Sagan Postdoctoral Fellowship Program NASA Exoplanet Exploration Program 2017, USA

Publish Date: Oct 21, 2016

Deadline: Nov 03, 2016

About the fellowship

The Sagan Fellowship Program aims to advance the scientific and technical goals of NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program, namely the discovery and characterization of planetary systems and Earth-like planets around nearby stars, while at the same time broadening the research community that is actively involved in developing and applying these research techniques and technologies. The Sagan Fellowship is an annual series of fellowship awards to promising young researchers of any nationality who have earned their doctoral degrees in astronomy, physics, or related disciplines. The fellowships are tenable at U.S. host institutions of the fellow's choice, subject to a maximum of one new fellow per host institution per year. The duration of the fellowship is up to three years: an initial one-year appointment and two annual renewals contingent on satisfactory performance and availability of NASA funds.

The proposed research may be theoretical, observational, or instrumental. Proposals should directly relate to the discovery and characterization of planetary systems and Earth-like planets around nearby stars. Proposals relevant to the science or technology development of Exoplanet Exploration projects, both experimental and theoretical, will also be considered. Proposals not directly relevant to the goals of the Exoplanet Exploration program will be deemed non-responsive to this call, and will not be considered.

The program further sponsors Sagan Summer Workshops and Sagan Fellowship Symposia to increase and facilitate open exchange of information and ideas in the field through personal contacts of students, postdoctoral researchers, young faculty members, and established researchers.

Postdoctoral Fellowships

The purpose of this fellowship is to enable recent PhD recipients to pursue independent research related to the discovery and characterization of planetary systems and Earth-like planets around nearby stars.


Eligible applicants are those who have received a PhD in astronomy, space physics, or related disciplines within the last 3 years (since January 1, 2014). Also eligible are current PhD students who will have fulfilled all requirements to receive a PhD before the start of the funding period, typically the beginning of September. Eligibility may be extended for those who received their Ph.D. as early as one year prior to the current Ph.D. eligibility date, if professional work was necessarily delayed by personal or family considerations. Such extended eligibility must be justified by emailing with enough time to obtain official approval from the Sagan Fellowship Program at least 2 weeks before the application deadline.

The applicant must propose to conduct research at a university or research institution in the United States with an established program in the field of the proposed research. An established program shall be defined as at least one faculty member who is engaged in the proposed field through dedicated facilities or instruments, collaborations with existing projects or projects under development, or a record of significant contributions to the field. The intent of this requirement is to guarantee the fellow a rich and stimulating environment rather than restricting the field of eligible institutions.

The Sagan Program no longer requires Institutional Endorsement letters at the time of application. Should the applicant be offered and accept a Sagan Fellowship, an Institutional Endorsement letter must be submitted within two weeks of the acceptance date.

Application Process

To be considered for a Sagan fellowship, the applicant must submit an electronic version of their proposal to the Sagan Program Scientist before the application deadline. The applicant must also have electronic versions of three letters of reference submitted on their behalf before the application deadline.

Submit fellowship application - (See in the "Further official information" below this article.)
Submit letters of reference - (See in the "Further official information" below this article.)

The applicant's proposal shall consist of:

  • Application submission information, entered in a form on the application submission website at the time the application is submitted.
  • Applicant's curriculum vitae (CV), including a list of publications
  • A summary of previous and current research (limited to 3 pages including figures, tables, and references)
  • A description of the proposed research project (limited to 3 pages including figures, tables, and references). Note: if you are submitting more than one choice of host institution, you may increase the length of your research proposal by 1 additional page for each host institution for a total of up to 5 pages (including figures, tables, and references) if three host institutions are submitted.
  • Three letters of reference (each limited to 2 pages; PDF format) to be submitted electronically by the application deadline.

The project description should detail how this research will relate to existing efforts at the proposed host institution(s). All pages must be either letter size (8.5 by 11 inch) or European A4 and have 1 inch margins and 12 point font size. All figures, tables, and references must be included in the research summary and/or the project description pages. Material in excess of the page limits will not be considered for the selection process. The NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI) and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) shall retain the right to publish the information on the application submission page (first bullet above) for funded proposals in electronic format and hardcopy within the context of promoting the fellowship program only.

Host Institution(s)

In order to avoid a concentration of Fellows at any one institution, only one Fellow from each annual competition will be approved for any single institution. For this reason, applicants may propose up to three prospective Host Institutions, in order of preference.

Designating first, second, and third-choice institutions provides the program with flexibility should there be more than one highly ranked application at any single institution. Barring this circumstance, it is expected that winners will take their Fellowships at their first-choice institutions.

Selection Process

The selection of the fellowship recipients will be made by the selecting official of the fellowship program (the NExScI Executive Director) based on the recommendation of an independent Sagan Fellowship Review Panel. Sagan Fellowship offers must be accepted or declined by Wednesday, February 15, 2017.

If you receive and accept a Sagan Fellowship offer, an Institutional Endorsement letter from your designated Host Institution is required within two weeks of acceptance. This endorsement letter is necessary to ensure that adequate facilities will be provided for the Sagan Fellow. This endorsement letter should come from an authorizing official (typically the department chairperson) of the host institution. The letter should state that the faculty member supports the proposed research, that the host institution will welcome the successful fellow and will provide support as required to complete the proposed research including access to required facilities. An example endorsement letter is as follows:

Sagan Fellowship Program Office:

I am writing in regard to [applicant's name]'s application for a Sagan Fellowship. We have reviewed his/her research proposal entitled "[program title]" and are pleased to endorse it and to inform you that we will welcome him/her here and offer him/her support and facilities should a Fellowship be offered. Dr. [science contact's name] has agreed to serve as his/her Science Contact.

