Schmidt Science Fellows Award

Award Overview

Purpose

The Schmidt Science Fellows program, is an initiative of Schmidt Futures supported and funded by the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Strategic Fund for Innovation, 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 2023 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 84 current and Senior Fellows; the University of Toronto may nominate seven candidates.

About the program

Infectious disease. Climate change. Food insecurity. An aging population. Species extinction. The crises that face our planet and our society are broad, deep, and multi-faceted. They recognize none of the neat boundaries that are often and traditionally applied to science. In this new era, the Schmidt Science Fellows Program feels the best scientists should draw insights from across numerous disciplines, be able to apply new techniques, and possess a broad worldview informed by the intersections between science and society. This is the space they work in. Schmidt Science Fellows are pioneers, trailblazers, and risk-takers who enjoy unparalleled intellectual and scientific freedom and membership of a supportive, lifelong community that provides a safe place to take scientific risks and push the boundaries of science.

The program seeks the brightest minds in the natural sciences, mathematics, engineering and computing 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 the world’s leading academics, scientists and institutions. The full-time year-long program is delivered through a combination of group sessions at some of the world’s leading universities and a special postdoctoral study in a field different from a Fellow’s existing expertise. Fellows are awarded a stipend of $100,000 a year for up to two years and receive personal and scientific mentoring to enable them to maximize the opportunities from their Fellowship.

Fellows receive a stipend of $100,000 a year (for up to two years, a total of up to $200,000 of support during their Fellowship) and are supported to develop the skills and perspectives needed to accelerate discovery, advance solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, and to become future leaders in science and society. Fellows are supported to pursue a postdoctoral placement at a world-leading laboratory anywhere in the world in a disciplinary pivot from their PhD. During their Fellowship Year, they and also participate in a varied and challenging Global Meeting Series that introduces new research ideas, techniques, and questions, in addition to a tailored training program. Fellows benefit from a personalized mentoring program, providing professional development support from experienced and internationally accomplished scientists, and at the completion of the Fellowship Year, join the Senior Fellows community of alumni for ongoing support, interaction, and programming opportunities.

To learn more about Schmidt Science Fellows, the science, and motivations of some of the Fellows, see the ‘We Are Schmidt Science Fellows’ features and film series.

Candidate Requirements

Schmidt Science Fellows are encouraged and supported to take an ambitious scientific risk when considering their postdoctoral placement. Their proposed research pivot 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 Fellowship at a laboratory of their choice, subject to program approval and assurance that the host organization meets the Fellows individual training and research needs. 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.

Eligibility

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 at the University of Toronto;
  • Have their final PhD thesis accepted by the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto between June 1, 2022 and July 30, 2023 and
  • Be available for the entire period of the 2023 program, from July 2023 to September 2024, including attendance of the Global Meeting Series (whether virtual or in person, as conditions allow).

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.
  • 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.

Nomination Process

Graduate Chairs are invited to nominate their top ranked candidate(s) by submitting a complete nomination package to SGS for consideration by April 14, 2022; 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 14, 2022 – see Instructions for Graduate Units document for submission instructions.

The following will serve as a completed nomination package:

  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. A brief abstract or 1-page summary of the doctoral thesis written by the applicant;
  5. Updated: Fellowship Research Proposal (max 1000 words) regarding the potential postdoctoral research the applicant may wish to pursue if named a Schmidt Science Scholar. The proposal should be an original, clearly written, ambitious but feasible research plan. It should have a hypothesis, introduction, outline technical approaches and outcomes, articulate a vision and ambition for impact, describe skills that need to be learned, explain what is innovative, and describe their planned interdisciplinary pivot (i.e., how the proposal is different from the field of study for which the applicants received their doctorate)”. 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 and interests with concrete examples, provide a compelling reason for the applicant’s interest in research, discuss relevant activities and interests outside of research, make clear what Schmidt Science Fellows will do for the applicant and what the applicant will bring to the Fellowship. Content should not be a repeat of the research proposal or an essay description of the applicant’s CV.
  7. 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 and globally about their options.
  8. Updated: 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); Letters from the applicant’s thesis supervisor(s) are expected. 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. 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 June 1, 2022;
  • Individuals nominated by U of T complete their applications online;
    • Completed applications will be due no later than July 18, 2022;
    • Applications will consist of details of academic history, including transcripts, current CV with details of relevant publications, at least four but no more than seven letters of recommendation, a personal statement, a proposal for potential postdoctoral research direction, and three short proposals for potential postdoctoral Fellowship labs.
  • Completed applications undergo an Academic Review by discipline-specific panels of senior researchers to determine which candidates should progress to the final stage;
  • Cross-panel review committee considers Academic Reviewer recommendations and outcomes are communicated to candidates by December 2022;
  • Finalists are invited to an online panel interview with senior figures from academia, business, and society between January and February 2023;
  • Internal committee considers recommendations and reviews to determine the 2023 cohort of Schmidt Science Fellows in March 2023;
  • Successful candidates, selected as Schmidt Science Fellows, work together with our Academic Council to determine the optimal host laboratory for their research placement starting March 2023 onwards;
  • Formal public announcement in April 2023 – Selected Fellows attend an in-person announcement event.

Contacts & Resources

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

Sarah Pickering, Postdoctoral Office
sgs.postdoc@utoronto.ca

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

Schmidt Science Fellows Selection Process