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Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program

A Premier Fellowship Opportunity


Smithsonian Institution Fellows are key to the Smithsonian’s aspiration to discover, create, innovate and diversify.

The Smithsonian’s vast collections, numerous facilities, and staff expertise provide an incredible range of opportunities for independent research. Smithsonian Institution Fellows receive stipends from the central fund and can be found in all areas of the Smithsonian exploring, probing and charting new directions.

The number of Smithsonian Institution Fellowships made each year is determined by the availability of funds for the program.

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).


Program Description

The Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program is open to graduate students, postgraduates, and predoctoral students, as well as conservators, postdoctoral and senior investigators. All fellows at the Smithsonian work with a Smithsonian advisor to conduct independent study or research relating to Smithsonian collections, facilities, or staff expertise. The Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program is administered through the Smithsonian’s Office of Fellowships and Internships.



20131021 STRI Fellow Diana Sharpe (2)

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.

Past or current fellowship recipients are eligible to apply for another award.

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.

Determination of the fellowship category for which to apply should be based on the anticipated academic level at the time the fellowship would begin:


10 Week Graduate Student Fellowships*

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.

9-12 Month Postgraduate Fellowships in Conservation

Must be graduates of masters programs in art and archaeological conservation or the equivalent or conservation scientists, including those at the postdoctoral level, who wish to conduct research and gain further training in Smithsonian conservation laboratories for conservation of objects in museum collections.

3-12 Month Predoctoral Fellowships*

Students must be enrolled in a university as candidates 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.

3-12 Month Postdoctoral Fellowships*

The degree must be completed by the time the fellowship begins.

3-24 Month Postdoctoral Fellowships in Science*

The degree must be completed by the time the fellowship begins. This fellowship must be discussed in advance with the proposed Smithsonian advisor.

3-12 Month Senior Fellowships

Applicants must have held a Ph.D. or equivalent for at least 7 years.

*Postdoctoral and Graduate Fellowships with advisors at National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) are eligible for extended tenures through the Peter Buck Fellowship Program.

Who is Ineligible?

  • 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.


How to Apply

Sara Chandler Image with Wheel Window

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 January 15th via SOLAA
  • 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)

Once you have created an account and logged into SOLAA you will need to complete all the required information including:

  • Mailing address
  • Academic history
  • Current university or college
  • Identifying the grand challenge under which your proposal falls

The following must be uploaded with your application:


  • No more than one page

Research Proposal

  • The full statement of your research you plan to undertake at the Smithsonian
  • 1500 words or less
  • 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:

  • Methodology
  • 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

Time Table

  • 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

Curriculum Vitae

  • 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
  • If transcripts or other materials are not in English the applicant should provide translations


  • Names and email addresses of two persons (Not Smithsonian staff) familiar with your work
  • 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
  • Have the reference submit in sufficient time to meet the deadline date


Selection Process

20131021 STRI Fellow Carlos De Gracia (1)

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 on April 15th

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 the fellowships 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:

Brief description of overall shoot

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.


Stipend Allowances and Taxes:

The Smithsonian Institution Fellowship award amounts are as follows:

Ten-Week Graduate Student Fellowship**


Post Graduate Conservator Fellowship

Annual: $35,000     Research Allowance: up to $2,000

Predoctoral Fellowship

Annual: $30,000     Research Allowance: up to $4,000

Postdoctoral Fellowship

Annual: $45,000     Research Allowance: up to $4,000

Senior Fellowship

Annual: $45,000     Research Allowance: up to $4,000


Fellows in materials conservation and 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 prorated 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.


Proposals Involving the Use of Live Animals:

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.

Applicants who wish to conduct research at the National Zoological Park must discuss their research with proposed mentors to clarify any potential issues with Institutional Animal Care and Use process. Applicants to other Smithsonian Museums and Research Institutes should contact their advisor to determine the appropriate procedures for that unit.

If you have any questions please contact the Office of Fellowships and Internships at 202-633-7070 or send an email to

Apply Through: SOLAA