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Selection

Guidance

Resources for applicants to Schmidt Science Fellows 2025

We aim to provide all nominated applicants to Schmidt Science Fellow with the information required to demonstrate their ability and potential for a Fellowship. 

We will host webinars for the 2025 Selection process during March and April 2024 and subsequently will update the slides below.

For the 2024 Selection process we held two webinars on 28 April 2023 to share insights and guidance with prospective candidates. The webinars included presentations from our Admissions team and a Q&A session with a panel of current and Senior Fellows.

The webinar slides and summary of FAQs are available below.

Further detailed guidance notes are made available to all nominated candidates within the online application, and we advise candidates to read these carefully. If the guidance notes and FAQ resources here and elsewhere on the Schmidt Science Fellows website do not answer your questions, please contact nominations@schmidtsciencefellows.org

Presentation

FAQs

When must I finish my PhD to be eligible for the 2025 cohort?

Candidates applying for our 2025 cohort must expect to complete all the requirements to obtain their PhD, including a successful defense, between May 15, 2024 and June 30, 2025. It is worth noting that you do not necessarily have to have attended your graduation ceremony, so long as all requirements for conferral of doctoral status have been met within this time frame.

What is the earliest date I can start my 2025 Fellowship?

Most 2025 Fellows are expected to begin their Fellowship Research Placements in July or October 2025, with July 1, 2025 being the earliest start date.

When must I submit my application?

Preliminary information must be submitted by May 30, 2024. Full application including letters of recommendation must be submitted by July 10, 2024. Preliminary information may be edited after May 30, 2024, but we recommend you do not alter fields such as your PhD discipline unless absolutely necessary as this data helps define what expertise is needed on our Academic Review panels.

Can I apply next year?

You may be able to apply, or reapply, next year, but only if you are eligible for that intake (for 2026 this will mean your PhD is awarded between May 15, 2025 and June 30, 2026) and your PhD awarding institution agrees to nominate you as a candidate. Please note these eligibility dates could be subject to change.

Do I need to be nominated by my institution?

Yes, candidates must be nominated by a designated official or coordinator from one of our Nominating Partner Organizations where they expect to complete their PhD. We do not accept self-nominations or have an open route for applications.

How many organizations nominate Schmidt Science Fellows?

Over 100 of the world’s leading universities and research institutes are invited to make nominations each year.

How do I know if my institute is a Nominating Partner Organization?

You may contact nominations@schmidtsciencefellows.org if you are unsure about your institution’s nominating status.

Who do the nominations come from in my university? How can I find that person?

Schmidt Science Fellows liaises with a designated official or office at each Nominating Partner Organization to provide their list of nominees. You may contact nominations@schmidtsciencefellows.org if you are unsure who your institutional representative is.

What is the process for nominations at my institution?

Each Nominating Partner Organization is requested to advertise the fellowship opportunity to all relevant departments and for this to be open to all eligible students. Each organization conducts their own internal selection process to identify their most competitive candidates to nominate.

How competitive is Schmidt Science Fellows?

We are unashamedly competitive; Schmidt Science Fellows is a transformative opportunity for exceptional individuals who meet all our selection criteria to a high degree. We expect to select around 30 Fellows each year. Typically, our success rate (of nominees already pre-screened and selected from their PhD university) is just under 10% based on completed applications.

Can you provide me with an example of a good past application to use as a template?

All applications to Schmidt Science Fellows are treated in confidence. We do not provide examples of ‘good’ applications because the best application for you is the one that is personal to you and your scientific objectives. Your application should be your own work, be personal to you, and reflect your achievements and future plans. Applications based on other candidates’ applications or applications from previous years will not stand out during the review process and you may inadvertently fail to address requirements specific to this year’s process.

Are there word or page limits within the application?

Yes. Word and page limits are clearly communicated both in the online application form and in the associated guidance notes, please pay close attention to these.

Are we allowed to upload supporting documents and figures in our application?

You are allowed to upload transcripts, CVs and manuscripts. However, the application is a text-only format so figures or graphics may not be included. You may include references. However, please note these will count towards the word limit so we recommend you select a succinct style if you choose to include them in your proposal. Please refer to the Guidance Notes made available via the application portal for further instructions.

Can I include links in my application to relevant publications?

Yes. We encourage candidates to provide a URL or DOI for publications and to upload PDF copies if online versions are not available.

What is the expectation regarding the number and quality of publications?

