Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program for Graduate and Postgraduate Researchers
With 21 museums and a National Zoo, the Smithsonian Institution is the world’s biggest museum, education, and research complex. It has created the future by preserving heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing our resources with the world.
One of the ways by which the Smithsonian Institution propels historical education is through the Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program.

The Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program (SIFP) is given to graduate and postgraduate researchers or scholars who seek to do independent study or research at one of the Smithsonian’s 19 units and research centers on a yearly basis.

Furthermore, it provides opportunities for independent research or study in areas relevant to the institution’s materials, facilities, and/or research interests.

Graduate students, predoctoral students, postdoctoral and senior investigators can apply for fellowships to do independent study and use the Institution’s resources, with members of the Smithsonian professional research staff serving as advisors and hosts.

The Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program provides funding for research and study in the following fields, as well as interdisciplinary applications:

  • 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

Application deadline: November 1, 2021

Benefits of the Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program

The following information details the value of an SIFP award at any available level of undertaking:

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

Fellowship tenures must begin between June 1, 2021 and March 1, 2022. It is important that applicants (graduate and postgraduate researchers) 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.

Washington DC

Eligibility Criteria for Interested Fellows

Both US citizens and non-US citizens are eligible to participate in the Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program.

Applicants whose first language is not English must be able to write and talk fluently in the English language. All application materials must be written in the English language (foreign transcripts may be translated, see below).

Additionally, recipients of previous or existing fellowships are able to apply for additional awards. Graduate and postgraduate researchers aiming to apply for the opportunity have different sets of eligibility criteria.

Please note the different categorical instructions stated below:

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, 2014 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.

Selection Criteria

Scholars in relevant fields evaluate applications and select fellows based on the merit of the proposal, the applicant’s ability to carry out the proposed research and study, the likelihood of the research being 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 program’s funding availability. There is no discrimination in the Smithsonian Fellowship Program based on race, color, religion, or sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age, or disability. All graduate and postgraduate researchers are given fair and equal treatment.

How to Apply as Graduate and Postgraduate Researchers

Applications for the Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program for graduate and postgraduate researchers should be done through the Smithsonian Online Academic Appointment System (SOLAA).

Application Materials for Uploading

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, double spaced.

Research Proposal

  • The full statement of your research you plan to undertake at the Smithsonian.
  • No more than 1500 words, 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.


  • Estimate of time period for each phase of the research proposed for the full time period (regardless of one or two years).

Diversity Statement (upload in “Other” material)

  • Please address – How your perspective, experience, and/or project contribute to a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable discipline.
  • No more than one (1) page.
  • 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 may not include funding to do any direct hires. 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)

  • Please provide a current CV (please limit to 4 pages maximum).
  • Including previous and current fellowships, grants, and/or awards.
  • 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 Letter to Referee (downloadable pdf) to your referees.
  • 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.

For further details and information, please visit the official SIFP webpage.
E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: 202-633-7070

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