Simons Collaboration on the Origins of Life Postdoctoral Fellowships

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The origin of life is among the great unsolved scientific problems of our age. To advance our knowledge of the processes that led to the emergence of life, the Simons Foundation established the Simons Collaboration on the Origins of Life (SCOL). The collaboration supports creative, innovative research on topics such as the astrophysical and planetary context of the origins of life, the development of prebiotic chemistry, the assembly of the first cells, the advent of Darwinian evolution and the earliest signs of life on the young Earth.

In the past decade, a small number of researchers have developed a “systems” approach to origins-of-life research that connects disciplines, technologies and institutions in new collaborations. It is likely that answers to important scientific questions may come in the next decade, making this a significant moment in the changeover that results from an influx of new talent, new instrumentation and a growing global community of researchers.


The collaboration is now inviting applications for postdoctoral fellowships to support independent research on topics related to the origins of life at one or more laboratories or research institutions in any country. For more information on the Simons Collaboration on the Origins of Life, please click here.

The collaboration seeks to engage the ideas and creativity of researchers around the world by providing an array of opportunities for postdoctoral fellows to interact with colleagues from different disciplines and programs, both online and in person, including webinars, workshops and annual symposia. As fellows are expected to participate fully in all SCOL events, these opportunities are designed to not only strengthen the collaboration but also provide the most fruitful mechanism for bringing a growing origins-of-life community together. Applications from all origins-related disciplines are encouraged.


Candidates must have received their Ph.D. or equivalent degree within five years of the fellowship’s start date. Applications may be submitted from scientists in domestic and foreign nonprofit organizations; public and private institutions, such as colleges, universities, hospitals, laboratories and units of state and local government; and eligible agencies of the federal government. There are no citizenship or country requirements. Preference will be given to postdocs who are not in currently funded SCOL Investigator labs.


Appointments last for three years, contingent upon continued research on questions relevant to origins of life as assessed by annual progress reports. The annual stipend will be $62,000 USD. The stipend may be supplemented by the host institution or the mentoring PI. There will be up to a $10,000 allowance for health insurance or equivalent insurance in the country in which the fellow’s institution is located, for the fellow and his or her family. The allowance is only for health insurance and not any other benefit(s). Any unexpended health insurance funds may be reallocated to the research allowance. An annual allowance of up to $20,000 may be used for supplies, publication costs, small equipment and other research-related expenses. Of the $20,000 allowance, up to $6,000 of it may be used for research-related travel and up to $3,000 of it for relocation costs of the fellow and his or her family to the host institution. Relocation costs must be in accordance with the policies of the host institution. Payment cannot be made directly to fellows. No indirect costs may be taken.

Policies and procedures governing this award can be found at the following link.

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Instructions for Submission

The application process has two phases. In the first phase, applicants submit a first-stage proposal via proposalCENTRAL. The submission deadline for first-stage proposals is Tuesday, September 11, 2018, 5:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time. First-stage finalists will be notified by Tuesday, November 6, 2018, and must submit a second-stage proposal by Tuesday, December 4, 2018.

All proposals must be completed electronically and submitted using forms provided at proposalCENTRAL. To submit your first-stage proposal:

  • Log in to proposalCENTRAL using your username and password. If you are a new user, click on the CREATE ONE NOW button under APPLICATION LOGIN. Your registered email also works as your username. If you forgot your login information, you can retrieve your username and password from proposalCENTRAL by clicking the forgot your username/password? link under APPLICATION LOGIN.
  • To apply, after you log in, select the grey GRANT OPPORTUNITIES tab on the right side of the page and scroll down to the Simons Foundation section. Then click on APPLY NOW in the LIFE SCIENCES-SIMONS COLLABORATION ON THE ORIGINS OF LIFE FELLOWSHIPS row. For assistance with proposalCENTRAL, please call 800-875-2562 or email

First-Stage Proposals must include:

  • A signed letter of acceptance from the mentoring Principal Investigator (PI)
  • Biosketches of the mentoring PI and postdoctoral fellow applicant, including publications
  • Technical and lay abstracts
  • Narrative that addresses one or more of the 10 key questions central to origins-of-life research. The narrative should not exceed two pages (excluding references and figures) and must include:
    • specific aims,
    • background,
    • significance of this work to the origins of life and
    • research design and methods.
  • Two confidential letters of recommendation, from current or former advisors (other than the mentoring PI) or other scientists familiar with your work.
  • Confidential letters of recommendation must be submitted through proposalCENTRAL (see instructions document in proposalCENTRAL) by Thursday, September 6, 2018, 5:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time. Note: this is prior to the first-stage proposal deadline.

Review of First-Stage Proposals

The SCOL steering committee will review all first-stage proposals and forward recommendations to the Simons Foundation science staff for their review. Successful finalists will be notified by the foundation on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, and will be invited to submit a second-stage proposal online via proposalCENTRAL.

Second-Stage Proposal

The deadline for second-stage proposal submission is Tuesday, December 4, 2018, 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time.

Finalists will be required to submit the following:

  • The original narrative that was submitted and approved with the first-stage proposal. Changes to the narrative are not allowed.
  • Budget (three years)
  • Brief budget justification
  • Renewable reagents and data-sharing plan
  • 501(c)(3) determination or equivalency letter (foreign institutions only). The Simons Foundation requires a determination letter from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) stating exemption under 501(c)(3) and, furthermore, either a 509(a)(1), (2) or (3) classification. If an international institution is selected for funding and does not have the aforementioned documentation, the Simons Foundation will require the institution to complete an equivalency determination with NGOsource (see Policies and Procedures).
  • Signed signature page with institutional approval to document the commitment from the fellow’s institution(s) to administer the fellowship

Fellowship Review

The steering committee of the SCOL will review, rank and recommend candidates to the Simons Foundation. The SCOL will award up to five fellowships in 2019.

