Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Predoctoral Fellowship Program


The Program accepts applications through a rolling admissions process. Once a start date is established with the SAO Advisor, the applicant must submit application material 6 weeks before he/she intends to begin their appointment.

Since 1985, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) Pre-doctoral Program has welcomed graduate students from universities around the world interested in carrying out all or part of their research under the guidance of SAO Scientists. The Center for Astrophysics|Harvard & Smithsonian creates a rich environment for collaborations among future colleagues by bringing together over 300 SAO scientists across a broad spectrum of scientific endeavors in nearly all areas related to astronomy, including: atomic and molecular physics, geophysics and atmospheric physics, the solar system, solar physics, exoplanets, planetary systems, the interstellar medium, stars and star formation, supernovae, compact objects, galaxies, extragalactic astronomy and cosmology. Facilities include the MMT Observatory, Magellan, and other optical and infrared telescopes; radio telescopes, especially the Submillimeter Array on Mauna Kea, Hawaii; a large computational cluster and network of workstations; a number of specialized laboratories; an outstanding library system; and access to data from a wide range of space missions, especially the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Applications from graduate students pursuing thesis research in astrophysics or related fields. Applicants in theory, observation, instrument development, or laboratory experiments at a university or college are welcomed.


All applicants must be currently enrolled in a full-time Ph.D. degree program. Additionally, applicants must have completed preliminary coursework and examinations and be ready to begin dissertation research at the time of the award. Most important, the candidate must secure the endorsement (form) and sponsorship of an SAO advisor. Finally, permission of her/his university's department head is also required in order to be given full consideration by the Director of the SAO Predoctoral Program.


The SAO Predoctoral Fellowship is awarded for a period of six months or more dependent on the project. It is possible to renew or extend a SAO Predoctoral Fellowship Award based on the availability of funding, satisfactory progress, and the agreement of both the home institution advisor and the SAO advisor.


In 2022, the annual stipend will be $39,000. Funds may also be available for relocation, travel, and other expenses.

Notification Date

Acceptances will be issued by email shortly after receipt of required application materials. If you are not selected, you will also be notified via email.


Christine Crowley

60 Garden Street, MS 67

Cambridge, MA 02138

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