Independent Research Fellowships

 

The Department of Chemistry at York offers an outstanding environment for researchers looking to establish and develop their career by way of an independent research fellowship:

  • we combine strong research performance and income with excellence in teaching;
  • our researchers have access to a wide range of facilities and equipment;
  • we were the first academic department in the UK to win Athena SWAN Gold in 2007 (renewed in 2010 and 2015);
  • the University of York offers an award-winning programme of training for researcher development.

We have an excellent track record in hosting fellowships and helping independent fellows develop their research career and we are keen to attract ambitious researchers to join our Department.

On Friday 24 March 2017 we hosted a Fellowships Open Day, which included talks about and tours of the Department and its facilities, talks by current and previous research fellows about their experiences, and opportunities to meet key academic and support staff. Please find more information below, including the outline programme.

Funders and schemes

Fellowships

There are many different types of fellowships available, each of which have their own eligibility criteria and application process. 

 

‌The Royal Society University Research

For outstanding early career scientists who have the potential to become experts and leaders in their field

The Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin

For early career researchers whose personal circumstances (such as parenting, caring responsibilities or health issues) require a flexible working schedule 

The Royal Society Newton International

Designed for non-UK early career researchers 


EPSRC

Fellowships are offered within the entire EPSRC remit, however calls for applications are targeted at specific areas

 EPSRC Fellowships (MS PowerPoint  , 2,681kb)


BBSRC logo
 

BBSRC Future Leader

Providing support for early stage researchers  to transition into independent research leaders

BBSRC David Phillips

Designed for researchers who wish to establish their own research group


NERC Independent Research

For exceptional environmental researchers to develop their research, establish their own research group and enhance their internationally recognised


Marie Skłodowska-Curie

There are a number of these fellowships available for applicants from Europe and the rest of the world

MSCA IF (PDF  , 1,592kb)


Wellcome Trust

There are a wide variety of funding schemes and fellowships available

Wellcome Trust (MS PowerPoint  , 2,090kb)

 

Other schemes:

Getting started

We welcome expressions of interest from researchers who are considering applying to hold a fellowship in York at any time.

There are two routes for making contact to initiate discussions:

  • get in touch with the member of our academic staff directly to discuss your proposed research and how it aligns with existing research in Chemistry at York
  • contact our Departmental Research Facilitator, Dr Andy Goddard, on chem-research@york.ac.uk, to enquire about funders, schemes, eligibility and suitability

To be considered for departmental support for a fellowship application we require every candidate to send an expression of interest to our research office (chem-research@york.ac.uk) that includes the following:

  • your up to date CV
  • a brief outline of your proposed research (maximum 2 sides of A4)
  • a short statement setting out your resasons for wanting to base your research at York and an indication of which fellowship scheme/s you are interested in exploring

Each expression of interest will be assessed on the basis of:

  • scientific merit
  • academic alignment of the proposed research
  • eligibility of the candidate for the proposed funding scheme/s

You will be contacted as soon as possible with a decision regarding departmental support. For more information on the type of support that we provide please refer to the What we offer tab.

Fellowship applications take time to develop. Contact us as early as possible so that we can provide the maximum level of support throughout the process.
Please note that we have institutional internal deadlines for approval of all research funding applications, and will therefore not generally be able to accept proposals less than four weeks before the funder deadline.  On the other tabs on this page you will find details including:

What we offer

Why Chemistry at York?

1.Excellence in research and teaching

The Department of Chemistry is a large and successful department in an attractive University with an excellent reputation for teaching and research. The Department was placed in the top ten UK universities for Research Power by the 2014 Research Excellence Framework exercise (REF). The excellence of Chemistry at York was recognised in the 2017 Complete University Guide, Times Good University Guide and Guardian League Table Guide where it achieved an outstanding 4th place in all three.

We have about 60 members of academic staff including five Fellows of the Royal Society and several national and international prize winners, contributing to a dynamic and thriving department. There are over 620 undergraduate students, over 160 graduate students (mostly studying for PhD degrees) and more than 70 postdoctoral researchers. We have a wide range of facilities and well-equipped laboratories, some very recently extended and modernised, providing an excellent environment for both teaching and research; £35M has been spent on new buildings and equipment in the last seven years.

2. Broad-ranging support throughout fellowship application process

The Department of Chemistry is committed to supporting our fellowship applicants at each stage of the application process. For details on how to access Departmental support please refer to the Getting Started tab.

