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 $430,000 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. Assuming satisfactory progress, fellows may apply for a fourth year of funding.

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 2023-2024 Fellowship cycle is open from July 7-October 6, 2023.

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 December 31, 2014 and before December 31, 2024.
  • 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.

Contact: Michael Line

The School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) focuses on a broad range of planetary astronomy related topics spanning exoplanet characterization to planetary geology and cosmochemistry. SESE faculty and researchers are heavily involved in both the development of, and in the analysis of, data from numerous exoplanet characterization and solar system missions. Astronomers in SESE have access to a wide array of Arizona telescope facilities, including the MMT Observatory, Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), and the Magellan telescopes. SESE also includes over 40 laboratories providing access to numerous advanced analytical instruments and equipment including mass spectrometers, apparatus for high pressure and temperature experiments, and space hardware fabrication and testing facilities; a world-class collection of meteorites housed in SESE’s Buseck Center for Meteorite Studies is extensively utilized for research and education purposes within and beyond ASU. SESE is committed to reaching a wide and diverse audience through several programs ranging from the Sundial Mentorship Program and numerous community engagement programs experienced by upwards of 30,000 community members each year. ASU is deeply committed to inclusive excellence through several initiatives including the ASU Advance, LIFT, and the recent designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution.

Contact: Dimitri Mawet

At Caltech, 51 Pegasi b fellows will join a vibrant planetary astronomy community in the Divisions of Geological and Planetary Sciences (GPS) and Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy (PMA). Caltech has institutional access to Keck, Palomar, and the Owens Valley Radio Observatories, and is in close proximity to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC) and NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI). Our observatories encompass a wide range of instruments that are well-suited to characterizing the properties of other bodies in the solar system as well as exoplanetary systems. There are multiple faculty working on the geology of planetary bodies (Ehlmann, Grotzinger, Lamb), planet formation and planetary dynamics (Batygin, Fuller, Blake), characterization of moons and small bodies (de Kleer, Brown, Tissot), atmospheric modeling (Yung), characterization of exoplanetary systems through a variety of methods including transits, radial velocities and direct imaging (Knutson, Howard, Mawet), magnetic interactions between stars and planets (Hallinan), as well as stellar and planet formation and co-evolution (Hillenbrand). We also have the Resnick High Performance Computing Center. Caltech also hosts the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach, which coordinates a broad range of campus-wide outreach efforts and also offers regular seminars and certification programs on university teaching that are open to postdocs. Caltech’s Center for Inclusion and Diversity is also a great way to learn about relevant campus-wide DEI resources and activities.  See also DEI-related topics and resources in GPS and PMA.

Contact: Nikole Lewis

Cornell University has a broad range of research opportunities in planetary astronomy spanning both solar system and exoplanet exploration that leverages theoretical, observational and laboratory expertise. Most of our faculty engaged in planetary astronomy research are members of the Carl Sagan Institute an interdisciplinary team of researchers spanning more than a dozen departments at Cornell. Faculty and researchers at Cornell are engaged in planetary observational efforts across the electromagnetic spectrum using both ground and space-based telescopes and also actively participate in current and future solar system exploration missions. At Cornell there are also opportunities to participate in planetary astronomy theoretical, engineering and laboratory research efforts. Cornell provides a wide variety of opportunities for postdoctoral training through their Pathways to Success program, Postdoc Leadership Certificate Program, and Future Professors Institute. Postdoctoral researchers can also become involved in a growing number of efforts to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM through Cornell’s Office of Inclusion and Student Engagement (OISE), departmental committees, and mentorship opportunities with the McNair Scholars, Astronomy REU, and Nexus Scholars programs at Cornell. Cornell’s founding principle of “…any person … any study.” is at the core of our nearly limitless possibilities for postdoctoral research, training, and mentorship.

