Schmidt Science Fellows Award
- Award Category: International Awards, Postdoctoral Awards
- Student Deadline : Date set by graduate unit
- Application Dates : Spring/Summer
- Graduate Unit Deadline : April 13, 2023
- Value & Duration : $100,000 per year for up to two years
- Required Legal Status : Domestic / International
- Results : March 2024 directly from Agency
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 2024 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 113 current and Senior Fellows; 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. Applicants are encouraged to read about our past Schmidt Science Fellows Program recipients:
2023 Fellows: Schmidt to Announce
2022 Fellows: Elizabeth Philips and Paul Chen
2021 Fellow: Anastasia Korolj
2019 Fellow: Ina Anreiter
2018 Fellows: Jielai Zhang and Xiwen Gong.
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 Schmidt Science Fellows Program believes 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.
Fellows receive a personal 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 become future leaders in science and society. Fellows pursue a postdoctoral placement at a world-leading laboratory anywhere in the world, working in a different discipline to that of their PhD. During the first year as a Fellow, they participate in a varied and challenging Global Meeting Series that introduces new research ideas, techniques, and questions, in addition to a tailored training program including communication, leadership and management skills. Fellows also 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, collaboration, interaction, and programming opportunities.
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?
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.
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, 2023 and June 30, 2024 and;
- Be available for the entire period of the 2024 program, from April 2024 to November 2025, including onboarding activities, attendance of the Global Meeting Series, and a Senior Fellows event.
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.
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?
Graduate Chairs are invited to nominate their top ranked candidate(s) by submitting a complete nomination package to SGS for consideration by April 13, 2023; 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 13, 2023 – 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 2022 Schmidt Presentation for Applicants for guidance):
- Nomination letter from the Graduate Chair/Director;
- 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;
- 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;
- Description of PhD and highlights written by the applicant, describing the exciting and innovative work and clearly stating contributions;
- 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, with an element of risk, but feasible. 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)”, and have a clear vision for the benefits of making the leap. Keep in mind that some reviewers (at the University and international competition) will not be experts in the applicants’ discipline;
- 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 plan or an essay description of the applicant’s CV;
- 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;
- New: 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. Provide evidence of working collaboratively, either in an academic or non-academic setting. Describe approach to collaboration and the teams the applicant hopes to bring together in the future;
- 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 June 1, 2023;
- Individuals nominated by U of T complete their applications online;
- Completed applications will be due no later than July 17, 2023;
- 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.
- 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 2023;
- Finalists are invited to an online panel interview with senior figures from academia, business, and society between January and February 2024;
- Internal committee considers recommendations and reviews to determine the 2024 cohort of Schmidt Science Fellows in March 2024;
- Final Decisions – SSF Board meet to determine the 2024 cohort of Schmidt Science Fellows. April 2024;
- 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 2024 onwards;
- Formal public announcement in April 2024 – 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
More about Schmidt Science Fellows
Twitter – @SchmidtFellows
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/company/-schmidt-science-fellows/
Instagram – @schmidt_science_fellows
Facebook – @schmidtsciencefellows
Schmidt Science Fellows Selection Process