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Cornell Atkinson Postdocs RFP 2024

Gemma Clucas with penguins

Cornell Atkinson Postdoctoral Fellowship in Sustainability
2024 Request for Proposals

Cornell Atkinson Postdoctoral Fellowships support a cohort of creative, exceptionally talented, and highly motivated scholars committed to discovery that contributes directly to solving the most pressing problems facing our planet.

Unique among postdoctoral fellowships, the Cornell Atkinson Postdoctoral Fellowship positions scholars to work with a Cornell faculty mentor and an external partner organization. Each fellow receives individualized and cohort-level support in professional development, including career strategy, communications training, and collaborative leadership.


Cornell Atkinson Overview

Founded by a generous gift from David and Pat Atkinson, the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability enables transdisciplinary and translational research that advances sustainability to create a healthy and resilient future. By supporting research across all of Cornell’s colleges and schools, and partnering with governmental, non-governmental, and private entities, Cornell Atkinson directly supports the radical collaboration necessary to transform knowledge to action.

The Cornell Atkinson Postdoctoral Fellowship offers a unique opportunity for recipients to engage at the nexus of highly rigorous academic research and real impact in sustainability. Fellows work with both a Cornell faculty mentor and a partnering external organization. Through the Sustainability Leadership Program, fellows join a cohort of early career scholars that receive curated support in science communication, strategic career planning, and collaborative leadership. We invite research proposals from early career scholars in any of Cornell Atkinson’s four primary research areas.

Diversity, inclusion, and environmental justice are critical to sustainability, and Cornell Atkinson encourages proposals that demonstrate a commitment to these values. For example, this may be through a meaningful focus on environmental justice issues in the research agenda, through research methodologies inclusive of marginalized communities disproportionately affected by climate change and other threats to sustainability, or through partnering with external organizations that demonstrably act on these values.

Program Details and Benefits

  • Up to four postdoctoral fellows are selected each year
  • Fellowships are two-year, 12-month academic appointments at Cornell The second year is contingent upon satisfactory progress in the first year.
  • Fellowships provide a salary of $65,000 per year, full Cornell University employee benefits, and $12,000 per year for research- and travel-related expenses. Allowable research expenses are governed by Cornell University policies applicable to all academic staff.
  • Start date for the fellowship is flexible between July 1 and September 1
  • Fieldwork and site visits are typical components of As well, Cornell Atkinson Postdoctoral Fellows are a critically important part of the community of scholars that comprise the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability. Accordingly, fellows should normally plan to have primary residency in Ithaca, New York so they can participate in Cornell Atkinson activities.
  • Cornell Atkinson Postdoctoral Fellows are afforded professional development support via the Sustainability Leadership Program. As part of SLP, fellows select from a variety of options to complete a minimum of 2 long (~2 day in-person) and 4 short (1-2 hour online) workshops during their 2-year SLP workshops are tailored to advance participants’ professional position at the intersections of academic research, public engagement, and impact.
  • Fellows are additionally supported by Cornell’s Office of Postdoctoral Studies.

Eligibility Requirements

  1. Applicants must have received their PhD in a field relevant to the proposed research by the start of the fellowship, but no earlier than 2 years prior to the start date (for 2024 fellows, no earlier than 1 July 2022).
  2. All applicants meeting the requirements are encouraged to Successful applicants requiring visa sponsorship will be referred to Cornell International Services for guidance on obtaining the appropriate visa to enter and be employed in the United States.
  3. Cornell Atkinson Postdoctoral Fellows are full-time, non-faculty, benefits-eligible academic staff at Cornell Policies that govern employment at Cornell University apply. Accordingly, while field research, including non-US field research, is a normative part of most fellows’ research plans, the Cornell Atkinson Postdoctoral Fellowship is US-based for employment purposes.
  4. Although a primary aim of the Cornell Atkinson Postdoctoral Fellowship is to attract new scholars to Cornell, current Cornell graduate students and postdoctoral fellows may apply if they meet all other eligibility requirements and if their proposed research departs from or expands significantly on their current research, presumably with a new faculty mentor.