Contact: Sarah Horst

Planetary astronomy at Johns Hopkins is carried out in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Department of Physics and Astronomy. Additionally, there are strong collaborations with the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI, located on our campus), the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and the Carnegie Earth and Planets Laboratory. We cover all aspects of planetary astronomy from the smallest bodies in the Solar System to exoplanets and brown dwarfs to the earliest periods of Earth’s history. Our faculty are deeply involved in mission work (e.g., JWST, HST, Dragonfly, Mars Curiosity, Mars Perseverance, DAVINCI, InSight), ground-based observations, theory and modeling, and laboratory experiments. In addition to a wide variety of research opportunities, our postdocs have the opportunity participate in a range of DEI and teaching opportunities including the Johns Hopkins Deans Teaching Fellowship and mentoring Rowland Research Fellows.

Contact: David Charbonneau

The Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian is a joint institute combining the strengths of the Department of Astronomy at Harvard University and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Potential advisors include Sean Andrews, David Charbonneau, Scott Kenyon, David Latham, Mercedes López-Morales, Karin Öberg, Dimitar Sasselov, Andrew Szentgyorgyi, and Jennifer Yee, as well as Roger Fu, Rebecca Fischer, Stein Jacobsen, and Robin Wordsworth in the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences. Fellows may propose for time on the numerous observatories operated by the CfA, including the twin 6.5m Magellan telescopes in Chile, the 6.5 MMT and 1.5m and 1.2m telescopes at Mt Hopkins, Arizona, and the Submillimeter Array in Hawaii, and may join the HARPS-N consortium. The Institute for Theory and Computation provides access to two supercomputing facilities. In addition to the colloquium and seminar series, the CfA is home to several standing exoplanet-specific gatherings, including the Wednesday Exopizza Lunches and Friday Planetary Journal Club. Fellows frequently advise undergraduate students through the REU and Latino Scholars Initiative summer programs, and through term-time advising of Harvard students, and may advise local high school students through SRMP.

Contact: Julien de Wit

The MIT Planetary Community takes a comprehensive approach, by studying how planetary disks form and evolve (Prof. Teague), exploring the orbital architectures and the interiors/atmospheres of exoplanets (Profs. Cahoy, Millholland, Ricker, Seager, Vandenburg, and de Wit), and—closer to Earth—investigating the geophysical fluid dynamics of planets and their icy moons (Prof. Kang), the landscape evolutions in the Solar System (Profs. Perron and Stucky de Quay), planetary processes via meteorites paleomagnetism (Prof. Weiss), the structure and tectonics of solar system bodies using gravity and laser altimetry (Prof. Zuber), and the long-term evolution of the orbits and spins of the planets and natural satellites (Prof. Wisdom). Our community leverages numerous facilities including the Magellan Telescopes, TESS, Wallace Observatory, the MIT Paleomagnetism Laboratory, and the MIT Isotope Lab. Opportunities to become involved in DEI at MIT include TIDE (Towards Inclusion and Diversity in EAPS), WiXII (Womxn in Course 12), the Committee on Race and Diversity, LGBTQ+@MIT, LINK12 volunteer outreach program to Boston-area schools, and MIT Sidewalk Astrogazers.

Contact: Eric Ford

Faculty & Research Areas: Rebekah Dawson (planet formation, exoplanet dynamics), Eric Feigelson (transiting planet searches), Brad Foley (planetary geodynamics), Eric Ford (exoplanet demographics; sun-as-a-star observations), Katherine Freeman (Bennu, organics), Steven Greybush (Martian atmosphere), Christopher House (astrobiology; organics), Kevin Luhman (brown dwarfs), Suvrath Mahadevan (exoplanet surveys; Instrumentation; precision spectroscopy), Tushar Mittal (planetary geophysics; IR spectroscopy; icy moons), Steinn Sigurdsson (planetary dynamics), and Jason Wright (exoplanets; SETI) Postdocs are encouraged to lead proposals for institutional observing time on the 10.4m Hobby-Eberly Telescope with its near-IR Habitable Zone Planet Finder and the NEID spectrograph on the 3.5m WIYN telescope. Postdocs have access to the Roar supercomputing system and benefit from a rich environment including regular seminars, journal clubs and support groups. Postdocs mentor students via programs, including the Students Together for Astronomy Research, First-year Undergraduate Research Program, Women in Science, and Engineering Research and Minority Undergraduate Research Experience programs , and Schreyers honors program. Postdocs can contribute to the Towards a More Inclusive Astronomy discussion group plus a variety of DEI and outreach initiatives. Planetary astronomy research spans the departments of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Geosciences, and Meteorology, which are connected by the Center for Exoplanets & Habitable Worlds and the Planetary System Science Center.

