Postdoctoral Fellowship

Applications are invited for the 2020 Vagelos Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship 

The Vagelos Institute for Energy Science and Technology at the University of Pennsylvania invites applications for the Vagelos Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship. Supported through the generosity of Roy and Diana Vagelos, the fellowship will be awarded to outstanding future leaders in energy science. This highly competitive fellowship will focus on energy science with an emphasis on working collaboratively across labs. Fellows will be co-advised by at least two faculty members of the Institute and will also receive an enhanced training experience through interactions with the Nature Conservancy.

Postdoctoral Fellows will be supported annually with a stipend and benefits, $20,000 for supplies/services related to the Fellow’s research and $2,500 for professional travel.

Eligibility and Qualifications

  • Applicants must have completed all requirements for their doctorate by the fellowship start date, and no longer than three years before the application close date. Fellows will be expected to begin their appointment by no later than September 1, 2020.
  • This program is intended to recruit outstanding new talent in energy science and technology to Penn, and is therefore limited to applicants who are not current Penn postdocs.
  • Fellows will be eligible for support for up to two consecutive years. The initial appointment will be for one year, with second-year appointment contingent upon satisfactory performance and agreement by both the Fellow and their advisors.
  • Postdoctoral Fellows are expected to play a leadership role in the development of collaborative research throughout this new Institute. Thus, the proven ability to thrive in a leadership role in a collaborative environment and highly developed communication skills will be critical skills for success.
  • Fellows are expected to be committed to their personal professional development. They will be required to participate in training to improve skills in science communication and leadership.

How to apply: Complete applications are due by Friday, December 13, 2019, and must include:

  • A joint letter of nomination from the proposed postdoctoral advisors.
  • Two letters of recommendation. One letter must be from the applicant’s thesis advisor, and should comment specifically on the applicant’s ability to learn from and contribute to a multi-disciplinary and collaborative research environment. The second letter should be from an individual well acquainted with the applicant’s research.
  • The nomination and recommendation letters must be on letterhead and emailed directly to Nadine Gruhn (
  • The applicant’s current CV.
  • A three-page research proposal detailing the work planned during the fellowship period. The proposed research must be aligned with the current research priorities of the Institute, and the contribution that each advisor will bring to supporting the fellow in the research should be clear.
  • A two-page personal statement that includes a description of the applicant’s PhD research project (written for a scholar outside the major field of study), and a discussion of the applicant’s career goals.
  • The research proposal and personal statement must be standard letter-size page, 1-inch margins, and at least 11 pt font.
  • The CV, proposal, and personal statement must be combined into one pdf file and emailed to Nadine Gruhn ( by no later than 5 EST pm on December 13, 2019. Please use the subject “Postdoctoral Fellow Application [Your Name]”, and name the pdf attachment “YourNameApplication.pdf”.

Review Criteria: Postdoctoral Fellowships will be awarded on the basis of academic excellence, the demonstrated likelihood that the Fellow will take a leadership role in the Institute and among the next generation of energy scientists and engineers, and alignment of the research proposal with the goals and research priorities of the Institute.


2019 Postdoctoral Fellows

2019 Vagelos Institute Postdoctoral Fellows: Ahmad Shamsabadi, Nathanael Hirscher, and Alex Confer

Alex Confer received a B.S. in Chemistry & Biochemistry and a B.A. in Mathematics Maxima cum laude from LaSalle University, where he performed research with Michael Prushan. He received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from The Johns Hopkins University in 2019, where he worked with David P. Goldberg. His postdoctoral work is with Neil Tomson and Eric Schelter, and is focused on using metal clusters supported by flexible, redox-active ligands for low-energy activation of N2 and CO2.

Nathanael Hirscher received his B.Sc in Chemistry with High Distinction from the University of Virginia, where he worked with Brent Gunnoe. He received his Ph.D. in Chemistry in 2019 from the California Institute of Technology under the mentorship of Theodor Agapie. His postdoctoral research is focused on tandem catalytic methods for oxidation of methane to methanol, working with Karen Goldberg and Eric Schelter.

Ahmad Shamsabadi received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the Iran University of Science and Technology with advisor Nezamoddin Ashrafizadeh, and a M.S. in Gas Processing and Transmission Engineering from the Petroleum University of Technology in Ahwaz Iran, where he worked with Masoud Bahrami and Ali Kargari. In 2019 he received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Drexel University, where he worked with Masoud Soroush. His postdoctoral work is with Zahra Fakhraai and Raymond Gorte, and is focused on the microporosity of polymers and their relationship to the performance and stability of catalysts for fuel cell applications.


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