NASA FINESST Program Guidance for UW-Madison

Page Updated: March 1, 2024

The NASA FINESST Program provides support for graduate student-designed and performed research projects that contribute to the NASA Science Mission Directorate’s science, technology, and exploration goals. Proposals are accepted annually, usually in late winter.

NASA allows institutions to request funding support for Future Investigators (FI), the term used to refer to the graduate students who apply for and receive funds. An institution may request FI funding in one of three different ways: as a direct labor cost (i.e., an employee), as a scholarship or other student aid, or as a participant support cost.

Proposal Preparation

In order to maximize funding available to the student, UW-Madison requires that FI funding be proposed as a scholarship or other student aid. That allows the student to tap into additional funding available through the Graduate School. The proposal budget would include:

  • Stipend for a predoctoral fellow position. The stipend should be budgeted at the maximum allowed under the current solicitation.
  • Fringes for a predoctoral fellow.
  • Tuition.

Because this is a program supporting graduate student research, UW-Madison will not charge F&A for the NASA FINESST program.

The annual budget request allowed by NASA will not cover the full cost of items listed above, nor would it cover other expenses, such as supplies or travel. Because this is a competitive program, it is considered among the prestigious fellowships and traineeships covered by the Tuition Remission/Supplementation for Graduate Fellows and Trainees policy. At the time of proposal, contact the Graduate School ( regarding supplementation of fringe and/or tuition. Remaining costs will be the responsibility of the administrative home of the fellow.

Award Receipt & Fellowship Appointment

If a proposal is funded, the graduate student must be appointed as a predoctoral fellow and paid through use of account code 5712. Tuition would be paid through use of account code 5713. This will facilitate the processing of supplementation by the Graduate School.

Transition to Fellowship Appointments When Necessary (Effective Fall 2023)

In years past, some graduate students who received NASA FINESST awards were appointed as research assistants rather than fellows. Beginning with the next funding cycle, in Fall 2023, departments will be expected to appoint graduate students who receive NASA FINESST awards as predoctoral fellows. This expectation will apply to students continuing their NASA FINESST awards in Fall 2023, as well as those students receiving new NASA FINESST awards that begin in Fall 2023. Supplementation will be provided as needed for fringe and/or tuition.