University of Cambridge-Herchel Smith Postdoctoral Research Fellowships – For Entry in 2020

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Herchel Smith Postdoctoral Research Fellowships – For Entry in 2020

The Managers of the Herchel Smith Postdoctoral Research Fellowships Fund invite applications for full-time Fellowships in Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences and Pure Mathematics at the University of Cambridge from 1 October 2020 or otherwise by negotiation. Fellows are required to pursue their research on a full-time basis in Cambridge and funding is available for three years.

Contingent upon the availability of funds, up to eight Herchel Smith Postdoctoral Fellowships will be awarded in 2020/21.  (Four in the Biological Sciences, three in the Physical Sciences, and one in Pure Mathematics). The stipend will be on the University’s Postdoctoral Research Associate scale, currently between £32,816-£40,322 per annum, with an annual research allowance of up to £15,000 (£13,000 in Pure Mathematics).

In accordance with Dr Smith’s will, candidature is limited to candidates who have obtained their PhD degree, or equivalent, within the last three years at any university but normally excluding Cambridge and Harvard. Fellowships can only be offered to those with less than three years postdoctoral experience by the time the Fellowship is taken up. In addition to holding a PhD or equivalent, candidates should provide evidence of: outstanding academic excellence; a high quality and original research proposal; and evidence of their capabilities as an independent researcher.

Applications for 2020/21 are invited by the relevant department / school individually, by advertisement on the University job portal ( and must be submitted online. The specific subject application deadlines and links are enclosed below:  

  1. Biological Sciences: deadline on 31 December 2019 (  
  2. Condensed Matter and Materials: Material Sciences & Metallurgy, Physics and DAMTP: deadline on 31 December 2019 (
  3. Chemistry:deadline on 27 November (
  4. Pure Maths and Mathematical Statistics: deadline on 13 December (

Informal enquires can be directed to Paulina at while discipline-related enquires will need to be directed to the respective department. Candidates are encouraged to contact potential research supervisors before submitting their application and successful awards will be conditional upon acceptance by the respective supervisor and/or department.

Official Link:

Herchel Smith and the Fund

Herchel Smith, born in Plymouth (UK) in 1925, was a distinguished organic chemist who invented and patented new chemical reactions for the synthesis of novel steroids, including the contraceptive pill. His research interests can be traced back to his time as an undergraduate at Emmanuel College where he read for the Natural Sciences Tripos, matriculating in 1942 with distinction. He went on to study organic chemistry as a graduate student under Professor Alexander Todd and was awarded his PhD at Cambridge in 1952. He became a postdoctoral fellow at Oxford University and then a lecturer in organic chemistry at Manchester University before moving to the United States to work for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. During his retirement Dr Smith endowed four Cambridge Professorships, research fellowships at Emmanuel College and joint postgraduate scholarships for Emmanuel and Harvard graduates. Herchel Smith died in West Chester (USA) in 2001 leaving substantial bequests to many of the universities and colleges he had been associated with. His bequest to Cambridge has provided financial support in perpetuity for the initiatives he previously supported and for the endowment of five new Professorships and a programme of studentships and postdoctoral fellowships.

During his lifetime and following his death in December 2001, the University received under Herchel Smith’s will the largest ever individual bequest to a British University at that time.

Endowments for University of Cambridge

During his lifetime, Dr Smith endowed 4 Cambridge Professorships in Immunology, Medicinal Chemistry, Organic Chemistry and Intellectual Property Law.

In his will, Dr Smith bequeathed nearly $40m to the University and Emmanuel College thanks to which various initiatives were funded:

  • 5 professorships in Pure Maths, Physics, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Genetics
  • 2 university lectureships in Medicinal Chemistry and Intellectual Property Law
  • PhD Research studentships, fellowships and general research in Medicinal Chemistry
  • Support to existing funds supporting the 4 professorships and 1 assistant directorship (Medicinal Chemistry) posts already endowed during his lifetime
  • Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry (built and launched in 2012)

Another $20 million was received from the residual estate in 2004, and designated to support postdoctoral research at Cambridge(Herchel Smith Postdoctoral Fellowship Program) in the fields of Organic Chemistry, Physics, Pure Mathematics, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and related fields.

The impact of Herchel Smith’s legacy in Cambridge has been immense and will continue into the future, not least because the generous endowments he provided for his professorships attract leaders in their field to Cambridge, who inspire and motivate a whole new generation of talented researchers, and the endowments for fellows and PhD students attract the future field leaders.  

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