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The Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program (SIFP)

The program is now CLOSED. 


SIFP Application Deadlines:

2021 Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program: November 1, 2020 11:59 PM EST

Notification of decisions will be made through SOLAA on at the beginning of March.



Enid A. Haupt Garden

Enid A. Haupt Garden




The Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program offers opportunities for independent research or study related to Smithsonian collections, facilities, and/or research interests of the Institution and its staff. Fellowships are offered to graduate students, predoctoral students, and postdoctoral and senior investigators to conduct independent research and to utilize the resources of the Institution with members of the Smithsonian professional research staff serving as advisors and hosts. These fellowships are offered through the Smithsonian’s Office of Fellowships and Internships, and are administered under the charter of the Institution, 20 U.S. Code section 41 et seq.

Applicants who wish to conduct research at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) should go here as SAO application requirements and deadlines may be different.

The publication, Smithsonian Opportunities for Research and Study, outlines Smithsonian research activities and lists the research staff. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact staff members to help identify potential advisors, determine the feasibility of the proposed research being conducted at the Smithsonian Institution, and the availability of relevant resources such as staff, collections, archives and library materials during the proposed tenure dates.

The Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program offers fellowships for research and study in the following fields and encourages applications of an interdisciplinary nature:

  • Animal behavior, ecology, and environmental science, including an emphasis on the tropics
  • Anthropology, including archaeology, cultural anthropology, linguistics, and physical anthropology
  • Astrophysics and astronomy
  • Earth sciences and paleobiology
  • Evolutionary & systematic biology
  • Folklife
  • History of science and technology
  • History of art, especially American, contemporary, African, and Asian art, twentieth-century American crafts, and decorative arts
  • Materials research
  • Molecular biology
  • Social and cultural history of the United States



Qualifications for Application

Applicants are encouraged to propose to conduct research in-residence at the Smithsonian in one of its areas of research as outlined in the publication, Smithsonian Opportunities for Research and Study, for a period of three to twelve months, or ten weeks for the Graduate Student Fellowship. Past or current fellowship recipients are eligible to apply for another award.

No employee or contractor of the Smithsonian Institution may hold a Smithsonian fellowship during the time of his/her employment or contract, nor may an award be offered to any person who has been employed by or under contract to the Institution in the previous year, without the prior approval of the Office of Fellowships & Internships.

Applicants whose native language is not English are expected to have the ability to write and converse fluently in English. All application materials must be presented in English (foreign transcripts may be translated, see below).

Determination of the fellowship category for which to apply should be based on the anticipated academic level at the time the fellowship would begin:

Graduate Student Fellowships: When they apply, students must be formally enrolled in a graduate program of study at a degree-granting institution. Before the appointment begins fellows must still be enrolled and must have completed at least one full-time semester or its equivalent, or have completed the graduate program within the past four months. Graduate Student Fellowships are usually intended for students who have not yet been advanced to candidacy if in a doctoral program.

Predoctoral Fellowships: Students enrolled in a university as candidates for the Ph.D. or equivalent are eligible for predoctoral fellowships. By the time the appointment begins, the university must approve the undertaking of dissertation research at the Smithsonian Institution and certify that requirements for the doctorate, other than the dissertation, have been met.

Postdoctoral Fellowships:  The doctorate degree must be completed by the time the fellowship begins.

Senior Fellowships:  Applicants must have held a Ph.D. or equivalent for at least 7 years. Applicants who have received the Ph.D. or equivalent before November 1, 2013 are eligible to apply for senior fellowships.  If you have taken a “leave of absence” from research and wish to apply under the postdoctoral fellowship application instead of senior fellowship application you will need to provide a justification in the additional information section at the end of the application.


Application Submission and Deadline

All applications must be submitted by November 1, 2020 11:59 PM EST (enter 2021 for the cycle on the application) through the Smithsonian Academic Appointment System (SOLAA) found at

The Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program (SIFP) is listed in SOLAA under the Office of Fellowships.

Notification of decisions will be made through SOLAA early March.


