The Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program
The Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program is the Smithsonian Institution’s centrally-funded flagship fellowship program. SI Fellowships are awarded annually to scholars wishing to conduct independent study or research at one or more of the Smithsonian’s 19 units and research centers. These fellowships are offered through the Smithsonian’s Office of Fellowships and Internships, and are administered under the charter of the Institution, 20 U.S. Code section 41 et seq.
The Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program supports independent research and study related to Smithsonian facilities, experts, or collection for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.
The Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program is administered through the Smithsonian Office of Fellowships and Internships (OFI).
The Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program is open to:
- Graduate Students
- Predoctoral Students
- Postdoctoral Researchers and
- Senior Researchers
Graduate Student Fellowships
Graduate Student Fellowships are typically 10 weeks in length. Students must be formally enrolled in a graduate program of study at a degree granting institution. Before the appointment begins fellows must still be enrolled and must have completed at least one full time semester or its equivalent. Graduate Student Fellowships are usually intended for students who have not yet been advanced to candidacy if in a doctoral program. Graduate student fellowships are offered for ten weeks and are not available for periods of less or more than ten weeks.
Predoctoral Student Fellowships*
Predoctoral Student Fellowships are typically 3 to 12 months in length. Students must be enrolled in a university as a candidate for the Ph.D. or equivalent. By the time the appointment begins the university must approve the undertaking of dissertation research at the Smithsonian Institution and certify that requirements for the doctorate, other than the dissertation, have been met.
Postdoctoral Researcher Fellowships*
Postdoctoral Student Fellowships are typically 3 to 12 months in length. The doctorate degree must be completed by the time the fellowship begins.
Senior Researcher Fellowships
Senior Fellowships are typically 3 to 12 months in length. Applicants must have held a Ph.D. or equivalent for at least 7 years.
*Predoctoral and Postdoctoral Fellows with advisors at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) are eligible for extended tenures beyond the 1 year SIFP through the Peter Buck Fellowship Program. Buck fellowships supplement one-year Smithsonian Institution Fellowship (SIFP) awards by one or two years. Buck awards may also include a research allowance for additional year’s study.
**Postdoctoral Fellows with advisors at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) are eligible for extended tenures beyond the 2 years through STRI’s Earl S. Tupper Fellowship. Tupper fellowships supplement Smithsonian Institution Fellowship (SIFP) awards by one or two years. See Tupper Fellowship for information on how to apply.
Please note, Tupper postdoctoral applicants can also submit a one-year SIFP fellowship. However, this needs to be a separate application submitted through SOLAA with a separate description and research schedule.
All applicants for SI Fellowships, regardless of academic area, are eligible and automatically considered for the Secretary’s Distinguished Research Fellowship, which provides the awardee with a second year of support.
Stipend Allowances and Taxes:
The Smithsonian Institution Fellowship award amounts are as follows:
Graduate Student Fellowship**: $7000.00 for 10 weeks
Predoctoral Student Fellowship: $32,700 annually; research allowance up to $4,000 total.
Postdoctoral Researcher Fellowship: $48,000 annually; research allowance up to $4,000 total.
Senior Researcher Fellowship: $48,000 annually; research allowance up to $4,000 total.
Fellows in earth/planetary sciences are eligible to receive $5,000.00 over the amounts above.
**Graduate student fellowships are offered for ten weeks and are not available for periods of less or more than ten weeks. Relocation and research allowances are not offered for graduate student fellowships.
Stipends for all fellowships other than graduate students are pro-rated for periods of less than twelve months.
Smithsonian fellowship stipends are not salary or compensation. They are meant to support study and research during the tenure of the appointment and cannot be issued retroactively.
All funds provided under Smithsonian Institution fellowships, including stipends and research and travel allowances, are subject to tax. Fellows awarded stipends receive a financial summary at the end of each calendar year and are responsible for meeting their own state and federal tax obligations.
In addition to the stipend, allowances to assist with the fellow’s research related expenses and for temporary relocation to the Smithsonian are possible. The budget for the research allowance should not include costs for relocation to the Smithsonian, which is awarded separately. A maximum research allowance of $4,000 is available. The amount awarded will be determined based upon the budget and justification presented by the applicant.
The Office of Fellowships and Internships cannot provide funds for the travel or living expenses of dependents.