Assistance from an experienced academic staff member will include:

  • advice on the development of the scientific case for your research proposal, including coordinating an internal peer-review process
  • help as necessary with resource planning including the identification of available departmental equipment and resources
  • draft text for institutional letters of support and other necessary support documentation

Assistance from research support staff will include:

  • identification of funding schemes and assessment of eligibility
  • help with understanding funder requirements
  • resource planning and costing
  • liaising with the University of York research office

Letters of support from relevant staff (e.g. academic sponsor/mentor, Head of Department) will be provided.

3. Commitment to equality and diversity: Athena SWAN Gold

The Athena SWAN Gold Award for promoting women in science was won by the Department of Chemistry in 2007 and renewed in 2010 and 2015. Ours was the first Gold award made in this scheme. The Athena SWAN Charter recognises and celebrates good employment practice for women working in science, engineering and technology (SET) in higher education and research. 

As a Department we strive to provide a working environment which allows all staff and students to contribute fully, to flourish, and to excel. We aim to ensure that there is a supportive and egalitarian culture at all levels and across all staff groups. We promote good practice and a strong culture of equality in higher education. We offer a set of family-friendly practices including flexible working.

4. Strong track record of supporting independent fellows

The Chemistry Department at York has significant experience and history in hosting research fellowships, and many of our former fellows have gone on to successful academic careers, here and elsewhere. The Department provides support for all categories of staff in their career development and encourages the take-up of training opportunities including those provided by the award-winning University Research Excellence Training Team. 

The University of York has been successful in retaining the European Commission (EC) HR Excellence in Research Award, reviewed after six years (one of eight UK Universities to do so). The award recognises an institution’s commitment to implementing the UK Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers – principles that support all research staff by promoting recruitment, career enhancement, equality and diversity.

Case studies

 Dr Sarah Moller - N‌ERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship holder

Title: Maximising the impact of NERC research: facilitating knowledge exchange between the UK atmospheric science research community and Defra

‌‌‌‌‌Background: NERC KE Fellows commit between 20% and 80% to a work plan which they design themselves which will generate impact from NERC-funded research. Fellowships are open to researchers at any stage in their career and last between one and three years.

Rationale behind my application: Before applying for this fellowship I had been working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for 2 years managing their Independent Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG) and operating as a formal link between Defra and NERC’s National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS). Through this work I observed a number of areas where time could usefully be invested to produce better links between Defra, the end-users of research, NERC, the research funders, and NERC scientists. A colleague pointed out the NERC Open KE Fellowship call announcement; this seemed like the ideal way to progress the ideas I had and to make the most of the opportunities presented through my joint post in Defra and NCAS, which would soon be coming to an end.

Application: This was the first fellowship I applied for and I did not know what was expected or how to approach the application process. I read all the guidance and even though there was a large amount of information provided I still didn’t have a clear idea of how to go about writing a proposal like this, particularly as the only proposal writing experience I had was for a small outreach grant. It was really helpful to have a number of people willing to look at the first draft of my case for support and give me feedback. Getting multiple opinions and different points of view (from professors, lecturers/senior researchers, and other post-docs) on what I had drafted was so useful in developing the final proposal. Talking to people who had applied for fellowships before also helped (in fact the tip to send my proposal to a few different people came from this). It was particularly useful to talk to someone who had applied to a similar NERC fellowship scheme before, and I was extremely lucky in that they were happy to send me copies of their proposal, discuss their interview experience and pass on their top tips for applying. This insight made it far less time consuming to write my proposal as I had an example of how to structure it and what to include where. I drafted the letters of support (with some help from my research group leader; it’s difficult to write a glowing recommendation for yourself) to make it easier and less time consuming for those providing them. Although I found this very difficult it meant that while people edited the letters, they contained all the crucial information. I ended up with three very strong letters of support from senior personnel in NCAS, Defra and AQEG, all the key stakeholders, and I think this also was important in making my proposal successful. I think the key thing in developing a good proposal was that I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to achieve, how I was proposing to do it, why it was so important, and who I needed to be involved; I was also very lucky to have close links with the end-users I wanted to engage and so had the opportunity to (briefly) discuss my proposal with them and get their feedback and support.

Sarah Moller

Dr Ana Campo-Rodrigo - Marie Skłodowska Curie fellowship holder

Ana Campo Rodrigo Since I finished my PhD in 2011 I have written many different types of grant applications. Initially, I chose a research group in UK where I was interested in working as a postdoc. Having decided that I was looking for funding for a postdoctoral position in that country, I found three different ways of applying: (1) grants I was able to apply from my original country, Spain (public and private), (2) grants available in the guest country (UK) and (3) more general European grants.
 
