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Schmidt Futures Schmidt Science Polymaths Program

General Information

Program Description

The Schmidt Science Polymaths program is to encourage the best “polymath” scientists to expand their research portfolio by exploring new lines of research that are substantively different from their ongoing and proven research activities. The program will offer long-term research support to recently tenured professors (within the past 3 years) with remarkable track records and highly promising futures. These grants are intended for the exploration of new ideas across disciplines that use new technologies and insights that are generally too new or risky to garner regular support. They are not intended to relieve the researcher of pursuing other grants to continue their mainstream work, nor be large enough to fully support a modern lab. The program will identify and support innovative scientific researchers at this pivotal moment (and potentially the most productive time of their careers) by providing the resources that allow them to substantively explore new lines of research. Instead of focusing on specific research ideas, the goal for the program is to bet on people, their special talents, and their teams aligning with Schmidt Futures’ overall people-focused approach.


Schools may submit three (3) applications for Penn’s internal competition.


  • Candidates must have achieved tenure (or equivalent status) within the past 3 years (2020 or after) 
  • Have a remarkable record of accomplishment in area(s) of science and engineering. 
  • Have a demonstrated history of pursuing and publishing results in more than one field. 
  • Demonstrate a need for additional funding to enable new experiments, explorations, or shifts in research directions.
  • 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

An unrestricted research award of $500,000 per year for a maximum of five years to support part of a research group.

Review Process

Selection Criteria

The University has been invited to nominate 3 faculty members. A committee, established by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR), will determine the final nominees to represent the University. Applications will be judged based on: 

  • The breadth and depth of the candidates’ work,
  • The quality, impact, and innovation on displayed in the candidates work,
  • The quality, impact, and innovation on displayed in the candidates work, 
  • The candidates’ track-record of high variance thinking and approaches, as well as their capacity for creative new research or shifts in research directions given flexible resources.
  • The candidate’s proposed research directions and projects as outlined in their application, including likelihood of success and significant impact, and expectation that the candidate’s research directions will change over time.

OVPR Internal Review Process

Applications must include the following:

  1. Cover Page which includes:
    • Primary field of research
    • Candidate’s name, academic rank, department, email address, phone number and campus address. 
    • Year nominee received tenure.   
  2. Letter of support from department chair/division chief addressing the following:
  3. A one-page summary with information on and reasoning for the nomination which addresses the points listed in the Selection Criteria above. Explain the following:
    • Why the nominee is among the brightest minds in their field;
    • How they have demonstrated repeated innovation on in more than one problem; and
    • Their capacity for creative new research and shifts in research direction.
  4. A CV (maximum 2 pages): that 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, SCHMIDT_applicant LAST name_ applicant FIRST name.