How to Apply

  • The application process opens Monday, August 14, 2023.
  • The application deadline is 11:59 pm EDT Monday, October 16, 2023. Late applications will not advance to the next round of review.
  • Applicant materials are submitted via our online portal at
  • Guidelines about required materials are provided below; we encourage you to read them carefully before beginning your application.
  • Letters of recommendation are submitted separately by each Only professional references will be accepted and may not be provided by relatives, either direct or through marriage/domestic partnership, of the applicant.
    • In the application portal, applicants will provide each reference’s professional email address (g., .edu, .gov, .org). Letters received from personal email addresses are discouraged.
    • References will receive a system-generated email with instructions for uploading their letter of recommendation.
    • We strongly suggest that applicants notify their references to check their spam/clutter filters if necessary.
    • It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that all letters of recommendation are submitted by the deadline (Monday, October 16, 2023, 11:59 pm EDT).


Application Portal:

Project Abstract (maximum 250 words)

Summarize your proposed project, methods, and anticipated impact clearly and concisely. The abstract should be free of jargon in order to be understood by faculty researchers who may be in aligned fields but not necessarily experts in your specific discipline or methodologies.

The following must be uploaded into the application portal as a single pdf file: single space, 12-point font, 1” margins. Guidance on the maximum length of each section is offered below.

  1. Introduction (maximum 250 words)
    Provide a brief summary of your doctoral research and future career goals, explaining how the postdoctoral fellowship will enhance your career in sustainability research and impact.
  2. Description of Proposed Project (maximum 1000 words; references may be additional)
    The proposal must offer a concise statement of objectives, methods, and significance of the proposed research. While a line-item budget is not required, the proposal should indicate a clear understanding of the resources necessary to complete the research successfully within the timeframe of the fellowship, and their availability and accessibility at Cornell or elsewhere. The proposal should clearly describe the role of the external partner(s) and their contribution to the project.
  3. Impact Statement (maximum 300 words; 1 page of figures may be added)
    A summary of the potential impact of the proposed research that explains how the proposed project will change or influence behavior, practice, procedures, or policy at the relevant scale. A co-creation model of engagement with the external partner is encouraged. Consider using a diagram to clarify the intended flow of information and advice among all project participants and other stakeholders.
  4. Statement of contribution to diversity (maximum 300 words)
    That describes the applicant’s present and/or future plans to contribute to a culture of inclusion and diversity in sustainability research, in outcomes, and/or among the community of scholars and practitioners. Cornell University offers guidance and examples for faculty applicants within the context of the university’s mission, most of which is applicable to fellowship applicants.
  5. Applicant’s Curriculum Vitae (length as appropriate)
    All accepted and published publications must be included (with DOI, if applicable). Publications submitted, in review, or in revision may be included but must be noted as such; do not include papers in List peer-refereed publications separately from non-refereed publications and conference proceedings.

Letters of Recommendation (submitted online separately by the recommender)

As part of your application, you will be asked to provide the name, affiliation, and contact information for each of your 4 references. Their letters of recommendation will be uploaded separately – you do not need to upload them (see How to Apply, above, for more information). Because letters of recommendation are due on the same day as the application deadline, we strongly encourage applicants to communicate early with their references.

  1. Cornell faculty mentor: A tenured or tenure-track Cornell faculty member who agrees to serve as your primary mentor for the duration of the 2-year fellowship. Faculty mentors may have a primary appointment in any Cornell college or school but must be a Cornell Atkinson Faculty Fellow. The letter of recommendation should speak to the existing or prospective professional relationship between the faculty mentor and the applicant, the quality and potential impact of the project as proposed, and the ability of the applicant to conduct and complete the proposed project within the time frame of the fellowship.
  2. Primary advisor at the external organization: A collaborating partner from an external organization, which may be a governmental, non-governmental, or private sector entity, but which may not be another university or higher education entity. We strongly recommend that the applicant and prospective Cornell faculty mentor discuss potential external partners and the parameters of the partnership. Reviewing the partnerships of current and former Cornell Atkinson fellows may be helpful. The letter of recommendation should speak to the existing or prospective collaborative relationship between the organization and the applicant (and, as applicable, the faculty mentor), as well as the value and feasibility of the collaboration as described in the project proposal.
  3. Two additional references, one of which should – except under exceptional circumstances – be the applicant’s doctoral advisor. The second reference may hold an academic or non-academic position but must be able to speak with some depth about their working relationship to the applicant and the strength of the applicant’s proposed research.


E-mail with any questions.

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