I started in 2011-2012 by applying for some private Spanish fellowships (Ramón Areces and Fundación Alfonso Martín Escudero), along with a UK one (Newton fellowship) and an European one (Marie Curie Individual fellowship). Unfortunately, this came without any success so I contacted a research group in Germany who already had funding and was able to go there to do my first postdoc in 2012. After my first year of the postdoctoral position in Berlin, I applied again for some of the fellowships I mentioned before, and this time I was successfully awarded the Marie Curie IEF fellowship in 2014. 

My general tips would be to start by carefully researching about all the options you are allowed to apply for depending on your originality and guest country. Then, start applying, even if you think you don’t yet have a complete CV. The experience and feedback you get will be always very helpful even if you are rejected, and this helps make your next applications even stronger (and more likely to succeed).

Dr Kirsty High - NERC Knowledge Exchange

Title: Fading Star – Shining light: Integrating an evidence based decision support system for in situ preservation of waterlogged organic archaeological ‌remains.

My research interests lie in understanding the short and long-term degradation mechanisms of organic archaeological materials, and how these are influenced the burial environment. Throughout my PhD and following subsequent publications, I came to realise that this is an area of research that concerns many heritage management professionals, as understanding these mechanisms underpin how an archaeological site is managed. Through various conversations at conferences and with people from different backgrounds, I recognised that there was a real need for better communications between academics and practitioners working in this field.

NERC KE Fellowships provide an ideal route to forging relationships with non-academic project partners and seeing your research have a real life application, which is something that has always motivated me. Academics at all career stages are encouraged to apply, and the Fellowships provide funding for you to spend between 20 and 80 % of your time focusing on generating impact from NERC funded research by working with these ‘end-users’. The Fellowships are therefore very flexible, allowing the project to evolve in line with what might be needed to deliver this impact, and Fellows also benefit from a great deal of training and support from NERC.

The major factor in the success of KE Fellowship applications seems to be the level of involvement of project partners. My proposal was very much written in collaboration with my project partners (Historic England and York Archaeological Trust), giving them plenty of time to fully contribute to the project design and get feedback from all areas of their own organisation. Project partners have to write a letter of support for the project, and this was much easier for them to do having had full involvement throughout. I think that their involvement right at the outset will also be fundamental to the eventual success of the project.

As this was my first Fellowship proposal, I asked for a lot of help from the department and it was readily available. This included a lot of support with writing the proposal itself, putting me in contact with a current KE Fellow, and providing peer review. I also learnt that contacting NERC itself is incredibly valuable – apparently surprisingly few people actually do this, but they are very supportive and provided me with advice ranging from the design of the project, to what margin size to use. Above all, start early giving you time for as much feedback as possible!

Kirsty High

Dr Will Unsworth - Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship

Will Unsworth

Title: Dial-a-Macrocycle: Designer Macrocycle Synthesis using Successive Ring Expansion

I started on a Leverhulme Trust Early Career fellowship in York in May 2016. By this point, I’d been in York for quite a long time, having started my first PDRA position here in 2010 with Prof. Richard Taylor, which followed a PhD in Oxford. Some would view staying in one place for this length of time as a negative; however, with research going reasonably well and with the backing of supportive colleagues, I decided to prioritise remaining in York to pursue my independent research career. I strongly believe that choosing the right department is one of the most important decisions to make when thinking about fellowships. Inevitably, you will find that you receive conflicting advice, but ultimately only you can decide where you feel you and your research will best thrive.

Applying for fellowships is difficult, time consuming and often frustrating; most applications are rejected, and I experienced this side of things myself, including unsuccessful applications for Royal Society and Ramsay Memorial Fellowships. The key here is not to get too down-hearted, accept that getting rejected is part of the job for an academic and try to learn from each experience. It is common to hear stories on proposals being improved and refined through successive applications until eventually they are funded, and I feel that this was certainly the case for me. At York I benefitted from outstanding departmental and sectional (Organic) support to help me prepare the research proposals, which were all passed through several colleagues for advice and suggestions. You will also find that good admin support is also essential (especially when complicated things like financial costings are involved) and I am certainly grateful for the excellent support offered by the department in this context also. Getting involved with reviewing the work of others is also a very useful exercise and can help you to judge your own work more objectively.

