Guidelines and Application

The fellowship provides an opportunity for recent doctoral scientists to develop innovative instrumentation or to conduct novel theoretical and observational research in planetary astronomy. Planetary astronomy brings together research efforts of two fields—planetary science and astronomy—to characterize planetary systems. The fellowship supports postdoctoral fellows to advance our fundamental understanding of exoplanets, solar system science, planet formation and evolution, planetary atmospheres, protoplanetary disks, or other closely related topics.

The fellowship recognizes early-career investigators of significant potential and provides them with the opportunity to conduct independent research. Each recipient will receive a three-year grant of up to $385,000 to cover salary, benefits, highly-flexible discretionary spending (e.g., travel, family care, moving expenses, research equipment, personal computers, etc.), and indirect costs.  Awarded postdoctoral fellows are expected to carry out a strong, coherent research program in planetary astronomy.

The Foundation anticipates awarding six to eight fellowships this year, based on the quality of submissions. The Heising-Simons Foundation is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion . Thus, we particularly welcome applications from individuals who belong to groups that have been historically underrepresented in planetary sciences and astronomy such as women, persons with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, persons of minority sexual orientation or gender identity, and others who may contribute to diversification of the field.

The 2021-2022 Fellowship cycle is now closed.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Applicants may come from any academic institution or research lab, both nationally and internationally.
  • Applicants are not required to have US citizenship; however, all visa and work permit paperwork is the responsibility of the fellow and host institution.
  • Applicants must have received a doctoral degree in astronomy, physics, earth and planetary sciences, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, or a related discipline. Doctoral degrees must be awarded after August 31, 2012 and before August 31, 2022.

51 Pegasi b Fellowship research must be pursued at one of the following participating institutions. If you have any questions about research collaborations, faculty mentors, resources at these host institutions, etc., please contact the people listed below:

– California Institute of Technology: Heather Knutson
– Cornell University: Nikole Lewis
– Harvard University / Harvard Smithsonian: David Charbonneau
– Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Julien de Wit
– Pennsylvania State University: Eric Ford
– Princeton University: Adam Burrows
– University of Arizona: Jared Males
– University of California, Berkeley: Courtney Dressing
– University of California, Los Angeles: Hilke Schlichting
– University of California, Santa Cruz: Jonathan Fortney
– University of Michigan: Emily Rauscher
– University of Texas, Austin: Brendan Bowler
– Yale University: Greg Laughlin
University of Chicago: Fred Ciesla


Review Criteria

In preparing your research proposal and supporting materials, please consider that fellowship applications will be evaluated based on the following six equally-weighted criteria:

  • Research significance to the field:  Does the research address an important problem or a critical barrier in planetary astronomy? Will meeting the science objectives have broad, long-lasting, cross-cutting, or catalytic impacts on the field?
  • Research innovation:  Is the proposed research original and innovative?  Does the proposed research challenge existing research approaches and ideas? Does the project develop or employ novel concepts, approaches, tools, or technologies?
  • Research approach:  Is the overall strategy well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplishing the project goals? Are the resource requirements and proposed timelines reasonable? Are project risks recognized and addressed?
  • Applicant qualification: Does the applicant have the necessary education and training to carry out the project? Does the applicant have relevant research experience? Has the applicant demonstrated the ability to lead and complete projects?
  • Suitability of host institution(s): Does a proposed host institution have the necessary resources and faculty to support the postdoctoral fellow both scientifically and professionally?
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) statement:  Does the applicant have demonstrated personal experiences, professional skills, and/or a willingness to engage in activities that will advance DEI in the field, particularly with respect to groups which have been historically and consistently underrepresented in the field? Does the applicant offer thoughtful and specific/concrete ideas regarding DEI in the field?


The 2021-2022 Fellowship cycle is now closed.

Interested candidates are asked to submit an online application, and will be asked to include:

  • Abstract of your Ph.D. dissertation
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Samples of your journal or conference publications (up to 3 samples)
  • Summary of previous and current research (1 page)
  • Rationale for host institution (1 page)
  • Two letters of recommendation from your Ph.D. advisor, a senior collaborator, or scientific mentor
  • Science research proposal describing the work you want to perform as a 51 Pegasi b Fellow (up to three pages)
  • Brief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) statement detailing personal experiences, professional skills, and/or willingness to engage in activities that will advance DEI in the field

Application FAQ

Do I have to be physically located at my host institution during my fellowship term?

The funding for your fellowship is routed through your host institution. Temporary working arrangements at external sites (e.g. observatories, national labs, etc.) are permissible if they support your proposed research and are endorsed by your faculty mentor and institution.

Can I move institutions during my three-year fellowship term?

The 51 Pegasi b Fellowship has forged a partnership with your host institution to ensure a rich experience by establishing access to faculty mentors and other resources to excel in your research endeavors. Therefore, we highly encourage you to stay at your host institution during the duration of your fellowship term. Should a fellow require a location change, they should notify the Foundation immediately. Each request will be assessed and approved on a case by case basis.

Does the three-page limit for the description of the proposed research project include references?

No, the three-page limit does not include references, figures, and tables. Please include references as an appendix or attachment.

Once the fellows are selected, is there a specific format that should be used for the fellowship budget?

Yes, following the review and final selection process, the excel budget template and guidelines will be shared with the 51 Pegasi b recipient. The budget must be reviewed and endorsed by the host institution’s office of sponsored projects

May I submit three letters of recommendation instead of the required two?

No, you may only submit two letters of recommendation. These letters must be provided by the candidate’s Ph.D. advisor, a senior collaborator, or a scientific mentor.

Can I change my application after it has been submitted?

Changes to your submitted application can only be made during the open period of the online application platform.

Can the deadline be extended?

The deadline cannot be extended. There are no exceptions.

When are decisions made?

All selected applicants will be notified in February.

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