Criteria for Selection

Applications are evaluated and fellows are selected, by scholars in appropriate fields, on the basis of the proposal’s merit, the applicant’s ability to carry out the proposed research and study, the likelihood that the research could be completed in the requested time, and the extent to which the Smithsonian, through its research staff members and resources, could contribute to the proposed research. The number of appointments made each year is determined by the availability of funds for the program. The Smithsonian Fellowship Program does not discriminate on grounds of race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age, or disability.


Conditions of Appointment

Predoctoral fellowships are awarded for periods of three to twelve months. Postdoctoral and senior fellowships are awarded for periods of three to twenty four months.* Appointment periods are in accordance with the applicant’s proposal for the research, unless the length of tenure requested is considered by reviewers to be more than required. All graduate student fellowships are ten weeks long. In accepting an appointment, the fellow will be expected to devote full-time effort to the research proposed and to be in residence at the Smithsonian except for approved absences.

Financial support, in addition to a Smithsonian fellowship, for such purposes as research travel and equipment may be received from other sources provided that no special demands are made upon the fellow’s time. Permission to receive additional stipend support must be requested in writing from the Office of Fellowships & Internships.

Fellowship tenures must begin between June 1, 2021 and March 1, 2022. It is important that applicants consider the following factors carefully when choosing the dates for the proposed fellowship: their academic schedule; completion dates of their preliminary exams, course work, or dissertation (if applicable); the schedule of their proposed advisor/host and the availability of required resources.

Appointments of three months or longer must begin on either the 1st or 15th of the month. The dates of tenure proposed in the application (and any change of dates if the fellowship is awarded) should be selected in agreement with the proposed principal advisor.

In submitting an application for a fellowship at the Institution, the applicant does not incur any obligation to accept the appointment if selected.


*Second Year Funding Opportunities at (SERC)

Post-Doctoral Fellowships at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC)

Post-Doctoral Fellowships at SERC are awarded for periods of no more than one year. However, Post-Doctoral Fellowship applications can be written for up to two years of support with the understanding the second year is contingent on three conditions: (1) submission of a new proposal for the second year of funding that explains progress made during the first year of support, (2) a successful ranking of the new (second-year) proposal by the SERC SIFP evaluation committee, and (3) availability of funds to support the second year request.

For two-year proposals, please create one document (max 3MB) that clearly distinguishes between the research, timeline, and budget for each year (one and two) of the research (the budget limit is $4000 in year one and $4000 in year two, itemized separately). The applicant is evaluated on the scholarly objectives of the research and the potential for success both in year one alone, and over a two year period should the second year be granted.


Use of Smithsonian Facilities

Fellows will be provided with space to conduct their research within the department in which they are working. Applicants should consult in advance with their proposed advisor(s) regarding the availability of facilities and necessary equipment. The amount of support services available to the fellow will be determined by the workload of the department and the policy of the department chairperson and/or unit director. Fellows have access to the Smithsonian Institution Libraries with privileges which include borrowing library materials, interlibrary loans, interlibrary loans, document delivery, database searching, and reference assistance.


Stipends and Allowances 2021

SENIOR FELLOWSHIPS -for scholars at least seven years beyond the Ph.D.

  • Term: 3 to 12 months
  • Stipend: $55,000 per year
  • Research Allowance: up to $4,000 per year

POSTDOCTORAL FELLOWSHIPS – for scholars up to seven years beyond the Ph.D. *

  • Term: 3 to 12 months**
  • Stipend: $55,000 per year
  • Research Allowance: up to $4,000 per year

** Postdoctoral applicants in Science may apply for up to 24 months.

PREDOCTORAL FELLOWSHIPS -for doctoral candidates to conduct dissertation research.

  • Term: 3 to 12 months
  • Stipend: $40,000 per year
  • Research Allowance: up to $4,000 per year

TEN-WEEK GRADUATE STUDENT FELLOWSHIPS -for graduate students to conduct independent research usually before having been advanced to candidacy if in a Ph.D. program.

  • Term: 10 weeks
  • Stipend: $8,000

* If you have taken a “leave of absence” from research and wish to apply under the postdoctoral fellowship application instead of senior fellowship application which makes you 7 or more years out from receiving your Ph.D., please provide a justification in the additional information section at the end of the application.