Knowing the preferences and rules of the various funders and tailoring your application accordingly is also important. For example, some funders have a clear emphasis on more applied science, or medicinal aspects, whereas others (Leverhulme for example) are generally more interested in ideas. Knowing the rules is crucial also, which was especially important in my case with my Leverhulme application: a key eligibility criteria for Leverhulme is that you must be within five years of submitting you PhD by the application deadline-  I was five years and one day, leading me to believe I was ineligible. However, I later realised that allowances are made for career breaks, and having been on two periods of paternity leave I discovered that I was in fact eligible to apply; without this realisation I would not have even applied, which is a clear demonstration of the value of reading the small print carefully!

Of course, once funded, that’s when you can get down to doing what you really want to do- the research you have spent so long writing about in your proposal! In my case, this concerns the development of new ring expansion reactions to make biologically important large ring-containing molecules. I should note that I already had some preliminarily results in place before being awarded the fellowship (which were included in the proposal, and likely contributed to its success) and I would strongly recommend that others take up any opportunities they can to do the same, for example, by supervising undergraduate project students on proof of concept studies. In my case, I also made a special effort to make my research proposals very different from my post-doc research, to help emphasise that the ideas were genuinely independent. I am now in a position where I have my own group and have the freedom to appoint PDRAs, PhDs and Masters students. I feel that I have begun to build up a thriving research group and the award of a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship has been instrumental in allowing me to do this.


Dr Liz Dickinson - Daphne Jackson Part-Time Fellowship for career break returners

Background
I had a relatively short research career before my career break – I had completed an integrated MSc and PhD in the School of Chemistry, University of Leeds, followed by a 5-month Research Assistant post. Once the post had finished, my husband and I decided that it was a good time to start a family, and so I left science in May 2009, and was a stay at home mother since then. It was my PhD supervisor who told me about the Daphne Jackson Trust Fellowships for career break returners – we met for coffee, and she told me I “just had to get back to research soon!” I found the Trust online and I saw that there was an advertisement for half sponsored fellowships funded by the RSC, looking for returning chemists.

Application Process
After deciding that I was going to apply, and knowing which aspect for my research I enjoyed the most, I immediately started to look for a group that researched chemometrics. I was thrilled to find that Dr Julie Wilson at University of York was expert in exactly what I wanted to do, and I knew that I wanted to work with her. I found her welcoming and encouraging and was pleased to find that she had projects in mind on which I could collaborate with her.
I found the whole application process generally straightforward, though lengthy (approximately 9-12 months) – not easy, very challenging, but with plenty of support throughout. I initially had a telephone interview with the Trust to confirm my eligibility and suitability, then after receiving confirmation I was invited to submit a full research proposal.
I met with Dr Wilson again, and her collaborators on the project, which helped me to see how the project would progress and it was good to meet the people who would be important in my retraining. I found the drafting of a research proposal challenging after six years break! However, Dr Wilson and her collaborators were helpful with feedback, as was the Trust’s advisor, who gave very helpful constructive criticism, including that my “Future planning” was far too vague.  It actually helped me to focus on what I would like to do in the long term too – i.e. stay in academia.

I felt that the purpose of the subsequent Fellowship “interview” (more discussion!) was to support and help me, and that the suggested changes to my proposal were most definitely improving my proposal. Once I had made revisions post-interview, the final proposal was sent to the Trust to be sent out for peer review.
I was lucky enough to have very positive reviewers’ comments, with just a couple of clarifications needed.
The time between knowing roughly when decisions were being made and hearing from the Trust was a tense time, knowing that Fellowships would be extremely competitive, but when I was called to be told that I was successful, I was elated.

Difference between start and end of fellowship application process, and tips
As a career-break returner, I think that our situations are often a little more unusual than other research fellows, and the Daphne Jackson Trust often says that most applicants lack self-confidence – I certainly think this is very true. Since my successful fellowship award, I personally feel grateful, and certainly more confident about myself that I CAN still do this, I’ve not forgotten everything, proud that I got through every stage and managed to write a good proposal after not writing for six years. I am extremely excited, definitely ambitious, and feel that I deserve to be “there” – doing research – as much as anyone else.
I know that other fellowship schemes, not just the Daphne Jackson Trust, now exist to help career break returners (Dorothy Hodgkin Royal Society and Wellcome), and I would strongly encourage anyone to apply for one who is considering returning to science. Leave plenty of time to write your proposal, you will need time for feedback and editing, and to do more research to help you try to get up to speed with current developments after your break, and to help you decide on what you would like to update and how you would like to retrain. I know it’s hard, but be specific on your future plans in your application, it will help you in the long term on how to achieve this.