Contact: Joshua Winn

Princeton University is home to a vibrant research group in planetary and exoplanetary science, including theoreticians, observers, experimentalists, and instrument builders. We take pride in our interactive, inclusive, and supportive atmosphere. Our entire astrophysics department meets daily for “Astro-coffee” and the exoplanet group meets weekly for a roundtable discussion. Among the faculty, Gaspar Bakos builds innovative instruments for detecting exoplanets and exploring bright and time-variable astrophysical phenomena. Adam Burrows studies the theory of exoplanetary atmospheres, interiors, and evolution. Josh Winn uses the Doppler, transit, and astrometric techniques to study the geometry of exoplanetary systems and population statistics. Chris Chyba is involved in solar system exploration, especially the icy satellites of the giant planets. Jeremy Goodman’s work spans a broad range of theoretical topics including dynamics, tides, and planet formation theory. In the Geosciences department, Jie Deng uses atomistic simulations and laboratory experiments to study material properties and processes involving planetary bodies. Princeton researchers also benefit from close connections to scientists at the nearby Institute for Advanced Studies, and institutional access to the Magellan 6.5m telescopes and the WIYN 3.5m telescope. Postdoctoral researchers often become involved in our public observing program, the Princeton Prison Teaching Program, and student mentoring.

Contact: Ji Wang

OSU works at the forefront of exoplanetary science including current and future space missions such as KELT, Twinkle, the Roman Space Telescope, and the Habitable Worlds Observatory (Scott Gaudi and Ji Wang), astronomical instrumentation (Ji Wang, Rick Pogge, and Jonathan Crass), and planet-star connection and interaction (Jennifer Johnson and Marc Pinsonneault). We offer resources such as a high-performance computing (HPC) cluster, and intuitional access to the Large Binocular Telescope and large spectroscopic surveys such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). OSU offers a cultivating environment for the personal and academic growth of postdocs. Postdocs are leading weekly DEI discussions. Postdocs have been principal investigators for successful funding proposals such as NASA XRP and TESS. The large body of postdocs (~20) in Astronomy and the Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics (CCAPP) is an inclusive family that is connected by annual CCAPP postdoc seminar, weekly Astro Tea, and daily morning coffee. The OSU coffee is well known for its timeliness, interaction, and consistent and broad participation across students, postdocs, and faculty members. The annual summer career development workshop, invitation to industry talk series, and the Erdos Institute provide excellent resources for postdocs and a broader audience to learn and explore opportunities outside astronomy.

Contact: Jared Males

The University of Arizona has a long history of planetary astronomy research. Home to Steward Observatory and the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, UArizona has a diverse collection of planet-focused research programs spanning disks, planet formation and evolution, ground- and space-based instrumentation, laboratory planetary science, observational planetary astronomy, and atmospheric modeling and observations. The Departments of Planetary Science and Astronomy encompass over 100 faculty members, 57 postdoctoral scholars, and 92 graduate students, and have strong connections to other space science-focused programs at UArizona. UArizona researchers enjoy access to a wide variety of observing facilities, including the 2×8.4 m (22 m baseline) Large Binocular Telescope, the 6.5 m MMT Telescope, and the two 6.5 m Magellan Telescopes as well as a host of smaller facilities. Additionally, UArizona is a founding partner in the Giant Magellan Telescope and maintains strong space mission involvement, especially through James Webb Space Telescope and OSIRIS-REx. Our faculty, postdocs, and grad students lead and support many initiatives focused on improving diversity and inclusion in STEM fields over a range of career stages (see and Finally, UArizona, Steward Observatory and LPL have active career-development programs designed to help postdoctoral scholars achieve their goals.

