Skip to main content

Postdoctoral Fellowships

2019 Awardees Meeting Toronto - poster session


The HFSP fellowship program supports proposals for frontier, potentially transformative research in the life sciences. Applications for high-risk projects are particularly encouraged. The projects should be interdisciplinary in nature and should challenge existing paradigms by using novel approaches and techniques. Scientifically, they should address an important problem or a barrier to progress in the field.


HFSP postdoctoral fellowships encourage early career scientists to broaden their research skills by moving into new areas of study while working in a new country.

The application guidelines for the 2021 fellowship competition are available for information here.

The fellowship application submission deadline was August 27, 2020. The registration site is now closed 


The following information is intended for applicants who are concerned about international travel and mobility due to the COVID-19 pandemic: HFSPO is monitoring the development of the pandemic very closely and will provide assistance and flexibility in case of circumstances that may prevent an awardee to pick up the fellowship as anticipated.

Two different fellowship programs are available:

Long-Term Fellowships (LTF) are for applicants with a Ph.D. in a biological discipline, who will broaden their expertise by proposing a project in the life sciences which is significantly different from their previous Ph.D. or postdoctoral work.

Cross-Disciplinary Fellowships (CDF) are for applicants with a Ph.D. from outside the life sciences (e.g. in physics, chemistry, mathematics, engineering or computer sciences).

The HFSP fellowships are for 3 years, with no possibility for renewal. Fellows may interrupt HFSP support after the second year, for up to two years, while continuing their postdoctoral research funded through other sources (deferral period).

Fellows are granted a living allowance as well as a research and travel allowance. Depending on their specific situation fellows may also qualify to receive a child allowance, a parental leave allowance  and a relocation allowance.

Before submitting an application, please check with your proposed host institution whether it is willing to accept an HFSP award.

Allowances differ depending on the host country. The complete overview of HFSP fellowship allowances is available in Section V. Award Conditions and Financial Support of the application guidelines.

HFSP Fellows can either use the third fellowship year to continue to work in the host laboratory, to return to their or their spouse's/partner's  home country, or to move to another HFSP member country.

Fellows cannot concurrently hold a LTF or CDF and an employment position (i.e. salary support) or a paid fellowship from another organization. However, the HFSP fellowship can be supplemented from other sources (e.g. from a host supervisor's grant or from institutional funds). HFSPO fellows must devote themselves entirely to their research project in the host institution and may not engage in any other paid activity without prior agreement of HFSPO. 
At the start of the fellowship, the fellow must not have been working for more than 12 full months in the host institution/host country. The PhD must have been conferred when the fellowship is activated. 


There is only one competition per year for HFSP fellowships.

Instructions for filling in the online application form are
available for applicants, host supervisors and referees.


Before applying please read carefully the 2021 fellowship application guidelines which list the eligibility criteria. Should you have any question as to your eligibility, please contact the fellowship office at .

Applications must be submitted via the HFSP website at

Only the online application form is required at the time of application. No further documents (acceptance of host institution, signatures, etc.) are requested or accepted at this stage.

After submission of their application, applicants will be able to update their publication list via the HFSP extranet site until the end of November.

The post-award guidelines for HFSP fellowships granted in 2020 are available HERE for reference. Please note that these post-award guidelines are those of the last round of applications that was completed in March 2020. They are thus for general information only. Some policy changes might be introduced for the new round of applications, which begins in summer 2020 and will be completed in March 2021.


Please refer to Section II Eligibility Criteria of the application guidelines for the complete information on eligibility.

Important eligibility criteria:

1) Nationality

A candidate who is not a national from one of the HFSP members (see list below) may apply to work only in a research institution in one of the member countries. A candidate who is a national of one of the member countries can apply to work in a research institution in any country.

HFSP member countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus (EU part only), Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Republic of Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Applicants must propose to work in a country different to the one where they did their previous PhD work or first post-doctoral studies. For those institutions that are not classified as national, i.e. international or extraterritorial institutions such as EMBL, ICPT or ICGEB, the country in which the laboratory is located will be considered the host country.