You should be able to evidence a clear record of achievement and productivity relative to your field(s) of study. Published outputs, where your contributions are made clear and peer-reviewed, are very useful when evaluating academic excellence and we recommend you try to get your publications out wherever possible. However, there is no one simple answer to this question as outputs vary significantly between disciplines. Furthermore, the number of publications may vary depending on the duration of the PhD. Our Academic Review is carried out by experts in different disciplinary areas and they will take these factors into account.

Can you provide examples of what you mean by relevant activities outside of the PhD research?

Relevant activities outside of research may be anything you choose to include. However, we recommend you discuss activities which may provide reviewers with additional insight relevant to our selection criteria, e.g. activities where you may have had a leadership role, volunteered for an organization of interest to you, or which demonstrate a sense of curiosity or wider engagement in science and/ or society. Past outreach and advocacy activities, or your plans for these may also be appropriate to mention in your personal statement.

What details should be included in the collaboration statement?

We do not expect you to have led collaborative teams at this stage of your career. However, you will need to describe your approach to collaboration and outline how you may develop, and lead, collaborative projects in the future. If you can, please provide evidence of working collaboratively, either in an academic or non-academic setting.

Can I update my application (e.g., my publications or CV) after I have submitted it?

No. We do not permit updates to any part of the application post-submission. We strongly recommend you leave yourself enough time to thoroughly review and check your application before submitting it. Do not leave it until the last day.

How does the Academic Review work? Are there interviews?

There are no interviews for the Academic Review process. At this stage of the process, a review panel of three to five senior academics (all broadly expert in your PhD research area) review your application materials independently ahead of convening as a panel to discuss each application and to arrive at a consensus set of recommendations and rankings.

Will Final Selection interviews be in person?

No. We intend to run interviews virtually as we have successfully done so over the past cycles.

Are there any preferred disciplines in which candidates should conduct their PhD or Placement research?

Candidates may have conducted their graduate degree in any of the natural sciences (Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Earth Sciences), Engineering, Mathematics, or Computing, including all sub-disciplines within. Likewise, selected Fellows may pivot to any other discipline they choose. The program has no favored or unfavored disciplines, or preferred combinations of PhD and pivot disciplines.

Can you give an example of what a pivot is?

The degree of change in research direction you propose is entirely up to you. However, we expect your Fellowship Research Proposal to represent a genuine, and ambitious, change of focus from your PhD studies, with a clear and positive rationale for the change in direction you are proposing. In all cases, you should make a clear case for the genuine development of new skills and widening of perspectives and networks. If the new area is very far removed from your previous research experience, you should take care to evidence your investigation of both the novelty and feasibility of the proposed research.

How risky and novel should my pivot be? Am I expected to be somewhat expert in my new field of study?

We encourage ambition, innovation, and bold ideas, and we provide an environment where you have the intellectual freedom and support to take this kind of risk. However, the ambition should be tempered with a clarity of vision for the purpose of making this leap and a thorough investigation into the feasibility of making the attempt. You do not have to be an expert in the field you are moving into, but you should have researched the area sufficiently well to be able to make a proposal that is both original and which includes enough technical detail to convince reviewers of its feasibility. Proposals that are wholly derivative or that duplicate existing ideas are unlikely to be competitive. You should be feeling excited but uncomfortable about what you don’t know in the new area. If you have already mastered the majority of skills needed to undertake your Fellowship research proposal, then you are probably not suggesting a strong enough pivot.

Does the pivot need to make an impact on society (e.g., solving real-life problems in current situations)?

We support bold ideas and that includes fundamental blue-skies academic research as well as applied research. In either case, we recommend you also articulate a vision as to how the proposal may have an impact, in both the short and longer-term, be that in science and/ or society.

How do you balance 'big ideas' with a 12–24 month Research Proposal? What if my idea is more ambitious than that?

The program aims to advance scientific discovery through interdisciplinary research and training, so an argument will need to be made for how a pivot into any discipline will facilitate that scientific advancement. We suggest you consider the Fellowship and 12-24 month research proposal as part of the bigger picture, there is no expectation for you to single-handedly solve grand societal challenges within this time frame. We recommend you focus your research proposal on the 12-24 month period and consider its technical feasibility within that time frame, but to think of this as part of a longer-term vision. It is worth articulating how the focused learnings you will gain through this period of intensive study will contribute to both your personal/ research goals after the Fellowship as well as commenting on the potential for wider impact in science and society.

I have more than one potential research project in mind, should I write about all of them or just focus on one?

You should focus on creating a single clear Fellowship Research Proposal. We are looking for Fellows to pivot into a new discipline and go through an intense period of learning to embed themselves fully in a new research area. Approaches proposing shallower learnings across multiple disciplines are less likely to be competitive.

I have already started working on my pivot, is it seen as advantageous to have learned many of the new skills before starting?

