Postdoctoral fellowships in the USA – top funders for your next academic career move

Written by: Judy Mielke

A while back we discussed the benefits of having your own independent research funding for your postdoctoral training, rather than being dependent on your mentor’s funding. We also discussed international mobility and whether the USA is still the best location for postdoctoral training. While no country can guarantee long-term success in research to its postdoctoral visitors, the USA remains a popular choice for international researchers and also many US-based researchers choose to remain in the USA. After all, the USA has abundant research resources and provides the possibility to build diverse international networks with like-minded colleagues. In this follow-up blog post, let’s look at some prominent funders supporting postdoctoral researchers in the USA.

Postdoctoral funding for researchers in all disciplines

The Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowships are administered by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and support postdocs who are US citizens, nationals or permanent residents in all research-based disciplines. Successful applicants may work in the USA or abroad and the fellowship provides one year of stipend support. 

Another prominent program in the USA for researchers in all disciplines is the Fulbright Program, which facilitates the exchange of scientific talent from and to the USA. The Fulbright US Student Program supports US citizens and nationals to broaden their academic and professional horizons through training in some 140 countries around the world. The Fulbright Foreign Student Program provides similar support – for talented people from some 160 countries outside the USA to study and research in the USA.

Postdoctoral funding for researchers in the natural and earth sciences

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent agency of the United States government. The NSF supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. The NSF’s postdoctoral fellowships support postdoctoral training of US citizens, nationals and permanent residents, both in the USA and abroad. Application deadlines are year-round depending on the subject area. The fellowships provide stipend funding support for two years.

Postdoctoral funding for researchers in the life and biomedical sciences

For biomedical researchers, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) needs no introduction. The Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Award is the primary funding mechanism supporting American postdoctoral fellows in the USA and for those interested in going abroad for postdoctoral training. The award provides three years of stipend funding and has three application closing dates each year: April, August and December.

The Life Sciences Research Foundation provides an annual postdoctoral fellowship for excellent life scientists in the USA. Applicants who are US citizens may use the fellowship funding at recognized research institutions worldwide, while non-US citizens must use the funding at research institutions in the USA. The LSRF postdoctoral fellowships provide three years of funding support and applications close in October annually.

Another great funding opportunity for life scientists is provided by the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP), which funds postdoctoral fellows in the USA and other member countries of the program. The program also has a multi-disciplinary component, which encourages researchers with expertise that are complementary to life science research, such as physics, chemistry, mathematics, engineering or computer sciences, to work on life science-related questions. The fellowship provides three years of funding support. Preliminary applications are due in May.

The Helen Hay Whitney Foundation supports biomedical researchers worldwide with three-year postdoctoral training fellowships. Applicants who are US citizens may conduct their research anywhere in the world, whereas non-US citizens must work in the USA. Applications are due in June.

For biomedical postdoctoral fellows and clinical fellows, there are also many subject-specific foundations that facilitate fellowships in the USA, below are some examples of these:

The AGA Research Foundation is a charitable organization from the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) and supports postdoctoral researchers in gastroenterology, hepatology, and pancreatology. Together with commercial sponsors, the Foundation provides its members based in the USA, Canada and Mexico postdoctoral funding support for up to two years. Applications are open July to September.

The American Heart Association (AHA) supports postdoctoral researchers who are US citizens or have the legal right to work in the USA, working on cardiovascular research. Funding is available for two years and applications are due in September each year.

Postdoctoral funding for cancer researchers

For cancer research, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) supports its members with postdoctoral fellowship stipends among the many opportunities within its extensive funding portfolio. Another prominent cancer society in the USA, the American Cancer Society, also supports postdoctoral fellowships. The society’s fellowship funding is for three years and applications are due in April and October.

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation supports cancer researchers in the USA and worldwide with postdoctoral fellowships for up to four years. Applicants who are US citizens may conduct their research anywhere in the world, whereas non-US applicants must conduct their research in the USA. There are two assessment rounds per year with closing dates in March and August each year.

The American Society of Hematology (ASH) supports its members in the USA and Canada with postdoctoral fellowships, including fellowships that promote diversity in the biomedical research workforce. Also for researchers working on blood cancers, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) supports postdoctoral fellows in the USA and worldwide with three-year stipends. Applications are due in December each year.

Postdoctoral funding for neuroscientists and neurologists

For neuroscience and neurology researchers in the USA, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) supports member postdoctoral researchers with two-year fellowships. Applications for the AAN fellowships are due in September. The BrightFocus Foundation supports postdoctoral fellows working on greater understanding, prevention, and treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. Applications for the two-year fellowships are due in November.

Postdoctoral funding for immunologists

For researchers working on immunology and related fields, several foundations support postdoctoral researchers. For example, the Lupus Research Alliance supports minority postdocs in the USA and Canada with two-year stipends. Preliminary applications are due in September.

For cystic fibrosis researchers, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation supports postdoctoral fellowships in the USA for two years. Applicants must have the legal right to work in the USA. There are two assessment rounds per year, with applications due in May and December.  

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society in the USA supports postdoctoral researchers working on multiple sclerosis with three-year funding support. Applicants who are US citizens may use the funds anywhere at research institutions globally, non-US citizens must use the funds for research in the USA. Applications are due in August.

Policy fellowships in the USA for real-world impact

More often than not, translating evidence-based research into real-world impact requires political will. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) supports the annual AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships (STPF) for postdoctoral level researchers who are US citizens to work within the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government. Applications are due in November each year and the placements take place in Washington DC between September 1 and August 31.  

Staying up to date with postdoc fellowship announcements

We hope that this blog posts provides you a reasonable overview of the postdoctoral funding opportunities available for researchers in the USA. As curators of a research funding database, we understand just how scattered funding information is, and the amount of time it takes you to keep up to date with the latest requirements and deadlines. Why not use our curated list of postdoctoral funding opportunities and sign-up for our grant alerts, to always stay up to date.