Stipends are prorated for periods of less than twelve months. In addition to the stipend, allowances to assist with the fellow’s research related expenses and for temporary relocation to the Smithsonian are possible. In most cases a maximum research allowance of $4,000 per year is available. Research allowances are not offered for graduate student fellowships. The amount awarded will be determined based upon the budget and justification presented by the applicant. The budget for the research allowance should not include costs for relocation to the Smithsonian, which is awarded separately. The Office of Fellowships & Internships cannot provide funds for the travel or living expenses of dependents.

Smithsonian fellowship stipends are not salary or compensation. They are meant to support study and research during the tenure of the appointment.

All funds provided under Smithsonian fellowships, including stipends and research and travel allowances, are subject to tax. Fellows awarded stipends receive a financial summary at the end of each calendar year and are responsible for meeting their own state and federal tax obligations.

We look forward to receiving your application.

If you have any questions about completing this application, please feel free to contact this office.

Phone: 202-633-7070

Office of Fellowships and Internships
Smithsonian Institution
470 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Suite 7102
MRC 902 PO Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012



Apply Through the Smithsonian Online Academic Appointment System (SOLAA)

Completed general information in SOLAA

Application Materials (for upload):

The SOLAA application will allow you to upload the following files types (there is a 3MB limit and only the following types of documents are supported: .bmp, .doc, .docx, .gif, .jpeg, .jpg, .pdf, .png, .rtf, .tif, .tiff, .txt, .xls, and .xlsx):


  • No more than one (1) page

Research Proposal

  • The full statement of your research you plan to undertake at the Smithsonian
  • Maximum six (6) pages double spaced (excluding all other parts of the application, such as the abstract and bibliography), Paper size should be 8.5 by 11 inches (210 mm x 297 mm), do not use type smaller than 12 point

In preparing your proposal, be sure to provide and address the following:

  • A description of the research you plan to undertake at the Smithsonian Institution, including the methodology to be utilized.
  • The importance of the work, both in relation to the broader discipline and to your own scholarly goals.
  • Justification for conducting your research at the Smithsonian and utilization of research facilities and resources.
  • Identification of the member of the Smithsonian’s research staff who might serve as your principal advisor/host. Also identify potential co-advisor(s) and/or consultant(s) if applicable. The publication, Smithsonian Opportunities for Research and Study, contains the necessary information on staff research specialties and current departmental interests to help you determine which staff members are best suited to your research needs. Research staff may be named by applicants to serve as principal advisors, co-advisors or consultants. Affiliated research staff may be named as co-advisors or consultants if they will be in residence during at least a portion of the tenure period proposed. You are strongly encouraged to correspond with your proposed advisor(s) as you prepare your proposal.

Time Table (“Other” in SOLAA)

  • Estimate of time period for each phase of the research proposed for the full time period (regardless of one or two years)
  • This needs to be uploaded for the application material name “Other” in SOLAA

Budget and Justification

  • Budget and justification for equipment, supplies, research-related travel costs, and other support required to conduct the research itself (excluding stipend and relocation costs). You are encouraged to discuss potential research costs with your proposed advisor(s) before submitting your application.
  • If the funds required to support the research exceed the maximum research allowance of $4,000 per year, please explain the source of additional funds.
  • Applicants for graduate student fellowships are not eligible for research and research travel allowances, and should not submit budget justifications.


  • Bibliography of literature relevant to the applicant’s proposed research

Curriculum Vitae (CV)

  • Including previous and current fellowships, grants, and/or awards, and a description of your research interests.
  • If English is not your native language, describe the level of your proficiency in reading, conversing, and writing in English

Transcripts (unofficial are acceptable) (you may upload up to three 3MB files)

  • Transcripts (or other materials when transcripts are not issued) from all appropriate institutions are required except for senior fellowship applications
  • Applicants for graduate student fellowships must submit undergraduate and graduate transcripts
  • Applicants for predoctoral and postdoctoral fellowships need only submit graduate transcripts
  • If transcripts or other materials are not in English the applicant should provide translations

References – from two appropriate persons selected by you.

