Schmidt Science Fellows Award

Award Overview


The Schmidt Science Fellows program, is an initiative of Schmidt Futures supported and funded by the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Strategic Fund for Innovation, delivered in partnership with the Rhodes Trust and supported by many of the world’s leading scientific thinkers and institutions. The Schmidt Science Fellows program aims to develop the next generation of science leaders to transcend disciplines, advance discovery, and solve the world’s most pressing problems.

Fellows engage and co-produce with diverse thinkers in science, politics, society, and business to catalyse new ideas and connections. The Fellowship year is the beginning of their membership to a lifelong community of Schmidt Science Fellows, their partners, and supporters, all of whom are committed to furthering interdisciplinary science to benefit the world.

For the 2025 cohort selection process, the Program is inviting nominations from approximately 100 leading science, technology, and engineering institutions around the world to join the community of 145 current and Senior Fellows from 34 nationalities; the University of Toronto may nominate seven candidates.

The University of Toronto has been very successful in having successful nominees since the Program’s inception, averaging one recipient per year.


In order to be eligible for nomination and potential selection as a Schmidt Science Fellow, candidates must meet the following requirements:

  • Have conducted their PhD degree in the natural sciences (astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, and earth sciences), engineering, mathematics, or computing – and all sub-disciplines therein at the University of Toronto;
  • Expect their final PhD thesis to be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) at the University of Toronto between
    May 15, 2024 and June 30, 2025 and;
  • Able to start their Fellowship on July 1, 2025 or October 1, 2025 (start dates are firm as the cohort starts together in either July or October) and available from April 2025 to July 2026 to attend onboarding activities, the in-person Science Leadership Program convenings and the annual Schmidt Science Fellows Interdisciplinary Science Summit.

Selection Criteria

The Program is seeking those individuals with a special degree of brilliance and inventiveness, who are interested in broadening their horizons and pursuing a challenging and rewarding period of study with the world’s leading academics and institutions. Schmidt Science Fellows are expected to be future leaders and should demonstrate a keen interest in harnessing interdisciplinarity and interaction with wider society to accelerate discovery to achieve global impact.

Applications for the Schmidt Science Fellows program will be judged against the following selection criteria:


  • Extraordinary Achievement – Clear record of academic achievement of the highest quality in the sciences and an extraordinary degree of intelligence.
  • Scientific Curiosity – High degree of intellectual curiosity combined with energy and creativity; a record of continuous innovation and/or use of new technologies.

Programmatic Fit

  • Alignment with the Program – Interest in pursuing 12-24 months of postdoctoral study in a field different from the applicant’s PhD discipline and a belief that interdisciplinary science and the taking of appropriate scientific risks are important for the advancement of discovery.
  • Collaborative Spirit – History of effective collaboration with diverse team members.


  • Character and Leadership – Genuine and demonstrable potential for science leadership; displaying perseverance, resilience, a moral compass, and a galvanizing force of personality.
  • Global Ambition for Social Good – Desire to use one’s personal talents and science to make a positive difference in society and the world.

To learn more about the kind of candidates Schmidt is are looking for, please visit their website to view Fellow profiles and the feature videos: Fellowship Research Placement and Who is a Schmidt Science Fellow?

Application Requirements

Applicants are encouraged to read about our past Schmidt Science Fellows Program recipients:

2024 Fellows: Pailin Chiaranunt and Peter Serles

2023 Fellow:  Sridevi Venkatesan

2022 Fellows: Elizabeth Philips and Paul Chen

2021 Fellow:  Anastasia Korolj

2019 Fellow:  Ina Anreiter

2018 Fellows: Jielai Zhang (article) and Xiwen Gong(article)

Schmidt Fellows from other institutions who are Postdoctoral Fellows at U of T:

2023 Fellow: Amy Strilchuk

2021 Fellow: Suhas Mahesh (article)

Candidate Requirements

Schmidt Science Fellows are encouraged and supported to take an ambitious scientific risk when considering their postdoctoral placement. Their proposed research pivot (change in area of research) should represent a genuine and innovative disciplinary departure from their PhD studies, with a clear goal towards gaining new skills in a new area and establishing field-leading interdisciplinary lines of research with potential for high reward and societal impact.