Determination of the fellowship category for which to apply should be based on the anticipated academic level at the time the fellowship would begin.
The program is open to US citizens and Non-US citizens. Applicants whose native language is not English are expected to have the ability to write and converse fluently in English. All application materials must be presented in English (foreign transcripts may be translated, see below).
Past or current fellowship recipients are eligible to apply for another award.
- No employee or contractor of the Smithsonian Institution may hold a Smithsonian fellowship during the time of his/her employment or contract.
- A fellowship may not be awarded to any person who has been employed by or under contract to the Institution in the previous year without the prior approval of the Office of Fellowships (see FAQ below).
How it Works:
Applicants must propose research that is conducted at the Smithsonian in an area of research outlined in the publication, Smithsonian Opportunities for Research and Study (SORS). Applicants should contact staff members to help identify potential advisors, determine the feasibility of the proposed research being conducted at the Smithsonian Institution, and the availability of relevant resources such as staff, collections, archives and library materials during the proposed tenure dates. Current Smithsonian research staff members can be found here.
Applications are evaluated and fellows are selected, by scholars in appropriate fields, on the basis of the proposal’s merit, the applicant’s ability to carry out the proposed research and study, the likelihood that the research could be completed in the requested time, and the extent to which the Smithsonian, through its research staff members and resources, could contribute to the proposed research. The number of appointments made each year is determined by the availability of funds for the program.
Conditions of Appointment:
- In submitting an application for a fellowship at the Institution, the applicant does not incur any obligation to accept the appointment if selected.
- Smithsonian Institution Fellows must begin their fellowship within 1 year from the date of their award letter.
- The fellowship must be completed within two years of the start date.
- Appointment periods are in accordance with the applicant’s proposal for the research, unless the length of tenure requested is considered by reviewers to be more than required.
- In accepting an appointment, the fellow will be expected to devote full time effort to the research proposed and to be in residence at the Smithsonian except for approved absences.
- Financial support for such purposes as research, travel and equipment may be received from other sources provided that no special demands are made upon the fellow’s time.
- Permission to receive additional stipend support must be requested in writing from the Office of Fellowships and Internships.
Use of Smithsonian Facilities:
Fellows will be assigned to a particular unit or department based upon the proposed primary advisor and research topic.
- Fellows will be provided with space to conduct their research within the department in which they are working.
- Applicants should consult in advance with their proposed advisor(s) regarding the availability of facilities and necessary equipment.
- The amount of support services available to the fellow will be determined by the workload of the department and the policy of the department chairperson and/or unit director.
- Fellows have access to the Smithsonian Institution Libraries with privileges which include borrowing library materials, interlibrary loans, intralibrary loans, document delivery, database searching, and reference assistance.
How to Apply:
Apply Through: SOLAA
Applications for centrally funded Smithsonian Institution Fellowships are not listed under the museum, research facility or office in which the applicant proposes to conduct research. Applicants for centrally funded Smithsonian Institution Fellowships need to select one of the applications found under the Office of Fellowships in SOLAA. Applicants who wish to conduct research at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) should go here as SAO application requirements and deadlines may be different.
- Applications must be received by December 1, 2015 via SOLAA (please note that applications for proposals at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute – STRI – will be accepted until January 15, 2016).
- You should correspond with your proposed Smithsonian advisor(s) as you prepare your proposal (being sure to discuss potential research costs) with your proposed advisor(s) before submitting your application
- All application materials must be presented in English (foreign transcripts may be translated)
- Mailing address
- Academic history
- Current university or college
- Identifying the grand challenge under which your proposal fall
Please be sure to apply for the correct year program cycle.
