George Burch Fellowship in Theoretical Medicine and Affiliated Theoretical Science

This program is currently on hold.

The George E. Burch Fellowship is to support a distinguished scholar in residence at the Smithsonian. The fellow may work in any discipline, but the creative effort should, in accordance with the wishes of the donor, be related to human medicine. Dr. Burch’s goal is to permit the fellowship recipient time to think with freedom and creativity, and thereby stimulate new medically related theories in his or her discipline.

The George E. Burch Fellowship Program supports independent post-doctoral research or study related to Smithsonian collections, facilities, or experts in the fields of medicine, biology, chemistry, the social sciences, and the humanities as they apply to human health and medicine. Dr. George E. Burch envisioned awardees who not only possess a strong interest in health or medicine, but have been confined by their usual responsibilities and overlooked by traditional funding sources.

The George E. Burch Fellowship carries a base stipend of $60,000/per year for up to two years (prorated for shorter periods of time) plus up to $4,000 per year in research allowances and possible travel relocation.

Dr. George E. Burch Jr., was an award-winning cardiologist who established this fellowship through his generosity in the hope that it would “provide the means for future significant discovery and advances in knowledge.”

As he described in his 1976 American Heart Journal editorial “Of Venture Research,” Dr. Burch expressed the need for individuals to “research in the search of knowledge for the sake of knowledge.” He wholeheartedly believed in order to achieve revolutionary discoveries and studies, researchers must be distant from pressures of grant councils and publication demands. Dr. Burch supported the idea of providing researchers with grants “to do whatever research they want—alone free from frustration, to think, to delve into the unknown, to satisfy their curiosity.”

This unique thinking inspired the George E. Burch Fellowship Program and other programs separate from the Smithsonian, such as the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship Program.

Applicants must propose research that is conducted at the Smithsonian in an area of research outlined in the publication, Smithsonian Opportunities for Research and Study (SORS). Applicants should contact staff members to help identify potential advisors, determine the feasibility of the proposed research being conducted at the Smithsonian Institution, and the availability of relevant resources such as staff, collections, archives and library materials during the proposed tenure dates. Current Smithsonian research staff members can be found here.

Applications are evaluated and fellows are selected, by scholars, on the basis of the proposal’s merit, the applicant’s ability to carry out the proposed research and study, its application to health and medicine, the likelihood that the research could be 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 availability of funds for the program.

Applications must be submitted by November 1, 2020 11:59pm EST

How to Apply

Apply Through: SOLAA

The application for centrally funded George E. Burch Fellowship is not listed under the museum, research facility or office in which the applicant proposes to conduct research. Applicants for centrally funded George E. Burch Fellowship need to select the application found under the Office of Fellowships in SOLAA.

  • Applications must be received no later than 11:59 pm EST on November 1, 2020 via SOLAA
  • You should correspond with your proposed Smithsonian advisor(s) as you prepare your proposal (being sure to discuss potential research costs) with your proposed advisor(s) before submitting your application
  • All application materials must be presented in English (foreign transcripts may be translated)

Once you have created an account and logged into SOLAA you will need to complete all the required information including:

  • Mailing address
  • Academic history
  • Current university or college

Please be sure to apply for the correct year program cycle.

The following must be uploaded with your application:


  • No more than one page, double spaced.

Research Proposal

  • The full statement of your research you plan to undertake at the Smithsonian and it must include a description of its application to human health and medicine.
  • Maximum 1500 words double spaced (not including references)
  • Paper size should be 8.5 by 11 inches (210 mm x 297 mm)
  • 12 point type

In preparing your proposal, be sure to provide and address the following:

  • Methodology
  • The importance of the work both in relation to the broader discipline and to your own scholarly goals and it’s relation to human health and medicine
  • 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
  • Identification of potential co-advisor(s) and/or consultant(s) if applicable


  • Estimate of time period for each phase of the research proposed (up to a total of 2 years)
  • The dates of tenure proposed in the application (and any change of dates if the fellowship is awarded) should be selected in agreement with the proposed principal advisor

Budget and Justification

  • Budget and justification for equipment, supplies, research-related travel costs, and other support required to conduct the research itself up to $4,000 per year
  • Do not include stipend and/or relocation costs
  • If the funds exceed the maximum research allowance, please explain the source of additional funds


  • Bibliography of literature relevant to the applicant’s proposed research

Curriculum Vitae

  • Including previous and current fellowships, grants, and/or awards, and a description of your research interests.
  • If English is not your native language, describe the level of your proficiency in reading, conversing, and writing in English

Transcripts (unofficial are acceptable)

  • Transcripts (or other materials when transcripts are not issued) from all appropriate institutions are required except for senior fellowship applications
  • Applicants for George E. Burch Fellowship need only submit graduate transcripts
  • If transcripts or other materials are not in English the applicant should provide translations


  • Names and email addresses of two persons familiar with your work. Ideally, don’t make your proposed SI advisor one of your referees because they already will have an opportunity to offer feedback about your proposal as part of the application review process
  • All reference letters are considered confidential unless confidentiality has been waived by the reference
  • Provide a copy of your proposal and a copy of Fellowship-Referee-Letter (downloadable pdf) to your references.
  • Through SOLAA you will send an email to each referee so they can provide their references through a web portal.
  • Referees are asked to submit references no later than the application due date. However, references can be included with a candidate’s application packet up to week after the application due date.

The Smithsonian Fellowship Program does not discriminate on grounds of race, creed, sex, age, marital status, condition of handicap, or national origin of any applicant.

No employee or contractor of the Smithsonian Institution may hold a Smithsonian fellowship during the time of his/her employment or contract, nor may an award be offered to any person who has been employed by or under contract to the Institution in the previous year, without the prior approval of the Office of Fellowships.

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