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  1. How do I submit a first-stage proposal?plus--large

    New users first need to create a user account on proposalCENTRAL (pC) at (For instructions on how to create an account, see the FAQ How do I create a proposalCENTRAL user account? below.) For all users with a pC account, log in under APPLICATION LOGIN at and select CREATE NEW PROPOSAL. Scroll down to SIMONS FOUNDATION and then click APPLY NOW for the Life Sciences-Collaboration on the Origins of Life Fellowship program in order to start the first-stage proposal and access the templates. After all sections are completed, you will be able to click on the SUBMIT button to send.

  2. How do I create a proposalCENTRAL user account?plus--large

    Go to (pC) and click CREATE ONE NOW under APPLICATION LOGIN. Fill in the required fields, check the boxes to agree to pC’s Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy and then click SAVE.

  3. Can I email or mail my first-stage proposal?plus--large

    No, the Simons Foundation only accepts first-stage proposals submitted online through

  4. Do I need institutional sign off to submit a first-stage proposal?plus--large

    No, however, successful finalists will need an institutional sign off for the second-stage proposal.

  5. Can postdoctoral associates apply as fellows?plus--large

    Candidates who hold or will hold a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent degree at the time of activation of the fellowship are eligible to apply.

  6. Can foreign institutions apply for this grant?plus--large

    Yes, first-stage proposals may be submitted from scientists in foreign nonprofit organizations; public and private institutions, such as colleges, universities, hospitals, laboratories and units of state and local government; and eligible agencies of the federal government.

  7. Do I need to submit bio sketches with the first-stage proposal?plus--large

    Yes, bio sketches are required for both the mentoring principal investigator(s) and postdoctoral fellow applicant.

  8. Can I have multiple mentoring PIs?plus--large

    Yes. One must be designated as the primary mentoring PI. If they are at different institutions, the primary mentoring PI must be affiliated with the institution that will administer the fellowship.

  9. Should my professional profile in proposalCENTRAL list my current institution or the institution that will administer the fellowship?plus--large

    The institution that will administer the fellowship.

  10. What are the font style and size requirements?plus--large

    Type should be set in legible, 11-point font. All margins should be set at 0.5 inches.

  11. Are indirect costs included in the annual budget limits?plus--large

    No, indirect costs are not allowed.

  12. To whom is the grant awarded?plus--large

    The grant is awarded to the fellow’s host institution.

  13. Does the principal investigator(s) need to sign the signature page?plus--large

    No, only the signing official is required to sign the signature page.

  14. Can I make changes to the first-stage proposal once it has been submitted?plus--large

    Before you can make changes to your submitted first-stage proposal, you must first contact the Simons Foundation. Please email or call (646) 751-1280. First- stage proposals can only be changed prior to the September 11, 2018 deadline.

  15. Where is the SUBMIT button?plus--large

    The SUBMIT button is located in the last section of the first-stage proposal. You will be unable to submit if you have not provided all the required information. If the submission deadline has not passed, use the VALIDATE button to check for missing requirements. If the problem persists, please contact

    If the deadline has passed, the submission period has closed and you will not be able to submit.

  16. Does the Simons Foundation grant extensions for first-stage proposals?plus--large

    No extensions will be given. If you have any difficulties, please email or call (646) 751-1280. Please do not contact directly.

  17. Are deadline times adjusted for time zones?plus--large

    No, please be advised that deadlines are in Eastern Time. We recommend registering early and submitting first-stage proposals with ample time for corrections prior to the deadline hour. Site traffic can slow page-load times. The SUBMIT button will not work after the deadline time has passed.

  18. Why are the letters of recommendation due prior to my first-stage proposal deadline?plus--large

    Your references must submit their confidential letters of recommendation by Thursday, September 6, 2018, to avoid any delay with your first-stage proposal deadline. Please coordinate accordingly with your references and consider having backups. Extensions for first-stage proposal submissions will not be given if references cannot submit their letters of recommendation on time.

  19. Is there a confirmation email when I submit?plus--large

    A confirmation email is sent upon submission of the first-stage proposal. Please contact if you submitted your first-stage proposal and have not received a confirmation email within 10 minutes. Make sure that spam filters allow emails from The first-stage proposal will be in the SUBMITTED tab when you next log in.

  20. I get an error message citing a missing section when I try to

    The VALIDATE button reviews your first-stage proposal for missing sections. The submission instructions list the required sections and attachments. You must complete the missing sections listed. If you are still receiving error messages after completing and saving the indicated sections, please contact

  21. Is validating my first-stage proposal the same as submitting it?plus--large

    No. Validating the first-stage proposal checks for errors and omissions, and will alert you to missing requirements of your first-stage proposal. If the first-stage proposal is complete, you must then click SUBMIT. You will receive an email within 10 minutes. Contact if you do not receive confirmation and do not see your first-stage proposal in the SUBMITTED tab or with the status changed to SUBMITTED.

  22. The deadline for notification about whether or not I have been selected to submit second-stage proposal has passed. What is the status of my first-stage proposal?plus--large

    You should receive notification within 24 hours of the deadline. Please check your spam filter settings if you have not received notification by then.







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