The following must be uploaded with your application:
- No more than one page
- The full statement of your research you plan to undertake at the Smithsonian
- Maximum six pages double spaced
- Paper size should be 8.5 by 11 inches (210 mm x 297 mm)
- 12 point type
In preparing your proposal, be sure to provide and address the following:
- The importance of the work both in relation to the broader discipline and to your own scholarly goals
- Justification for conducting your research at the Smithsonian and utilization of research facilities and resources
- Identification of the member of the Smithsonian’s research staff who might serve as your principal advisor/host
- Identification of potential co-advisor(s) and/or consultant(s) if applicable
- Estimate of time period for each phase of the research proposed
- This needs to be uploaded for the application material name “Other” in SOLAA
- Applicants should consider the following factors carefully when choosing the dates for the proposed fellowship: academic schedule, completion dates of their preliminary exams, course work, dissertation (if applicable), the schedule of their proposed advisor/host and the availability of required resources
- The dates of tenure proposed in the application (and any change of dates if the fellowship is awarded) should be selected in agreement with the proposed principal advisor
Budget and Justification
- Budget and justification for equipment, supplies, research-related travel costs, and other support required to conduct the research itself
- Do not include stipend and/or relocation costs
- If the funds exceed the maximum research allowance, please explain the source of additional funds
- Applicants for graduate student fellowships are not eligible for research and travel allowances and should not submit budget justifications
- Bibliography of literature relevant to the applicant’s proposed research
- Including previous and current fellowships, grants, and/or awards, and a description of your research interests.
- If English is not your native language, describe the level of your proficiency in reading, conversing, and writing in English
Transcripts (unofficial are acceptable)
- Transcripts (or other materials when transcripts are not issued) from all appropriate institutions are required except for senior fellowship applications
- Applicants for graduate student fellowships must submit undergraduate and graduate transcripts
- Applicants for predoctoral and postdoctoral fellowships need only submit graduate transcripts
- Senior researchers may provide transcripts, but are not required to do so
- If transcripts or other materials are not in English the applicant should provide translations
- Names and email addresses of two persons familiar with your work. Ideally, don’t make your proposed SI advisor one of your referees because they already will have an opportunity to offer feedback about your proposal as part of the application review process
- All reference letters are considered confidential unless confidentiality has been waived by the reference
- Provide a copy of your proposal and a copy of Letter to Reference (downloadable pdf) to your references
- Through SOLAA you will send an email to these referees so they can provide references through the web
- Senior researchers may provide references, but are not required to do so
Have the reference submit in sufficient time to meet the deadline date.
The complete application will be reviewed by Smithsonian scholars in appropriate fields. Applications will be evaluated on the following:
- The proposal’s merit
- The proposal’s relevance in terms of the Smithsonian’s Strategic Plan and how the research reflects one or more of the Four Grand Challenges
- The ability of the applicant to carry out the proposed research and study
- The extent to which the Smithsonian, through its staff members and resources, can contribute to the proposed research
Notification of decisions will be made no later than 4/8/16
The Smithsonian does not discriminate on grounds of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, parental status, marital status, sexual orientation, or participation in protected activity (find out more here).
A list of the 2014 Smithsonian Institution Fellowships awardees is available here.
My proposed project involves the use of live animals. What do I need to do?
Applicants who wish to conduct research using live animals must submit their proposals for review by one of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC). Review for animal welfare concerns and approval of procedures by one of these committees must occur before a fellowship can begin.
My proposal involves collections, facilities, or experts from multiple Smithsonian units, is that ok?
Totally ok , cross disciplinary proposals are often some of the most innovative and interesting.
I am currently or was recently a contractor for the Smithsonian, how does that affect my eligibility?
If the beginning of the fellowship starts more than a year after contract at SI, then you have nothing to worry about. If your proposed start date is within a year of your last day as a contractor, your proposal for independent study and research must be completely different from the services that you provided to SI as a contractor.
I have a figure that I want to include as part of my research proposal, can that be an attachment or does it need to be included within the 6 page proposal limit?
It needs to be submitted within those 6 pages please.
When I uploaded by research proposal I saw a warning about 1500 words – is the limit 1500 words or 6 pages?
If it comes up, feel free to ignore the SOLAA warning about 1500 words – as long as your proposal is on six pages, 8.5 x 11 inch, 12 pt font, double spaced – you’re good.
When I went through the application I accidentally forgot to send reference requests to people writing references for me. What should I do?
Email us at email@example.com and we can have the system generate reference requests for you, even if you have already submitted an application
The people I have asked to submit a reference for me have not yet submitted one, should I go ahead and submit my application/will this make my application late?
If it’s ready, go ahead and submit your application. Your references can submit a letter for you after the application deadline. However, better that they not wait more than a couple of weeks or your application may go to the review committee without the benefit of having a reference letter.
I have a specific question about SIF that is not answered on this page. Who do I contact?
Contact the Office of Fellowships and Internships at 202-633-7070 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.Back to Fellowship Opportunities