Research placements are not restricted to any group of institutions. Schmidt Science Fellows may choose to complete their Placement at a group of their choice, subject to Program approval and assurance that the host organization meets the Fellow’s individual training and research needs. The Program provides advice and support to all selected Fellows in making their final choice of Placement location prior to an approval process. This is a unique opportunity to study in a world-class lab anywhere in the world and candidates are encouraged to consider the unique freedom, flexibility, and global outlook this opportunity provides.

Schmidt Science Fellows are expected to become science leaders and should demonstrate a keen interest in harnessing interdisciplinarity and interacting with wider society. Candidates must possess the drive to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems and the personality to lead, inspire, and galvanize cross-disciplinary collaborations to accelerate discovery leading to impactful solutions.

The Schmidt Science Fellows Program is committed to equality of opportunity for all candidates. Applications from individuals are encouraged regardless of age, disability, gender, gender identity, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, pregnancy or maternity, parental status marital or civil partner status, race, color, ethnic or national origin, nationality, religion or belief.

Please note, the application and selection process as well as the delivery of the Schmidt Science Fellows program is only available in English and all engagement with the program must be in English.

Nomination Process

Candidate Timelines

Graduate Chairs are invited to nominate their top ranked candidate(s) by submitting a complete nomination package to SGS for consideration by April 11, 2024; the process is as follows:

  • Supervisors and/or Coordinators of interested applicants are encouraged to discuss their intent to nominate suitable candidates with the Graduate Chair/Director;
  • Graduate Chairs/Directors nominate their top candidate(s) and submit the associated nomination package(s) to SGS by April 11, 2024 – see Instructions for Graduate Units document for submission instructions.

The following will serve as a completed nomination package (Applicants are encouraged to review the slides from the 2024/2025 Schmidt Presentation for applicants for guidance):

  1. Nomination letter from the Graduate Chair/Director;
  2. Up to date CV (no page restrictions), including links to relevant publications and research activities. For papers underway or pending publication, applicants should attach a copy of the final abstract (1 page or less) of the paper;
  3. Up to date transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate studies (including those from U of T). Non-U of T transcripts must include grading legend;
  4. Description of PhD and highlights written by the applicant. Provide a brief overview of PhD studies, clearly stating contributions; address the aspects that are particularly exciting and innovative work; and highlight any outputs or activities that have significant impact or bring great pride;
  5. Fellowship Research Plan: The Pivot (max 1000 words) – regarding the potential postdoctoral research the applicant may wish to pursue if named a Schmidt Science Scholar. The plan should be original, clearly written, innovative, ambitious, but feasible. It should have a hypothesis, introduction, outline technical approaches and desired outcomes, articulate a vision and ambition for impact, convey a genuine need to acquire new knowledge and skills, explain what is innovative, and describe their planned interdisciplinary pivot, with clear rationale for the pivot (i.e., how the proposal is different from the field of study for which the applicants received their doctorate)”, and have a clear vision for the benefits of making the leap. The research should not be a natural next step. Address both the novelty and feasibility of the research plan. Keep in mind that some reviewers (at the University and international competition) will not be experts in the applicants’ discipline;
  6. Personal Statement (max 1000 words): The statement should describe the applicant’s personal motivations, ambitions, and interests, discuss relevant activities and interests outside of research, make clear what the applicant hopes the Fellowship will do for the applicant and what the applicant will bring to the community. Content should not only focus on research, be a repeat of the research plan, or an essay description of the applicant’s CV;
  7. Options for Placement: Three short creative proposals (max 500 words each) for potential postdoctoral fellowship labs any where in the world to develop new networks and skills. This part of the assessment is to understand the applicant’s approach to the pivot and training needs, prompting them to think early, ambitiously, and globally about their options;
  8. Collaboration Statement: Articulate the importance of working collaboratively and convey an ambition to bridge disciplines and lead teams to potentially unlock transformative discoveries in the future. Describe approach to collaboration and outline how the applicant may develop and lead collaborative projects in the future. Where possible, provide evidence of working collaboratively, either in an academic or non-academic setting;
  9. At least three but no more than five (3-5) reference letters (the Schmidt online application requires a minimum of 3 reference letters up to a maximum of 5); One letter must be from the applicant’s thesis supervisor(s). Letters may also come from other faculty, employers, supervisors, or collaborators; at least one should be outside of the PhD supervisory group or University. These letters should be approx. two pages in length, address the applicant’s intellectual ability and research accomplishments, but also markers of leadership and future research success, describe the applicant’s achievements and contributions to date. Referees should be aware of the Schmidt selection criteria and the applicant’s research proposal, senior enough to have the experience and perspective to talk convincingly of the applicant’s current abilities AND future potential.
  • SGS adjudicates the nominations, selects and invites the seven endorsed candidates to complete their registration for application by May 30, 2024;
  • Individuals nominated by U of T complete their applications online;
    • Completed applications will be due no later than July 10, 2024;
    • Applications will consist of details of academic history, including transcripts, current CV with details of relevant publications, at least three but no more than five letters of recommendation, a personal statement, a research plan, collaboration statement, and three short proposals for potential postdoctoral Fellowship labs.
  • Schmidt Timelines
    • August – October 2024: Completed applications undergo an Academic Review by discipline-specific panels of senior researchers to determine which candidates should progress;
    • December 2024: Cross-panel review committee considers Academic Reviewer recommendations and outcomes are communicated to candidates.
    • January 2025: Finalists are invited to an online panel interview with senior figures from academia, business, and society.
    • March 2025: Internal committee considers recommendations and reviews to determine the 2025 cohort of Schmidt Science Fellows. ;
    • April 2025: Final Decisions – SSF Board meet to determine the 2025 cohort of Schmidt Science Fellows.;
    • April 2025: Formal public announcement – Selected Fellows attend an in-person announcement event.
    • April 2025 onwards: Successful candidates, selected as Schmidt Science Fellows, work together with our Academic Council to determine the optimal host laboratory for their research placement.
    • July – October, 2025: Fellowship placements begin: 2025 Fellows start to engage with the Program team, Academic Council mentors and other members of their cohort, commence their research placements, and join their first Science Leadership Meeting

