Interns & Fellows

Tips For Applying For Pre- & Postdoctoral Fellowships

Interested in doing graduate or postdoctoral research at SERC? There are three common paths to receiving pre- and postdoctoral funding:

  1. Smithsonian Fellowships: There are several internal predoctoral, postdoctoral, and senior fellowships available at the Smithsonian that can support graduate and postdoctoral research.
  2. Independent Funding: A prospective candidate may work with a principal investigator at SERC to apply for external funding.
  3. Lab-specific positions: A principal investigator will post an ad for open positions within their lab.

Recommendations for Applying for Smithsonian Fellowships

Be sure to check our Fellowship Proposal Checklist as you prepare your application! If you have any questions about Smithsonian Fellowships at SERC, please contact our Academic Appointment Coordinator Dan Gustafson (

Where to look:

  • Fellowships relevant to SERC: Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program (SIFP), The Big Ten Academic Alliance Smithsonian Fellowship, George E. Burch Fellowship, Smithsonian Biodiversity Genomics Fellowship, Smithsonian Mpala Postdoctoral Fellowship

  • Some applicant ideas may be applicable to more than one fellowship, discuss applying to more than one fellowship with your potential sponsor

Due date: November 1, 2022 at 11:59pm EST
We strongly encourage beginning the application process prior to the deadline, to avoid technical complications and give your references enough time to submit their letters

Applicants are welcome to contact potential sponsors at SERC! It's best to do this as early as possible when preparing your fellowship proposal. A few things to keep in mind:

  • Sponsors can be any Principal Investigator at SERC
  • To learn more about Principal Investigators and their labs, visit our staff webpage and lab webpage
  • When emailing a potential sponsor, it's helpful to include:
    • A summary of your interests and how they overlap with your potential sponsor's research program
    • An abridged Curriculum Vitae (two pages maximum)
    • If you have a proposal idea, a short synopsis (less than one page)
  • If a sponsor doesn't respond right away, we encourage you to send a follow-up email after a few days.


  • Fellowships must begin between June 1, 2022 and March 1, 2023. Fellowships longer than three months must begin on the 1st or 15th day of the month.
  • Postdoctoral fellowships are awarded for no more than one year at a time.
  • Applicants may write a proposal for up to two years of support. Discuss with the potential sponsor the merits of writing a one- or two-year proposal
  • If writing a two-year proposal:
    • Clearly distinguish each year (one and two) in your research proposal, timeline and budget
    • Your application will be evaluated on the scholarly objects of your research, and the potential for success both in year one and over a two-year period, should a second year be granted.
  • Funding for a second year is contingent on three conditions:
    1. Submission of a new proposal for the second year of funding, which explains progress made during your first year of support
    2. A successful ranking of the new (second-year) proposal by the evaluation committee
    3. Availability of funds to support the second-year request


  • Do not use your proposed Smithsonian sponsors
  • Choose references familiar with your work and working abilities
  • Provide your reference with a copy of our Letter to Referee
  • Ask letter writers in advance, and let them know you will send a submission link from the SOLAA system
  • Letters received after the deadline may not be included in your application

Recommendations for Collaborating with a SERC Principal Investigator for External Funding

  • If you are interested in collaborating with a SERC Principal Investigator to apply for external funding to conduct research complementary to an ongoing research program, please email the Principal Investigator a summary (less than 1 page) of your idea and why they’re an ideal collaborator, the funding source you are interested in pursuing, the deadline and your CV. 

  • SERC’s current Principal Investigators and labs can be found on our staff webpage or lab webpage

Recommendations for Applying for Lab-specific Positions 

  • If you’ve found an advertisement for an existing open position, be sure to submit all requested documents to the specified location by the deadline. 

  • Send any questions to the given contact as early as possible.