Even if you have switched disciplines during your PhD, linear or incremental extensions of your PhD studies are unlikely to be considered ambitious enough. We advise that your pivot should at least require you to learn a new skill set. We recognize that some candidates will have already secured a postdoctoral position prior to commencing the Fellowship Research Placement. However, candidates should not assume that any pre-existing position will be automatically approved or denied. We recommend you think deeply about how any pre-existing position may meet the requirement of widening your skills, perspectives, and networks through this Fellowship. All placements are subject to the same review and approval process – this is entirely focused on making sure that you find the best lab in which to achieve your ambitious Fellowship goals. We recommend you keep your options open and have a flexible mindset about where you may eventually carry out your Fellowship Research Placement.

Can we make changes to the proposal that we have already submitted to our nominating institution?

Yes. Please approach the online application as a new exercise and ensure you address the requirements (and pay attention to the guidance notes) therein. You may draw on your university proposal (if your university requested one), but each Nominating Partner Organization institution is likely to have a different internal process, and these do not take precedence over the requirements of our online application.

How bound and committed are we to the project we propose in our application?

You are not expected to commit to the proposal before the award of a Fellowship. The Fellowship Research Proposal itself is subject to discussion, mentoring, review and approval before the Fellowship commences – we accept that the science may have moved on since your application and also that further mentoring and discussion may reshape things.

Can I pivot into the Social Sciences?

Candidates may propose a pivot to a social science field for their Fellowship Research Placement if they can make a strong argument that doing so would help advance scientific discovery. A compelling case would need to be made for the development of new skills and to demonstrate that the science itself would be advanced rather than just promoting societal engagement, application, uptake or the candidate’s PhD research.

Can I really go anywhere in the world to do my research placement?

Yes. We encourage Schmidt Science Fellows to think broadly, deeply, and globally about where they undertake their Fellowship Research Placements. Fellows may undertake their Placements in any laboratory, anywhere in the world, that aligns with the program vision and the individual training needs of the Fellow. We do not encourage pivots into particular research areas or impose boundaries in this regard.

Can I do my Fellowship placement in the lab where I am currently studying for my PhD?

No. Selected Fellows are required to pursue a Fellowship Research Placement in a different location to that of their PhD. Candidates should view a potential Fellowship Research Placement as an unrivaled opportunity to go anywhere in the world to acquire new skills in a new discipline and to experience a different research environment. We encourage you to think broadly and globally about this, to make the most of this opportunity and consider how it may enable both your current project and future career.

How do I identify potential labs, and do I need to reach out to potential PIs?

We recommend you investigate which labs and organizations are generating interesting outputs and publications in the area you wish to move into, as a first step. We recommend you also investigate the culture of the lab, its structure and the PI’s track record, to see if you think they could provide the training environment and resources you would need, and if you feel you would ‘fit’.  

The Options for Placement section of the application is about better understanding your approach to the pivot. Nothing here is binding and there are no institutes or PIs who are looked on more favorably than others. It is about demonstrating that you have thoroughly considered the personal and academic support you will need to develop skills in a new area and the best environment to support your personal and professional development as you move into a new research discipline.

You do not need to secure a position at this stage or contact potential PIs, but you may do so if you wish. This will not affect your application. You are also not expected to join or commit to any one option before the award of a Fellowship. Indeed, it is advised that you wait if you can, to have the full benefit of the mentoring of our Academic Council, before making any commitment so that you may secure the placement that is best for you and your science.

Can you choose to be placed at a non-academic institution for the Fellowship placement?

Fellows are required to also have an academic affiliation if they are placed at a non-academic institution (to ensure access to an appropriate and supportive scientific community and help maintain a breadth of longer-term career options). Placements for all selected Fellows are subject to approval by the program.

Am I allowed to be co-supervised by multiple PI’s?

Fellows must have a single primary PI who is responsible for their professional mentorship and research support. This does not preclude formal collaboration with other scientists or groups but is to ensure the PI is accountable and responsible for providing scientific guidance, resources, and a conducive training environment.

Could you clarify what the placement approval process looks like?

New Fellows are encouraged to pause to fully consider their options and work together with our Academic Council to agree on their research plan and host lab. The process consists of an initial consultation stage where Fellows discuss research plans, explore best options for Placement, and can get advice on their project and plans, followed by Fellows contacting prospective PIs to discuss their needs and research proposal to ensure there is a mutual fit. Following this discussion, Fellows submit their research proposal to the Program team for review and formal approval from a sub-committee of the Academic Council. Once confirmation of support from the host PI/ university is in place, the Fellow and PI (in consultation with the Program) agree on a start date.