Additional Info

About the program

The Schmidt Science Fellows Program’s vision is a world where interdisciplinary science flourishes without limit, accelerating discoveries to benefit the world, and driving innovation that improves quality of life for all.

Schmidt helps scientists solve bigger problems faster by identifying, developing, and amplifying the next generation of science leaders, building a community of scientists and supporters of interdisciplinary science, and leveraging this network to drive sector-wide change.

The Program seeks:

  • Curious and creative scientists who are interested in broadening their horizons, pivoting away from their PhD research area and pursuing a challenging and rewarding period of study in an alternative discipline with world leading scientists.
  • Academically excellent, risk-positive, early-career researchers who can demonstrate a commitment to ambitious, high-impact science.
  • Future leaders with the potential and character to lead teams and unlock transformative discoveries in the future.
  • Talented individuals from a wide range of scientific disciplines to increase the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration.

Disciplinary Pivot:

The shift in research focus or disciplinary pivot is central to the Schmidt Science Fellows Mission.

Proposals requiring candidates to immerse themselves fully in a new discipline from their current expertise and to address different or broader questions than those posed during their PhD are valued most highly.  Proposals with less ambitious changes in discipline and application are valued less highly. Proposals in sub-disciplines closely related to the PhD are not acceptable, even if there is a large change in the application area.

The pivot should enable a Fellow to achieve a scientific goal that is not possible while continuing their current course, allowing them to overcome a scientific challenge using different approaches or perspectives. 

Fellows receive a personal stipend of US$110,000 per year for up to two years of postdoctoral study in a different area and institution from their PhD, at any approved location worldwide. Fellows build a global network through our Science Leadership Program, a bespoke professional development curriculum delivered across three week-long residential convenings and a rich set of virtual offerings. Fellows benefit from personalized mentoring delivered by experienced international interdisciplinary science leaders to develop as scientific and societal thought leaders. Fellows receive unique scientific freedom to pursue ambitious research goals, take risks, and have bold ideas and join a lifelong community of exemplary interdisciplinary scientists.

For a range of materials and content available that explains and explores the Schmidt Science Fellows mission and introduces the background, science, and motivations of some of our Fellows. Please see the following links:

Science Needs to Change: Schmidt Science Fellows Vision and Mission Fellowship Research Placement

Who is a Schmidt Science Fellow?

Contacts & Resources

For information regarding the U of T selection process, please contact:

Sarah Pickering, Postdoctoral Office

More about Schmidt Science Fellows
Twitter – @SchmidtFellows
LinkedIn –
Instagram – @schmidt_science_fellows
Facebook – @schmidtsciencefellows

Schmidt Science Fellows Selection Process