How to Apply

If you’re interested in affiliating with a cluster or certificate, review the procedures below as application requirements may change depending on the type.

How to apply to:


The Graduate School clusters fall into three areas:

  • Mellon Clusters in the Humanities and Qualitative Social Sciences
  • Clusters in Interdisciplinary Approaches to Sciences and Engineering
  • Clusters in Life and Biomedical Sciences

The timing and means to enter clusters varies. While all doctoral students may choose to participate in a cluster at any point in their career, those students who wish to formally affiliate as a cluster student, and meet cluster curricular and non-curricular requirements, may need to be appointed as cluster fellows by the cluster faculty.

Please refer to the chart below for a high-level differentiation of the three cluster areas (view an accessible version of this chart here):

  Cluster Areas
Humanities and Qualitative Social Sciences
Science and Engineering Life and Biomedical Sciences 
Affiliation When can students apply to formally affiliate with a cluster? Application and beyond1 Second year and beyond Beginning of second year2
When are students formally accepted as fellows? Time of application and beyond Second year and beyond Second year
Funding3 Financial support available?



African American Studies, Anthropology, Art History, Comparative Literary Studies, English, French & Italian, German, History, Media, Technology & Society, Music, Performance Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, Religious Studies, Rhetoric & Public Culture, Screen Cultures, Slavic Languages and Literatures, Sociology, Spanish and Portuguese, Theatre and Drama    
Science, engineering, and related programs in McCormick, Weinberg, the School of Communication, Medill, and Kellogg  
Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences program (IBiS) and Driskill Graduate Program in Life Sciences (DGP)    
1 Students are selected as Mellon Fellows only at the time of application but may formally affiliate with a cluster as a cluster fellow at any point in their graduate careers. To learn more, visit the How to Apply page.
2 Students in the Life and Biomedical Sciences select a cluster with which to affiliate within their chosen research lab and most often do not need a formal application.
3 Funding varies by cluster. Science and Engineering Fellows receive financial aid support for one or more quarters. Humanities and QSS Mellon Fellows receive a research award at the time of admission, however doctoral students may opt to affiliate with a cluster at any point, regardless of their funding source.
4 Please note that these are programs most frequently affiliated with a cluster but this does not represent an exhaustive list.

Mellon Clusters in the Humanities and Qualitative Social Sciences

At the time of application to Northwestern, students who wish to participate in a Humanities and Social Science cluster may indicate this interest on the online application. Once a cluster has been selected, the option to attach a “cluster statement” will become available.

While students may choose to participate in clusters at any point throughout their graduate careers, select students will be named Mellon Interdisciplinary Cluster Fellows at the time of admission. This designation indicates the student’s strong fit for the cluster and carries additional benefits.

Humanities and Qualitative Social Sciences Clusters:

Clusters in Interdisciplinary Approaches to Science and Engineering

First-year students are invited to take part in the symposia, work groups, and colloquia offered by all of the clusters to see what may interest them later in their career. At the end of their first year, students will apply to a cluster.

Classes specifically designed for the clusters will complement the electives offered by departments. There will also be cluster specific project requirements, though these will usually be tied to departmental projects.

Please note that students selected as cluster fellows are funded as graduate assistants and therefore must meet The Graduate School’s requirements for graduate and teaching assistants.

Science and Engineering Clusters:

Clusters in Life and Biomedical Sciences

During their first year, students in the Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences program (IBiS) or the Driskill Graduate Program in Life Sciences (DGP) explore research areas through courses and lab rotations. During the second year, students affiliate with a research cluster associated with their thesis lab.

Life and Biomedical Sciences Clusters:

Graduate Certificates

Enrolled TGS students may pursue a Graduate Certificate with the permission of the director of graduate study in his/her program.

When a student completes the requirements for a Graduate Certificate, s/he should consult the Graduate Certificate’s Director. To request a Graduate Certificate a student who has completed the Graduate Certificate requirements, should fill out and submit an Application for a Graduate Certificate. The online application may be submitted at any time, but not later than the time that the student applies for graduation (in the final quarter of study). Graduate Certificates will be issued and noted on the student’s transcript. Questions should be directed to Antoaneta Condurat in The Graduate School.

Certificate Opportunities:

The following certificate programs are administered through the Feinberg School of Medicine and are open to current as well as other non-degree seeking students. These certificates also require five courses. For specific admissions procedures, please visit the certificate pages listed below.

Mellon Cluster Nominee Flow Diagram