Contact: Courtney Dressing

The University of California at Berkeley is home to a vibrant community of scientists working on all aspects of planetary astronomy including architectures and dynamics of planetary systems; astrobiology; astrochemistry; computational simulations; disks; exoplanet detection, characterization, and demographics; instrumentation; laboratory studies; planet formation and migration; planetary interiors; planning for future facilities; and solar system observations and analysis at multiple (vis-IR-radio) wavelengths (e.g., history of water on Mars; evolution and properties of ocean worlds). Potential hosts reside within multiple departments, as well as the nearby Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL), and collaborate via the Center for Integrative Planetary Science. Possible hosts include Basri (Astronomy), Bergner (Chemistry), Boering (Chemistry & EPS), Bloom (Astronomy), Boos (EPS), Buffett (EPS), Chiang (Astronomy & EPS), de Pater (Astronomy & EPS), Dietrich (EPS), Dressing (Astronomy), Jeanloz (EPS & Astronomy), Kalas (Astronomy), Lipps (Integrative Biology), Manga (EPS), Marcus (Mechanical Engineering), Militzer (EPS & Astronomy), Romps (EPS), Stolper (EPS), and Westphal (SSL). Berkeley offers institutional access to Keck Observatory and Lick Observatory, laboratory space, and computational resources. Berkeley scientists can apply to use (inter)national facilities (e.g., HST, JWST, ALMA, VLA, NOIRLab). DEI opportunities include the Astronomy Climate Advisors, Respect is Part of Research, AstroTech, AstroQ, Society of Women in the Physical Sciences, Cal-Bridge, CAMPARE/CHAMP, Cal-NERDS, DEI journal club, and outreach events to schools and community colleges.  

Contact: Erik Petigura

UCLA conducts a wide range of observational, theoretical, and experimental planetary astronomy. Planetary astronomy research at UCLA is conducted in two departments: Physics and Astronomy (P&A) and Earth Planetary and Space Sciences (EPSS). In P&A, key research areas include the detection and characterization of extrasolar planets and debris disks (Profs. Petigura & Fitzgerald); theoretical studies of the formation and dynamics of planetary systems (Profs. Naoz & Hansen); and the development of optical and IR instrumentation for (exo)planetary astronomy (e.g., NIRSPEC, NIRSPAO, GPI, Prof. Fitzgerald). In EPSS, key research areas include observations of solar system bodies (Profs. Margot & Jewitt) theoretical work on the interiors and atmospheric properties of terrestrial and Jovian planets (Profs. Cao, Schlichting, Stixrude, & Young). Fellows in either department may access telescopes at Lick Observatory (as PI) and the 10 m Keck Telescope (in coordination with their faculty mentor). Other relevant facilities include the Infrared Laboratory and Hoffman2 supercomputer. Fellows are welcome to participate in existing DEI initiatives such as DiversiTea, CalBridge, Explore Your Universe, the UCLA Planetarium, or develop their own program.

Contact: Jonathan Fortney

Planetary astronomy at UC Santa Cruz encompasses work in the departments of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Earth & Planetary Sciences, and Applied Mathematics. These departments cover a wide breadth of exoplanet and solar system science.  Planetary atmospheres (Fortney, Zhang, Skemer, Batalha, Murray-Clay, Jensen-Clem, Macintosh), planetary interiors (Nimmo, Fortney, Garaud, Garrick-Bethel), transiting planets (Batalha, Fortney, Murray-Clay), directly imaged planets and related adaptive optics and infrared instrumentation (Macintosh, Jensen-Clem, Skemmer, Hinz), solar system space mission data analysis (Garrick-Bethel, Nimmo, Telus, Zhang, Fortney), meteorite lab studies (Telus), and planet formation and dynamics (Murray-Clay), are all covered at UC Santa Cruz. We are a collegial group involving many grad students and postdocs, which comes together for weekly Planetary Lunch talks. We also host the yearly Other Worlds Laboratory (OWL) exoplanet summer program that brings dozens of researchers to campus.  UC Santa Cruz is home to the University of California Observatories, which runs the Lick Observatory and UC’s share of the Keck Observatories.  We have a robust group in high-performance computing, which currently centers on the on-campus lux supercomputer.  DEI-related programs include Lamat, CREST, PIE inmate education, and others.

