Simons Society of Fellows Convenes for First Time

On September 10, the newly created Simons Society of Fellows gathered for the first time at the Simons Foundation offices in New York City for a lecture, and for their first dinner together.

The Society of Fellows is a community of scholars whose purpose is to stimulate intellectual interactions across disciplines and to bridge research centers in the New York City area. Junior and senior fellows in the society will meet for weekly dinners to learn from and get to know one another in a casual setting.

“The primary goal is to bring together extraordinary scholars at different phases of their careers and from a wide range of disciplines,” says Gerald Fischbach, chief scientist and fellow of the foundation. “The purpose is to create a community with respect for a broad spectrum of intellectual activity.”


The first dinner was held in New York City’s Flatiron District just following a Simons Foundation Lecture by Andrew Gelman called ‘Living with Uncertainty but Still Learning,’ part of the Data Analysis in the Social Sciences lecture series. Eight junior fellows, one senior fellow, the foundation’s senior science staff, foundation president Marilyn Simons and board chair Jim Simons all attended the inaugural dinner.

Senior fellows are distinguished scientists based in New York City who nominate, select, meet and regularly interact with junior fellows. There are currently six senior fellows in the society.

Junior fellows are chosen for demonstrated intellectual excellence, together with promise for future independence and creativity. They must be engaged in life science research and have completed a Ph.D. no more than two years before appointment to the society. Each year, ten new junior fellows will be selected by the society.

“It’s important that very distinguished senior scientists take part in the society as role models and as colleagues of the junior people,” says Fischbach. “Hopefully these relationships will last beyond the term of the fellowships, and then the society will become a hallmark in the junior fellows’ experience that will stay with them for many years.”

The launch of the Simons Society of Fellows also marks an effort by the foundation and others to promote and increase awareness of, and excellence in, science in New York City.

“Giving birth to a society like this in one of the most diverse cities in the world could be the beginning of a legacy,” Fischbach says. “If it worked, it could grow into a real New York City institution.”