the Summer 2021 PhD Impact Fellows here. We are working to expand the range of host organizations for Summer 2021, while retaining a focus on organizations based in New York.