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Brown Investigator Program

General Information


The Brown Science Foundation seeks to support bold ideas for curiosity-driven basic research. The Foundation believes that there is a reservoir of great scientists who have demonstrated their talent and capability by earning tenure at leading US universities, but who cannot pursue their most daring ideas because of the often conservative nature of government funding. Therefore, the Foundation intends to provide significant funds to a small number of such scientists in PHYSICS and CHEMISTRY departments with few funding restrictions and limited reporting requirements. Because the Foundation wants to support basic research, which may have eventual technological impact, it has chosen to award grants to investigators working in atomic and condensed matter physics and fundamental areas of chemistry.


Schools may submit one (1) application for Penn’s internal competition.


  • Mid-career researchers having received tenure within the past 10 years (since July 2013). 
  • If in chemistry department, must be working in fundamental areas of chemistry. 
  • If in physics department, must be working in atomic and condensed matter physics. 
  • For any sponsored research projects, the applicant must be eligible to serve as Principal Investigator for the project, unless otherwise noted in the LSO. Please see Penn’s PI Eligibility requirements to ensure you are eligible. 

Award Information

  • A research award of $2,000,000 over five years.
  • For experimentalists ($1,250,000 for theorists).
  • The funds may be used for support of postdoctoral research staff, graduate students, non-faculty technical staff, supplies, equipment, user fees, and indirect administrative costs up to 10% of the non-equipment portion grant amount.

Review Process

Selection Criteria

The University has been invited to submit one (1) nomination to the 2024 Brown Investigator Program and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) is coordinating the applicant review and selection process. Nominations must be faculty members in Chemistry or Physics departments.

What Brown Science Foundation Will Fund

We make grants to universities to fund exceptional faculty members. Candidates must pursue new research avenues that are highly creative, and for which conventional sources of research funding may not be readily available. These investigations may include not only the exploration of new phenomena, but also the development of new approaches to the collection of new data for use by future researchers, the development of new and original techniques to detect or measure properties and processes, and new ideas for the analysis of newly observed phenomena. 

What Brown Science Foundation Does Not Fund

The Foundation seeks to support curiosity-driven basic research that might have eventual technological implications. Areas not under consideration: 

  • Biomedical research
  • Applied or engineering research
  • Astronomy
  • Astrophysics
  • Particle physics

OVPR Internal Review Process

Applications must include the following:

  1. Cover Page which includes: 
    • Proposal Title
    • Candidate’s name, academic rank, department, email address, phone number and campus address.
  2. Letters of Recommendation (maximum 1 page): Three Letters of Recommendation assessing the scientific abilities and potential of the applicant are required and must be uploaded to the application at the time of submission.
  3. Research Proposal (maximum 4 pages): including project title, aims and objectives. References should also be included to support the proposal but are not counted in the three-page limit. 
  4. A CV (Using NIH format, if relevant) (maximum 5 pages): which includes educational background, professional appointments, awards and honors. Include all current research support (start-up and external) and pending support, including dollar amounts and start/end dates.
  5. All materials must be submitted in a single PDF document in the above order to
  6. Subject line of the email should be: BROWN_applicant LAST name_applicant FIRST name.