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2024 Clay Postdoctoral Fellowship

September 2023

The Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA) is a joint institution connecting the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) and the Harvard College Observatory (HCO).  The CfA is a diverse astrophysical institution at which more than 800 staff and students are engaged in a broad program of research and education in astronomy, astrophysics, and earth and space sciences. The CfA is at the forefront, internationally, of the scientific exploration of the universe.   Our research covers theoretical astrophysics, observational ground and space-based astronomy, engineering and technology development, and education.  The research objectives of the CfA are carried out primarily with the support of government, Smithsonian Institution, and Harvard funds, with additional philanthropic support.  At the CfA, the next generation of scientific leaders are being trained and mentored through a broad range of undergraduate and graduate student programs, postdoctoral positions and fellowships.  

The mission of the Clay Postdoctoral Fellowship program at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is to support innovative astrophysics research by offering to the next generation of developing independent researchers full access to the unique facilities, research staff and resources of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian. A list of past Clay Postdoctoral Fellows is available on the CfA website.

Applications are now open for the 2024 Clay Postdoctoral Fellowship

Application Portal

Successful candidates will be outstanding researchers with demonstrated promise in theory, observation, instrumentation, engineering, and/or laboratory or experimental astrophysics.  Open to all qualified applicants who are English-speaking citizens of all nations. 

About the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA)

The CfA is known for its leadership in theoretical, observational and laboratory astrophysics, and for its observational programs across the electromagnetic spectrum. The CfA also includes highly successful instrument development teams and facility operations expertise.  Fellows are able to use the combined resources and facilities of the CfA’s two collaborating observatories – the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. 

Through the CfA’s operational agreements with its partners, Fellows can propose for CfA-allocated observing time on the MMT in Arizona, the Magellan Telescopes in Chile, and the Submillimeter Array in Hawai’i. Fellows may participate in ground- and space-based observing programs including but not limited to, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Event Horizon Telescope, TEMPO pollution satellite, the Parker Solar Probe, the James Webb Space Telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, Kepler K2, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array.  The CfA is a founding member of the Giant Magellan Telescope project and operates a world class engineering program that develops leading ground and space telescope instrumentation.   The CfA has emerging initiatives in artificial intelligence and data science.  The CfA also offers a number of specialized laboratories and numerous research initiatives open to Fellows that focus on a particular research area (for example in black holes, theoretical astrophysics, and the origins of life), where interdisciplinary, inter-institutional collaborative research is the central organizing principle.  

Led by Director Lisa Kewley, the CfA provides a dynamic range of weekly luncheons, colloquia, journal clubs, daily coffees, and divisional events.  The CfA also supports many other formal and informal opportunities for the exchange of ideas and professional development in a diverse scientific community.  Fellows have access to institution-wide funding for organizing workshops, conferences, and visitor programs. 

The CfA is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a vibrant community in the greater Boston metropolitan area, known for its excellent universities, colleges, and public education, its world renowned medical facilities, a dynamic modern economy, a booming art scene, passionate sports fans, and diverse cultures.  Cambridge is also within a two hour drive to great skiing, hiking in the White, Green or Berkshire mountains, and many Atlantic Ocean beaches. 
About the Clay Postdoctoral Fellowship 

Clay Fellows have complete research independence and have access to the full range of expertise and facilities at the CfA.  The Clay Fellowship offers the following benefits and opportunities:

  • Five-year appointment (renewal dependent on research progress)
  • Stipend of $80,500 in 2024 with an annual cost-of-living increase
  • Research budget of $18,000 for each year
  • Funding for health and dental benefits for the Fellow (and dependents if applicable), which are provided at no cost to the Fellow
  • One-time relocation allowance
  • Opportunities to develop instrumentation in collaboration with highly-experienced and specialized technical and engineering staff 
  • Eligibility to propose as a Principal Investigator for external support
  • Opportunities to organize and lead workshops and topical discussions, and host academic visitors
  • Frequent opportunities to establish mentoring relationships with world-renowned CfA researchers in nearly every facet of astronomy and astrophysics
  • Opportunity to gain direct experience in advising graduate students, as well as undergraduate students who are recruited for CfA internship and fellowship offerings tailored to their academic level
  • The chance to develop, engage, and participate in a wide range of education and outreach opportunities in the greater Boston area and in collaboration with the Smithsonian, while leveraging the expertise and resources of the Science Education Department, a leading group in science education research.
  • Delivering the Clay Fellowship Prize Colloquium (typically scheduled in the Fellow’s second year)

The Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian Fellowships do not discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, gender stereotyping, pregnancy, and sexual orientation), national origin, age, disability, genetic information, parental status, or marital status of any applicant.  

  • Only online applications submitted through Academic Jobs Online will be considered.
  • Applications open on September 13, 2023 and are due by 5pm (Boston, MA) on November 9, 2023. 
  • References will be accepted through Academic Jobs Online up to November 20, 2023 (5pm, Boston).
  • Selection will be made by December 15, 2023. 

Application materials to be uploaded as PDFs:

  • Curriculum vitae
  • List of publications including ORCID
  • Research Overview, including two sections: “Summary of Previous and Current Research” and “Research Proposal” (limited to eight pages including tables and figures. References should be placed at the end and don’t count towards page limit). Must include relevance to Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian.
  • Do not attach anything else (reprints, preprints, cover letter, cover sheets, etc.)

Please direct questions to

The significant access to a large optical telescopes and rich opportunities for collaboration with CfA colleagues were of great benefit to my efforts to develop and diversity my research portfolio as a Clay Fellow.
- Kate Rubin, 2013 Clay Fellow