Contact: Fred Ciesla

The planetary community at the University of Chicago has broad interests in the Solar System and exoplanets with members primarily distributed across two departments: Astronomy & Astrophysics and Geophysical Sciences.   Active areas of research include theoretical and observational studies of planetary atmospheres, climate evolution, planet formation, planetary structure and evolution, orbital dynamics, and instrumentation.  Facilities used in research programs include Hubble, JWST, the Magellan Telescopes, Gemini Observatories, the Mars Perseverance Rover, and the Midway Research Computing Center.  The University of Chicago is also a founding partner in the Giant Magellan Telescope, which is currently under construction in Chile, and hosts laboratories focused on the analysis of extraterrestrial samples.  Faculty, postdocs, and students from both departments meet regularly to discuss papers at the weekly Exoplanet Journal Club, where new research results or ideas are also discussed. There are also a number of interdisciplinary efforts on campus that many of the planetary community members contribute to, including the Chicago Center for Origin of Life and the Data Science Institute, as well as opportunities to build connections with Argonne National Lab and FermiLab.  Community members also take part in a number of outreach and DEI efforts throughout campus, the broader Chicago area, and their professional societies; examples include participating in the Chicago South Side Science Festival and collaborations with Adler Planetarium. The University of Chicago is also committed to providing resources for students and postdocs to define and meet their career goals through the UChicago Grad Office. 

Contact: Zachory Berta-Thompson

The University of Colorado Boulder is home to a community of planetary astronomers engaged in crafting a complete picture of how planets work. Researchers in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences conduct research on orbital and fluid dynamics theory (Ann-Marie Madigan, Ben Brown), observations of exoplanets and stars (Zach Berta-Thompson, Kevin France, Adam Kowalski, Marialis Rosario Franco), remote sensing and in-situ Solar System measurements (David Brain, Shannon Curry, Paul Hayne, John Keller, Nick Schneider), and space plasmas (Lauren Blum, Bob Ergun, David Malaspina); additional planetary research also happens throughout Geological Sciences, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, and Physics. Fellows would have access to CU’s telescope partnerships (APO 3.5m, SDSS-V, Las Cumbres), high-performance computing resources, powerful hardware development facilities, the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, and the National Solar Observatory. With one of the largest undergraduate majors in the country, the on-campus Fiske Planetarium and Sommers-Bausch Observatory outreach facilities, a partnership with Fort Lewis College to support Indigenous students in astronomy, and a departmental community that values equity and inclusion, CU Boulder commits to be a place where fellows will receive both encouragement and support in efforts to build a more equitable, inclusive, and just academia.

Contact: Michael Liu

The University of Hawaiʻi offers research opportunities across a wide landscape of planetary science, including exoplanet detection (Michael Bottom, Fei Dai, Eric Gaidos, Michael Liu), host star characterization (Christoph Baranec, Dan Huber, Jennifer van Saders), protoplanetary disks (Jonathan Williams), astrobiology (Karen Meech), meteoritics, cosmochemistry and planetary interiors (Sasha Krot, Gary Huss, Elena Dobrica, Bin Chen), and Solar System remote sensing (Paul Lucey). 51 Pegasi b Fellows at UH can lead their own observing programs as PI and have unmatched access to all the telescopes on Maunakea including Keck, Gemini-North, Subaru and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, which are deeply engaged in cutting-edge exoplanet instrumentation.  UH also offers advanced laboratory facilities for high-pressure physics and analyses of meteorites and returned samples.  UH is a minority-serving institution with a diverse student population, with DEI initiatives including an NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates summer program, the Akamai Workforce Initiative (for Hawaiʻi-based undergraduates in STEM), the HI-STAR program (for middle and high school students), the Maunakea Scholars program (for Hawaiʻi-based high school students), and the undergraduate astronomy degree programs at UH-Mānoa and UH-Hilo. Planetary research at UH spans multiple departments, including the Institute for Astronomy, the Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, and the Department of Earth Sciences.