2) Doctoral degree

A research doctorate (PhD) or a doctoral-level degree comparable to a PhD with equivalent experience in basic research (e.g. a research based MD or medical PhD) must be conferred by the start of the fellowship. It is not required at the time of submission. By “conferred degree” we mean you have received your diploma for the degree. The “conferral date” is the date on the official PhD document. Please refer to the application guidelines for information in case you were not yet awarded the PhD.


3) Research publications

Applicants must have at least one lead author, full-length research paper - either accepted for publication, in press or published - in an international peer-reviewed journal or published on a pre-print server such as bioRxiv by August 27, 2020 in order to be eligible to apply. The applicant must either be the single author, first author or joint first author. In a joint first author paper the applicant does not have to be listed in the first place, but the equal contribution of the authors must be clearly stated in all cases. In some cases the standard publication practice makes first authorship impossible (e.g. alphabetical listing of authors); these circumstances must be explained in the “Additional Comments” section of the application.

Only publications written in English are taken into account. Review articles and patents are not taken into account.

Electronic copies of lead author publications must be uploaded while preparing the application. They cannot be uploaded after the applicant has submitted.

The review of HFSP fellowship proposals is done in three steps: eligibility assessment, expert review and evaluation by the members of the HFSP fellowship review committee.

Please note that we are unable to provide feedback to unsuccessful applicants due to the volume of applications that we receive.

Eligibility assessment

All proposals are screened for formal eligibility by HFSP staff. If you have queries about eligibility criteria, please contact the Fellowship Office prior to submitting your application. In addition to screening for formal eligibility, if there are concerns over the alignment of the proposed research with the scientific scope of the HFSP fellowship program, the application is reviewed by the three scientific directors of HFSP as well as several review committee members. Any application that does not meet the key requirements outlined in the guidelines will not be sent for expert review and the applicant will be informed.

Expert review

Eligible applications are evaluated by two review committee members who assign ratings based on the following criteria:
Excellence of the applicant: the accomplishments and potential of the candidate relative to previous and current opportunities in terms of career stage and field of research; scientific leadership potential of the applicant based on their motivation, goals and achievements.
Excellence of the proposed research: the training potential of the fellowship based on the scientific originality and innovative character of the research proposal; intellectual contribution of the applicant to the proposed research project; a clear departure from the previous research is necessary.
Excellence of the host lab and environment: the quality of the host and the host environment; access to infrastructure and collaborators; track record of the host supervisor, based on career stage.
HFSP does not impose a weighting among the individual selection criteria listed above. The reviewers determine the overall rating for each application based on the indicators listed on the next page.
Review committee evaluation

The highest rated applications are shortlisted for discussion during a 3-day review committee meeting which takes place at the end of January 2021. Applicants who have not been shortlisted for discussion will be notified early February by email. In early April 2021 we will publish the list of successful candidates on the HFSP website and email the outcome of their application (award, reserve list or rejection) to all shortlisted applicants. The application and selection process is confidential, and neither the discussions of applications during review nor the information in applications are released. Unsuccessful candidates can apply more than once, provided they still meet all eligibility criteria.

Please refer to Section IV Review Process of the application guidelines for the complete description of the peer review process including indicators used by review committee members.

See HERE for members of the 2021 Fellowship Review Committee.


If you have never worked in the host country before and started working in the host laboratory on or after April 1 this year, you can submit your application for this year’s August deadline.

HFSPO does not support scientists who wish to return to work with someone they have done research with before. HFSPO’s goal is to support scientists to work with someone new, on a project that will broaden their expertise. There are cases where an applicant may have visited the host lab for a short period (i.e. to learn a technique), and in these types of cases HFSPO may accept your application depending on the reason of your initial stay. Please contact the HFSPO Office prior to submitting an application to make sure you are eligible and to request an exception.