Sincerely yours,

The letter should be submitted to the Sagan Program Scientist, Dr. Dawn Gelino.

Contracts and Budgets

Employee vs. Stipendiary Status

Some Hosts offer only stipendee status, some only employee status, and some offer both. Your choice of Host may therefore have some financial and/or visa implications that you may wish to consider. Although the Sagan Fellowship program office cannot offer guidance on this choice, the NASA-sponsored (Einstein, Hubble, and Sagan) fellowships have compiled a guidelines document simply to highlight potential issues of relevance that you may wish to consider, within this admittedly short time-frame. The guidelines can be found here.

Following the selection, JPL shall write a Research Support Agreement (RSA) with the host institution to support the applicant for the duration of the fellowship. The fellowship will initially cover one year of postdoctoral research with two additional years of funding contingent on satisfactory performance and availability of NASA funds. The guidelines here are intended to be functionally similar to those presented for the Hubble and Einstein Fellowships.

Sagan Fellows will receive a competitive salary and benefits subject to annual review and adjustment. In addition, the Sagan Fellows can receive health insurance, relocation costs, and moderate support for research related travel, computing services, publications and other direct costs.

Nominally, the Sagan Fellowship Symposium is held every 2 years and we anticipate holding them in 2017 and 2019. Current fellows are required to attend the symposium unless excused for legitimate reasons by the Sagan Program Scientist.

Fellows will devote their full-time effort to their research programs. No additional stipend, salary, or other remuneration may be accepted from another appointment, fellowship, or similar grant/contract during the period of the Fellowship.

Early Termination of Tenure

Should the selected fellow leave the host institution and/or postdoctoral position prior to the end of the funding period, the fellowship funding shall end with that termination date. It is the responsibility of the host institution to notify NExScI and JPL of the early termination of fellowship tenure, and arrange for the termination of the fellowship contract.

Change of Host Institution

The interaction of the fellow with the faculty member at the host institution is an integral part of the proposal evaluation, therefore the fellowship shall not be transferable to another institution or faculty advisor except under extraordinary circumstances such as transfer, illness, or death of the faculty advisor. Other extreme circumstances will be handled on a case by case basis and require the concurrence of the initial faculty contact and the Sagan Program Scientist. If the new institution fulfills the selection requirements, with the approval of the Sagan Program Scientist, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory shall write a new RSA for the remaining funding period with the new host institution.

Performance Review for Continued Funding

Two months before the end of the initial first year and second year funding periods, the fellow shall submit a report on the work accomplished to this point including a list of publications, presentations, and awarded proposals related to the research conducted. If the fellow requests continuing funding for one additional year at the end of the first two years, this request needs to be endorsed by the faculty contact at the host institution. Upon review of the report and the request for continued funding, the Sagan Program Scientist shall make a decision whether to grant the continuation no later than three months before the end of the initial two-year period. Continued funding shall only be denied if the success of the proposed research appears to be in serious jeopardy and no equivalently valuable alternative results have been achieved or are likely to be completed or, if no report is submitted in time.

Provisions Applicable to Awards

Acknowledgement of Funding

All publications that report on research results funded in part or completely under this fellowship program shall include the following acknowledgement:

This work was performed [in part] under contract with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) funded by NASA through the Sagan Fellowship Program executed by the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute.
The affiliation of the Fellow must include "NASA Sagan Fellow" along with the Fellow's host institution.

Employment during Tenure

A fellow may not receive funds from another major fellowship, scholarship, assistantship, or similar award. However, fellows are permitted to solicit and accept support from any appropriate source for research expenses connected with their fellowship activities. The program is not concerned with gifts or loans of any kind that a fellow may receive.

During the tenure of the fellowship (except for scheduled short vacation periods) fellows are expected to devote full time to the advancement of their research project. Employment at an on- or off-campus site that does not jeopardize a fellow's full time commitment to the research project and is consistent with policies of the host institution is usually permitted. However, before a fellow engages in such work, permission of the Sagan Program Scientist must be obtained. Requests for approval of employment during tenure are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Such requests should include the following information: nature of employment, relation to degree program or research project, number of hours per week or month, permission from the faculty contact or representative of the host institution.

Annual Reports

Every fellow must provide a brief report once per year, and a final report at the end of the third year, on the accomplishments during the previous year. This report will be requested by the Sagan Program Scientist and must be sent within 30 days of the request. All fellows are invited to send captioned photographs and information on noteworthy events or accomplishments at any time to the Program Scientist. The Program Scientist will make such material available to the public at her discretion. Comments and suggestions regarding the administration of the program are always welcome.

Publication Acknowledgments and Press Releases

In the acknowledgements of any publications produced during your Fellowship please include the following statement: "This work was performed [in part] under contract with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) funded by NASA through the Sagan Fellowship Program executed by the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute." For your affiliation, please include: "NASA Sagan Fellow" along with your institutional affiliation.

Please follow these rules in advance of a press release:

  1. Notify the Sagan Program of a release when the text of the release is being put together. NExScI, and often JPL, will publicize the release, along with whatever other outlets you are working with at the time. Please send the text when completed but prior to finalization in order to make sure that you have mentioned the Sagan Program correctly.
  2. Please include the following acknowledgement at the end of publications in refereed journals and relevant press releases:
    This work was performed [in part] under contract with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) funded by NASA through the Sagan Fellowship Program executed by the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute.
    The affiliation of the Fellow must include "NASA Sagan Fellow" along with the Fellow's host institution.

For more information click "Further official information" below.

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