Contact: Eliza Kempton

Planetary astronomy at the University of Maryland is housed across several departments — Astronomy, Geology, Aerospace Engineering, and Atmospheric and Oceanic Science with over a dozen potential faculty hosts spanning those disciplines. Research areas include exoplanet atmospheres, planetary dynamics and small bodies, and surface and atmospheric processes on Earth, Mars, and other rocky bodies in the solar system. Opportunities exist to collaborate with researchers at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center as well as the many planetary and exoplanet scientists in the greater Washington DC area. Fellows are encouraged to get involved with existing DEI programs in their host department and should inquire about opportunities therein.

Contact: Lia Corrales

The University of Michigan (UM) Astronomy department conducts world-leading research in the areas of planet formation, dynamics, and astrochemistry (Adams, Bergin, Calvet) as well as exoplanet atmospheric dynamics and star-planet connections (Rauscher, Corrales, Gallo, Roettenbacher). Our access to world-class facilities, including Magellan and CHARA, fuels robust instrumentation groups that discover and characterize exoplanets through direct imaging, astrometry, and interferometry (Meyer, Monnier). Department members win substantial time on international facilities including ALMA, JWST, HST, and Chandra. UM is also the only US institution with investments in the ESO-ELT, which will see first light in 2028. Our department is working on instrumentation and science projects that will take full advantage of this partnership over the next decade. For more information on facilities, see Department members also receive access to high performance computing clusters (Great Lakes) and collaborations with data science initiatives (MIDAS and MCAIM). UM also hosts robust planetary science groups in the Climate and Space Science (e.g., Cheng Li), Physics (e.g., Gerdes) and Earth Science (e.g., Jackie Li) departments. For more information on interdisciplinary partnerships, see UM Astronomy as a department believes that excellence in science is predicated on inclusively and equitably embracing our full diversity. For more information on our DEI activities and initiatives, see 

Contact: Adam Kraus

The University of Texas at Austin has a broad emphasis on planetary astronomy, spanning theory (Caroline Morley, Stella Offner), observations (Brendan Bowler, Anita Cochran, Bill Cochran, Keith Hawkins, Adam Kraus), and instrumentation (Daniel Jaffe). Fields of active research at UT-Austin include exoplanet discovery and characterization, planetary system demographics, observations and theoretical modeling of planetary atmospheres, the evolution of planets and planetary systems, star and planet formation, and astrochemistry. Facilities available to 51 Pegasi b fellows at UT-Austin include the 10-meter Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) and its Habitable-zone Planet Finder (HPF) spectrograph, the telescopes of McDonald Observatory, the Las Cumbres Observatory network, the high-performance computing resources and GPU cluster of the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), and the Machine Learning Laboratory. Planetary astronomers at UT-Austin are also affiliated with its Center for Planetary Systems Habitability and the Oden Institute for Computational Sciences. UT-Austin also hosts long-running summer research programs for undergraduates (TAURUS and an NSF-REU site), as well as offering numerous opportunities to mentor UT students in pursuing research projects. 

Contact: Victoria Meadows

The University of Washington hosts research efforts in exoplanet and planetary science and astrobiology, primarily within the Astronomy and Earth and Space Sciences departments. UW is also a leader in interdisciplinary Astrobiology Graduate training, with a vibrant graduate program that spans 11 science and engineering departments across the University. Our research is supported by high-performance computing, laboratory and telescope facilities, and includes understanding the origin and coevolution of early life with its environment, and the populations, environments and astrobiological potential of Solar System icy worlds and small bodies, including Solar System surveys with the Rubin Observatory; understanding factors affecting terrestrial exoplanet evolution and habitability; identifying novel potential biosignatures; developing statistical frameworks to interpret exoplanetary biosignatures; developing terrestrial exoplanet models and simulated spectra to analyze JWST TRAPPIST-1 data; and evaluating scientific outcomes, and developing technology, for telescopes that will study exoplanets and search for life beyond the Solar System. 51 Pegasi b fellows are invited to participate in our Astrobiology graduate program, including auditing or guest teaching classes, and participating in, or helping to lead, astrobiology field workshops and other activities. Fellows can also provide mentorship in scientific programing and research for underrepresented undergraduate students in our Pre-Major in Astronomy Program.  