Yes, you may apply however you must hold the fellowship in one of the HFSPO member countries.

A candidate can apply for the HFSP fellowship even if he/she has another financial support. If awarded the HFSP fellowship, the other financial support will have to be terminated by the start of the HFSP fellowship.

There is only one competition per year. Should your application be unsuccessful, you may submit an application in another competition year provided you still meet all the eligibility criteria listed in the guidelines. A candidate can only submit one fellowship application per year.

No, you must choose the program that best suits your research background and proposed research project. In case of doubt, please contact the Fellowship Office for guidance. A candidate can only submit one fellowship application per year.

No, your host supervisor can only endorse one application each year, either for a LTF or for a CDF.

Yes, if the project entails collaboration between two laboratories, you may register two host supervisors. Note that only one host institution can be registered in the application form. We recommend that the collaborating laboratories be relatively close together to enable regular visits during the tenure of the fellowship.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to submit material after the deadline. You will have to select another referee.

The online system allows applicants to change a referee or the host supervisor up to the submission deadline.

Degrees are awarded by one university, even if the training was done in a multi-institutional or even international context. Indicate the degree-awarding institution in the degrees section. You can add further details about the other training institutions and training periods in the CV section.

Yes. In cases where PhD students do their research in one country and get the degree in another country, they can apply to go to this country provided they have never worked or lived there.

No. The supervisor you plan to return to in the 3rd year of the fellowship should not be indicated in the application. Only indicate the supervisor at the proposed host institution. Administrative details for the final year of the fellowship will be arranged at a later stage.

No, this does not count as a first author publication. You must have at least one lead author paper in an international, peer-reviewed journal or published on a pre-print server such as bioRxiv to be eligible to apply. However, if the scholarly tradition in your discipline puts more emphasis on publishing in conference proceedings, you may apply and explain this in the “additional comments” section of your application. If you are not sure whether your publication record fits HFSP requirements, please contact the HFSP Fellowship Office at

No, you must have at least one manuscript accepted for publication to be eligible. Submitted papers are not taken into account.

Yes, but the PhD must have been conferred by the time the fellowship is activated.

Maybe. Applicants who were conferred a degree in Europe should consult the online database of EURYDICE at to confirm degree equivalency. This is the official database of European Higher Education Degrees, and is used by HFSPO. All other applicants should consult the Fellowship Office.

Applicants with doctoral degrees in the medical sciences (clinical context) must have an equivalent level of research experience as expected from a research based PhD prior to applying. This should be stated clearly in the online application by listing years of experience in basic research and/or publications in international peer reviewed journals.

You should apply for a Cross-Disciplinary Fellowship (CDF). CDFs are for applicants with a PhD from outside the life sciences (e.g. in physics, chemistry, mathematics, engineering or computer sciences), while Long-Term Fellowships (LTFs) are for applicants with a PhD in a biological discipline.

A degree is conferred when you receive your diploma for the degree. The “conferral date” is the date on the official PhD document.

Yes. It is very important to explain any breaks in the CV section of the application so that the reviewers can take this into consideration when assessing productivity. The review committee will not be biased against applicants who have taken breaks to have and care for children.

No, we only take into account career interruptions such as illness, parental leave, providing full time care for an immediate family member, military or civil service when calculating eligibility to apply. You cannot be more than 3 years post-PhD by the submission deadline.

No. The fact that you worked as a university lecturer did not prevent you from submitting an application to HFSP at the time when you were still eligible to do so. Exemptions can only be claimed because of personal circumstances such as illness, parental leave, providing full time care for an immediate family member, military or civil service, etc.

You are eligible because you received your most recent doctoral degree last year.

If it is a research-based MD obtained within the three years prior to the submission deadline and if you have the equivalent research experience as a PhD holder (i.e. you have a publication record in international peer reviewed journals), you are eligible to apply. However, depending on your research experience, your publication record and your change in research direction, the review committee may consider your application less competitive than those of PhD holders. In case of doubt, contact the Secretariat to make sure your application is competitive.

