Opportunities: SAO Predoctoral Program
 Requirements: The SAO Predoctoral Program is designed for graduate students wishing to carry out all or part of their thesis research at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Therefore, applicants must have completed preliminary coursework and examinations prior to the start of the SAO Predoctoral Program. Applicants must gain approval of the Department Head of their particular university as their degrees will be granted by their home institutions. For application instructions and a login to the application, please see the Admissions page.

Choosing an Advisor: All applications to the Fellowship Program are required to list the SAO scientist who has agreed to serve as a sponsor for each proposed research project. Applicants must directly contact SAO scientists in their particular research areas.


  • A full list of potential advisors is listed here.
  • A partial list of predoctoral project openings is available.
  • The consent form for potential advisors is available here.

Length of the Award: 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.

Start Date: The Program accepts applications through a rolling admissins 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.

Compensation: Stipends for the current academic year are $31,284. Funds may also be available for relocation, travel, and other expenses.

Predoc Research Review Committee: In order to support and evaluate the research work of each predoctoral candidate while in residence at SAO, a Predoctoral Research Review Committee (PRRC) is established for each SAO predoc consisting of three members. Each predoctoral candidate presents their work annually to their committee for review and discussion. The evaluation form is available here.

Harvard-Smithsonian Monthly Graduate Seminar: SAO Predoctoral Fellows have the opportunity to present their work in a monthly lecture series with Harvard University Graduate Students.


Clay Fellow Warren Brown