Contact: Thomas Beatty

Planetary astronomy research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison covers a range of topics among our five exoplanet-focused faculty, from planet formation to atmospheric characterization and searches for life. Specific topics and faculty within the Astronomy Department are: chemical evolution in protoplanetary disks (Ke Zhang), laboratory astrochemisty studies (Susanna Widdicus-Weaver), planetary system dynamics (Juliette Becker), RV detection of new exoplanets (Thomas Beatty, Juliette Becker), exoplanet atmospheric characterization (Thomas Beatty), astrobiology and origins of life (Zoe Todd). In addition, the newly-developed Wisconsin Center for Origins Research (WiCOR) unites seven departments and 30 faculty members working on topics ranging from exoplanets to abiogenesis. The University has institutional access to the Southern African Large Telescope, WIYN Observatory (including the NEID spectrograph), and Northern Extended Millimeter Array (NOEMA). Faculty have also been recently successful with national proposals for ALMA, HST, and JWST time. Lab facilities include a spectroscopy-focused laboratory (Widdicus-Weaver), and a prebiotic chemistry-focused laboratory (Todd). UW Space Place, an education and outreach center of the Astronomy Department, provides regular workshops for K12 school groups, clubs, and special interest groups in astronomy. 51 Peg Fellows are encouraged to participate in existing Space Place programs and to develop their own.

Contact: Greg Laughlin

Yale has a number of research efforts that focus on the formation, the detection and the evolution of extra-solar planets. A number of Astronomy Department faculty have research interests that mesh with the the 51 Pegasi Program. Sarbani Basu studies both helioseismology and the variability of the Sun and solar-type stars. Malena Rice has a variety of observational and theoretical research programs focused on extra-solar planets, with particular current interests in the physics and phenomenology of planetary system architectures as well as the influence of star-planet interactions on system evolution. Debra Fischer has an extensive portfolio of experience with the detection and characterization of exoplanets and led the construction of EXPRES — Yale’s extreme-precision spectrograph at the Discovery Channel Telescope in Arizona. Greg Laughlin works on a variety of exoplanet and exoplanet-adjacent topics including disk and atmospheric hydrodynamics, spin-orbit dynamics, and interstellar objects. In the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Juan Lora specializes in planetary atmospheres and climates, and a range of faculty work on problems touching the full breadth of the Solar System. Yale has excellent computing facilities, world-class telescope access for Fellows, and most importantly, a diverse and energized community of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, research scientists and faculty working across the 51 Pegasi b areas.

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 and lead 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 2023-2024 application cycle is open from July 7-October 6, 2023.

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)
  • Rationales for up to three host institutions (1 page each)
  • 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, with an additional 2 pages for references, figures, and tables)
  • Brief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) statement detailing personal experiences, professional skills, and/or willingness to engage in and lead activities that will advance DEI in the field

Application FAQ

  • Foundation receives applications (Deadline October 6, 2023). 126 applications were received for the 2022/2023 cycle. 
  • Foundation sends every application that selected a host institution to that host institution 
  • Host institutions select up to four candidates from their pool of applicants (Ranging from 4-25 applicants per institution last year).  
  • Candidates that were selected by at least one host institution advance to the next round (50 last year) 
  • External review panel evaluates candidates based on the six-criteria rubric (see “Review Criteria” on our website) 
  • External review panel down-selects further and makes recommendations 
  • Foundation considers recommendations, forms cohorts and makes offers 
  • Candidates should reach out to faculty/reps at potential host institutions – it is important to do research on institutions to write a good institution justification which will make your application more impactful as institutions select their four candidates. 
  • Because each institution can only select four candidates, it is much harder to get through to the next round if you select an institution that has a lot of applicants (most applicants last three years: Caltech, Harvard, UCSC, MIT) 
  • The Foundation does not share an applicant’s ranking of selected host institutions and distributes Host Institution Justifications only to the applicable institution.  This keeps your choices of institutions and ranking anonymous.  If you want it to stay this way, make sure to keep all such information out of other application materials (e.g., the research proposal, DEI statement, letters of recommendation)

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

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.

No, the three-page limit does not include references, figures, and tables. An additional 2 pages may be included for references, figures, and tables for a total of 5 pages.

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

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.

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

The deadline cannot be extended. There are no exceptions.

All selected applicants will be notified in February.