Postdoctoral Fellowship

Application are invited for the 2021 Postdoctoral Fellowship Program

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 is awarded to outstanding future leaders in energy science. This highly competitive fellowship focuses on energy science with an emphasis on working collaboratively across labs. Fellows must be co-advised by at least two faculty members of the Institute. Complete applications are due by December 11, 2020 and final decisions will be announced by late February 2021.

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, 2021.
  • 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 by the application deadline.
  • 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 11, 2020, and must include:

  • A joint letter of nomination from the proposed joint postdoctoral advisors.
  • Two letters of recommendation. One letter must be from the applicant’s thesis advisor and 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 ( by no later than 5 pm EST on December 11, 2020.
  • 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. If references are included, they are not part of the three pages.
  • 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 pm EST on December 11, 2020. 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.

2020 Postdoctoral Fellows

Yue Gao

Yue Gao

Yue Gao received his B.S. in Chemistry from Lanzhou University where he performed research with Prof. Hongbin Zhai, and his Ph.D from The Pennsylvania State University under the joint mentorship of Prof. Donghai Wang (Mechanical Engineering) and Prof. Thomas Mallouk (Chemistry). His postdoctoral research with Profs. James Pikul and Karen Winey is focused on the design of 3D-printed polymer-hosted lithium metal anodes with an ultimate goal of designing stable lithium metal batteries with fast-charge and high-power capabilities.

Holden Lai

Holden Lai received a B.A. in Chemistry with High Honors and Physics, and a B.Mus in Percussion Performance from Oberlin College & Conservatory. He received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Stanford University with Prof. Yan Xia and was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow. His postdoctoral research with Profs. Chinedum Osuji and Karen Winey focuses on developing novel materials for nanofiltration and ion transport membranes while investigating fundamental problems in membrane science.

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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