  • Names and email addresses of two persons familiar with your work. Please, do not use your proposed Smithsonian advisor(s) or consultant(s) as your referees.
  • All reference letters are considered confidential unless confidentiality has been waived by the referee
  • Provide a copy of your proposal and a copy of Fellowship-Referee-Letter (downloadable pdf) to your references
  • Through SOLAA you will send an email from the system to these referees so they can provide references through the SOLAA system. Please note: referees will not be able to view your application and you may send the request any time prior to submission. They will still be able to submit their reference before or after you submit your application.
  • Referees are encouraged to submit references no later than the application due date. However, references can be submitted after the deadline and but there is no guarantee it will be included once the review process begins.
  • Applicant’s can check their SOLAA application to determine if letters of recommendation have been submitted or not. Applicants are encouraged to follow-up with referees who have not yet submitted.



Past Awardees:

A list of the 2019 Smithsonian Institution Fellowship awardees is available here.

A list of the 2018 Smithsonian Institution Fellowship awardees is available here.

A list of the 2017 Smithsonian Institution Fellowship awardees is available here.

A list of the 2016 Smithsonian Institution Fellowship awardees is available here.

A list of the 2015 Smithsonian Institution Fellowship awardees is available here.

A list of the 2014 Smithsonian Institution Fellowship awardees is available here.



My proposed project involves the use of live animals. What do I need to do?

Applicants who wish to conduct research using live animals must submit their proposals for review by one of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC). Review for animal welfare concerns and approval of procedures by one of these committees must occur before a fellowship can begin.

Can my proposal involve collections, facilities, and/or experts from multiple Smithsonian units?

Yes. We welcome cross-disciplinary proposals.

I am currently or was recently an employee or contractor for the Smithsonian, how does that affect my eligibility?

No employee or contractor of the Smithsonian Institution may hold a Smithsonian fellowship during the time of his/her employment or contract, nor may an award be offered to any person who has been employed by or under contract to the Institution in the previous year, without the prior approval of the Office of Fellowships and Internships.

I have a image (i.e. a chart or graph) that I want to include as part of my research proposal, can that be an attachment or does it need to be included within the 6 page proposal limit?

The image must fit within the 6 page limit.

When I uploaded my research proposal I saw a warning about 1,500 words - is the limit 1,500 words or 6 pages?

If you receive this notice you may disregard the SOLAA warning about the 1,500 limit as long as your proposal is no more than 6 pages on standard letter size paper, with 12-point font, double-spaced.

Does the 12-point font, double spaced requirement extend to any image captions and/or tables that I include in my proposal?

Not as long as your figures, captions, and/or tables are readable.

When I went through the application I accidentally forgot to send reference requests to people writing references for me. What should I do?

Email us at and we can have the system generate reference requests for you, even if you have already submitted an application.

At least one of my references has not yet submitted a letter. Can I still submit my application?

Please submit your application by the deadline even if one or more of your references has not yet been sent. They will still be able to submit their references after you submit your application. We strongly encourage you to monitor your references to ensure timely submissions. Although otherwise complete applications will be forwarded on to committees for review, if the references are delayed too long, this could negatively impact review of your application.

What percentage of applicants are awarded a Smithsonian Institution Fellowship each year?

Approximately 20% of applicants are awarded fellowships.

If it acceptable to list two Smithsonian units as research sites or should I only select one?

You may propose more than one unit if both are essential to your research.

Are consultants required to be formally affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution?


I have already contacted my potential advisor. Should I contact the co-advisor as well?

We strongly encourage you to contact all advisors and co-advisors, and consultants in advance of submitting your proposal.

Regarding the time table, should I do a graphic table or can it be a list of dates and items?

Either is fine.

Is there a page limit for the bibliography section?

No, there is no page limit for the bibliography.

After I submitted my proposal I realized it contained an error. Can I change this after the application deadline has passed?

If you made a small, administrative error (i.e. address, tenure date) please email OFI at to request the change. However, to be fair to all applicants, OFI will not make substantial changes in the nature of the proposal (i.e. proposal, budget, timeline, references). Please be aware that even if the requested change is acceptable, OFI cannot guarantee our office can edit in time so we encourage applicants to carefully review the entire application before submitting. However, in order to offer a fair review to all applicants, once the application deadline has passed we cannot accept changes to materials associated directly with your proposal (budget, timeline, abstract, bibliography, the proposal itself, references, etc).

I have a question about the Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program that is not answered in the FAQ section. Who do I contact?

Please direct all questions to OFI at (202) 633-7070 or

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