Candidates who have more research experience and publications are not privileged over recent PhDs. The selection process takes career stage into account when evaluating productivity and the scientific merit of the candidate’s accomplishments. In the evaluation process, the fellowship review committee may favor proposals that better meet the objective of providing international opportunities to top-notch candidates who are recent doctoral graduates with minimal research experience.

HFSP believes that broad training is excellent preparation for postdoctoral researchers to establish novel, interdisciplinary research programs. Therefore preference is given to applicants who add new ideas or unique approaches to their research. This may involve learning new methods, changing study system, or exposure to new theory or literature.

Applications were mostly ineligible for formal reasons. Others were ineligible because the proposed projects were outside the scientific scope of HFSPO:

  • clinically oriented research,
  • projects with the sole emphasis on searching for new compounds with a potential impact for drug development,
  • environmental projects such as monitoring ecosystem/species diversity,
  • projects related to disease and/or drug development and projects in agriculture.

You can increase your chances of success if your proposal has a clear and concise research plan, contains sufficient detail for peer review purposes and demonstrates an obvious fit with the mandate of HFSP. We support innovative, even high-risk research that provides an opportunity for the candidate to branch out in a new research direction. A misalignment with the objectives of the HFSP fellowship program or a poorly written proposal are among the most common reasons why a proposal is not successful. Every year HFSP receives more excellent fellowship applications than the number that can be funded.

Given budget limitations, only applications that clearly reflect the scientific objectives of the HFSP fellowship program and that receive excellent to outstanding marks by the reviewers are funded. Consideration is not given to other factors such as country of origin, gender, etc.

The proposed fellowship project will be evaluated based on the criteria set out for the program. The research project should contain an original and innovative idea that holds promise to advance knowledge in the field. Successful HFSP awardees are outstanding researchers with a demonstrated record of excellent research and a commitment to exploring new approaches to basic research questions.

While there are many ways to put together a highly competitive application, in the past, successful applications have demonstrated that the candidates have made significant intellectual contributions to the published work (the reference letters should elaborate on this aspect) as well as to the proposed research (the host supervisor letter should mention this).

The most competitive applications propose unique research projects that mark a departure from the applicant’s previous research. Projects that expose the applicant to new theory and methodology, that propose a new approach to a research problem and that can potentially make a major contribution to the research field are favored. High risk research is supported.

No. Journal impact factors do not play a role in the evaluation or selection process.

Reviewers do not rely solely on the publication venue to determine the quality or impact of a paper. The quality of the research is assessed, independent of where it was published. Increasingly, researchers are obliged or choose to publish in open access journals. You can find HFSP’s Open Access policy here.

Abstracts of funded fellowship projects from previous years are available on the HFSPO website at

All eligible applications are evaluated by members of the HFSP fellowship review committee.

First verify that the email addresses entered in the “Host Supervisor 1” (plus “Host Supervisor 2”, if applicable) and “Referees” sections are correct in your online application form. If this information is correct, the email from the HFSP application server may have been sent to a spam filter on the receiving end. Inform your host and referees to check their spam filter for messages with “HFSP” in the subject line.

The HFSP online interface ensures consistency between applications by automatically formatting information (e.g., bold titles, page breaks). You can download a PDF copy of your application from the HFSP extranet (in the preview section of the online application) to see the formatted version of your application.

Figures or tables rarely add significant insight to the proposed project. Outstanding fellowship applications are carefully crafted research proposals in which applicants put their innovative ideas and vision in writing.

The review committee members rely on these publications to assess the quality of your past research. In addition, the publication of at least one first author/co-author paper is required and the fellowship office looks at your publication(s) to confirm your eligibility.

The ORCID number is invaluable in distinguishing between applicants with the same name, which is a frequent issue at HFSPO. At this point the ORCID number is only used by HFSPO for this purpose, however other functions may be explored when the use of the ORCID number becomes more established with the scientific community (