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 achieve greater global impact.

For the 2022 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 56 current and Senior Fellows; the University of Toronto may nominate nine 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 and receive personal and scientific mentoring to enable them to maximize the opportunities from their Fellowship.

The program has relationships and committed support from internationally-leading research leaders and laboratories to ensure fellows are placed into a stimulating, challenging and rewarding environment. Throughout the placement year, Fellows will have access to personal and scientific mentoring to enable them to maximize the benefits of their fellowship and to support their career development.

Schmidt Science Fellows attend five weeks of meetings as a cohort during their fellowship. The Global Meetings Series is held around the world or virtually to enable Fellows to engage with new concepts, to visit leading science facilities and to have dialogue with internationally-renowned thought-leaders from science, business, policy, and society. Through the Global Meetings, the Fellows receive the training required to become scientific leaders, including:

  • Leadership, management, and ethics
  • Personal effectiveness and communication
  • Funding and finance
  • Broadening interdisciplinary perspectives
  • Engaging in society and how to tackle global challenges
  • Collaboration, engaging with diverse teams, and community development

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.

The program has relationships and committed support from internationally-leading research leaders and laboratories to ensure fellows are placed into a stimulating, challenging and rewarding environment. Throughout the placement year, Fellows will have access to personal and scientific mentoring to enable them to maximize the benefits of their fellowship and to support their career development.

Schmidt Science Fellows attend five weeks of meetings as a cohort during their fellowship year. The Global Meetings Series is held around the world to enable Fellows to engage with new concepts, to visit leading science facilities and to have dialogue with internationally-renowned thought-leaders from science, business, policy, and society. Through the Global Meetings, the Fellows receive the training required to become scientific leaders, including:

  • Leadership, management, and ethics
  • Personal effectiveness and communication
  • Funding and finance
  • Broadening interdisciplinary perspectives
  • Engaging in society and how to tackle global challenges
  • Collaboration, engaging with diverse teams, and community development

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, ambitious 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, 2021 and July 30, 2022 and
  • Be available for the entire period of the 2022-2023 program, from July 2022 to September 2023, 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 and Innovation – 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 May 21, 2021; 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 May 21, 2021 – 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. Proposal Statement (max 1000 words) regarding potential postdoctoral research direction the applicant may wish to pursue if named a Schmidt Science Scholar. While applicants need not commit to a single postdoctoral study in order to have their application accepted, the statement should describe potential areas for postdoctoral research that could be considered. These potential areas of study must outline their planned interdisciplinary pivot (i.e. be different from the field of study for which the applicants received their doctorate) and clearly address the relevant selection criteria, especially “Alignment with the Program”.
  6. Personal Statement (max 1000 words), which must be wholly the applicant’s original work. The statement should describe the applicant’s academic, scientific, professional and personal interests, the reason for the applicant’s interest in the Schmidt Science Fellows, medium-term career path and interests, and long-term future ambitions in the applicable fields of natural science, engineering, mathematics, or computing.
  7. Three short proposals (max 500 words each) for potential postdoctoral fellowship labs.
  8. Four to seven (4-7) Reference letters (the Schmidt online application requires a minimum of 4 reference letters up to a maximum of 7); A minimum of 3 references must be from A Letters from the applicant’s thesis supervisor(s) are expected. Letters may also come from other faculty, employers, supervisors, or collaborators. These letters should address the applicant’s intellectual ability and research accomplishments, but also markers of leadership and future research success.
  • SGS adjudicates the nominations, selects and invites the nine endorsed candidates to complete their registration for application by July 1, 2021;
  • Individuals nominated by U of T complete their applications online;
    • Completed applications will be due no later than August 31, 2021;
    • 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;
  • Finalists are invited to an online panel interview with senior figures from academia, business, and society between February and March 2022;
  • Internal committee considers recommendations and reviews to determine the 2022 cohort of Schmidt Science Fellows in March 2022;
  • Formal public announcement in July 2022 – Selected Fellows attend an in-person announcement event in New York City.

Contacts & Resources

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

Sarah Pickering, Postdoctoral Office
sgs.postdoc@utoronto.ca
416-946-5254

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