Should I opt for a 12 or 24 month Placement, and what is the process if I want to do more than 12 months?

The proposed duration of the Fellowship Research Placement does not factor into the assessment process. Individuals should consider what is best both for their proposed research and intended career path. Any Fellow wishing to continue their Fellowship Research Placement beyond 12 months will be expected to complete a light-touch review at the ten-month point. There is no requirement to have met set scientific objectives, but there will be an expectation to outline what the Fellow has been working on, obstacles encountered, any changes in direction or focus, and a proposed plan for the remainder of the Placement. Your PI will be asked to submit a letter outlining your work so far and reconfirming their commitment to support you through the intended full duration.

Can the Fellowship be extended beyond 24 months?

Currently, the Fellowship allows for a 12-24 month Research Placement. A program of alumni activities follows on from this, but we do not envisage further extensions of the Placement.

Can I change my pivot partway through the Fellowship?

Your research proposal is subject to discussion, mentoring, review and approval before the Fellowship commences. Your agreed placement plan and the general direction of your research should therefore be coherent and fairly well conceived at the outset.  We do not have specific expectations or requirements for scientific output that would force you to stay on an unproductive path and we also recognize that the specifics of your plan may evolve as your science develops. 

We will accommodate changes in duration between 12 and 24 months but significant changes in the overall direction of your research part way through your placement will require approval by the Program.  Such changes will normally only be permitted in extenuating circumstances where your original Placement plan is detrimental to your personal or scientific development and wellbeing.

Does the program have any requirements relating to intellectual property we generate during the Fellowship?

No. Schmidt Science Fellows does not make any claim to the intellectual property arising from your research during your Fellowship Research Placement.

What expectations do you have for my career after the Fellowship Placement?

While it is our hope and expectation that Senior Fellows will continue to work toward advancing interdisciplinary discovery to benefit the world, there are many ways that can be achieved, and Schmidt Science Fellows are free to pursue any career path they wish following their Fellowship Research Placement.

Why do you require letters of recommendation?

Letters of recommendation are a critical element in the assessment of candidates for Schmidt Science Fellows. A good letter of recommendation will ideally support the candidate’s application with specific reference to their abilities and experience and how these align with each of our selection criteria. Strong letters typically focus on the candidate (touching on both academic and personal qualities); describe the candidate’s record of accomplishments (making it clear how the candidate contributed to specific pieces of work) and provide supporting evidence of claims being made; clearly describe how the candidate aligns with each of Selection Criteria; and make a clear case for the candidate’s future potential.

Who should I ask to write my letters of recommendation? Can a group leader of a potential placement lab be a referee? What about someone who could only write a personal recommendation?

One of your 3 to 5 letters of recommendation must come from your primary PhD supervisor. For the other letters, senior faculty are a good choice as are collaborators. We recommend you choose people senior enough to have the experience and perspective to talk about your current abilities as well as your future potential. In all cases it is essential they know you well enough to talk compellingly to all our selection criteria when writing their letters. We do not recommend choosing friends or colleagues at the same career stage as referees. 

You do not need to have engaged with potential PIs for your placement at this time or have a letter of recommendation from a prospective PI. However, if you have been in discussions with potential placement labs, we recommend you think very carefully about how well any potential future group leader really knows you before asking them to write a letter for you.  

Wholly personal recommendations may be included, but carefully consider what these may add to your application in light of the selection criteria they will be asked to comment on.

If I do not have a good relationship with my supervisor, can I suggest someone else as a referee.

If you feel that a letter from your primary supervisor may not be positive then try to balance this by seeking out other referees who know you well and will spend the time to write a good letter for you and securing up to the maximum (5) number of letters of recommendation if you can. Should there be extenuating circumstances please contact the Admissions team directly.

Does the Schmidt Science Fellows program provide additional funding for research costs and support staff?

Stipends are intended to support personal costs and should not be used to pay for research costs or consumables. Your host organization is required to provide the project resources necessary to meet your placement objectives.

Can I hold another fellowship at the same time, or do I have to defer it?

We do not permit deferrals (unless related to sick leave or family leave) and we do not normally allow Fellows to receive any awards or remuneration from other organizations concurrent with the Fellowship. Supplementary funding for research and other professional development (such as travel grants) is allowed and encouraged. With Program approval, Fellows may also retain the title of another fellowship during the Fellowship Year if personal remuneration is not accepted and as long as there are no compulsory requirements that could hinder full participation in our programming (e.g., full attendance at the Senior Leadership Program and engagement with Mentoring), or effective engagement with the Fellowship Research Placement.