The JSMF postdoctoral fellowship

The James S McDonnell Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship is one of the most generous postdoctoral fellowships. The fellowship includes $200,000 towards your salary as a postdoc and biannual meetings with other JSMF fellows hosted by the unique Santa Fe Institute. I was fortunate enough to receive it and at my first meeting, I had a fantastic time getting to know other fellows and SFI researchers and am looking forward to seeing them again in September.

White boards full of ideas. My group is around the white board in the background.

The Research Jams

The research jam was a central component of the JSMF-SFI meeting. We split into groups focusing on different topics. I was looking for something different from computational biology, so I joined a group working on climate modeling. I learned a ton and had a blast building simple, linear climate models. Our group leaders, Daniel Koll and Talia Tamarin-Brodksy, prepared a dataset for us and by the end of the week we built a piece-wise linear models, effectively tiling the globe with linear models that predicted responses to environmental perturbations. We were all so excited when our models showed distinct energetics for oceans and land, forming continent-like shapes.

Our climate model showing different relaxation rates from environmental perturbations over land and water. Negative rates means that the region has negative feedback influence on its own temperature. Let’s hope that they stay negative!

Is my research topic a “fit” for the fellowship?

One question that was on my mind was “does my research fit with the criteria and themes of the JSMF fellowship?”. After speaking to the other JSMF fellows at the meeting, I realized that this was a common feeling. While I still don’t know what defines a “fit”, my takeaway was that many of the successful applicants could have talked themselves out of applying. Also, there is no harm in reaching out to the fellowship administrators. After meeting them, I can vouch that they are extremely nice and helpful!

Application resources

Before I applied, I reached out to past winners to see if I could get some inspiration for writing the proposal and personal statement. I received a copy of somebody else’s successful application and therefore I want to pass it on.

Feel free to peruse my materials. Let me know if you find them helpful!