You CAN do this, it’s not too late, good luck!

Liz Dickinson

Dr Derek Wann - EPSRC Career Acceleration Fellowship holder

‌I was lucky enough to be awarded a five-year EPSRC Career Acceleration Fellowship in 2010, which I held in Edinburgh and subsequently at York. Although that specific scheme does not exist any more, EPSRC still has a well-funded Fellowship programme which is open to researchers at all points in their careers. There are generally no deadlines though most subject areas assess Fellowship proposals twice a year. Notably since I applied, these Fellowships are restricted to specific research areas that are linked to EPSRC strategic priorities (and which are constantly reviewed). The main draw of the EPSRC Fellowships is the flexibility to ask for salary costs for the PI, equipment and consumables costs, and staff costs - really anything that would normally be allowed under responsive mode. The amounts requested can therefore be large (£1m for a five year Fellowship is not unreasonable).


As with all Fellowships, I believe success comes down to luck and having a great idea. Of course, we can all make our own luck! My biggest piece of advice to people applying for Fellowship funding is to start early and to make sure that everything you do (and that your current boss and collaborators do) is helping to build your track record. That might include applying for small amounts of internal funding, speaking at conferences, first authoring papers, doing some teaching, taking admin responsibility for seminars - anything that shows your independence. Although I was eventually successful in achieving a prestigious Fellowship, this was after a couple of years of trying for EPSRC Fellowships and also Royal Society URFs and the equivalent schemes offered by the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Very few people succeed first time, but every rejected application, unsuccessful Fellowship interview and the feedback that comes with them helps to hone your ideas. Good luck!

 

 


Dr Pete Edwards - Marie Skłodowska Curie Reintegration Individual Fellowship holder

After finishing my PhD in Leeds in 2011 I moved to the U.S.A. to take up a postdoc position in the Chemical Sciences division at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colorado. This provided me with valuable experience working in a world leading institution outside of Europe. Moving back to the U.K. in early 2014 I used this unique experience, and the contacts I had made in the U.S.A., as a selling point when applying for independent fellowships. During the summer of 2014 I applied for 3 different independent fellowships (NERC, Royal Society and Marie Skłodowska Curie), using similar project ideas that complimented yet aligned with current research strengths in the Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories at York. This was a busy period but I learnt a lot about writing grant applications and developing project ideas. Of these three fellowships, the NERC and Royal Society applications were unsuccessful, although I did receive very useful and detailed feedback from the NERC review panel. The Marie Skłodowska Curie Reintegration Individual Fellowship application, however, was successful. These fellowships are especially designed to help European researchers working outside of the EU return, and bring with them the skills and experience they gained.

My advice when applying for fellowships is to do your research on the available schemes, and try and think about how your skills and / or project align with the funder’s strategy. Obviously a good track record and project idea are essential, but as with all these things a large factor is luck. Consider submitting similar project ideas to multiple fellowship schemes (providing the funders allow this), as although this doesn’t reduce the workload as much as you’d like it does improve your chances of success. I would also recommend starting the application process early to give you as much opportunity as possible to get colleagues to read and comment on your application. I would also suggest getting people outside of your field to read your application and provide feedback, as it is highly unlikely that it will be an expert in your field that reviews your proposal. The feedback I got from people across the Department of Chemistry at  the University of York, and from friends in the U.S.A., was immensely helpful. Finally I would say that even if an application isn’t successful, it is still a very useful process to go through and always ask the funder for feedback on a failed application so you can improve next time.

Pete Edwards

 

Presentations

Copies of the presentations on Fellowships Open Day 2017 are available below.

Introduction to the Department of Chemistry:

Departmental Research Support
Dr Andy Goddard, Chemistry Research Facilitator

Catherine Jardine, Chemistry / Research and Enterprise

Equality and Diversity
Dr Leonie Jones, Employability and Diversity Officer

Talks from current and former fellows about their work and career:

Dr Sarah Moller

NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship holder (Atmospheric Chemistry)

Dr Liz Dickinson

Daphne Jackson Part-time Fellowship holder (Analytical Chemistry)

Dr Will Unsworth

Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship holder (Organic Chemistry)

Dr Martin Fascione

Lecturer in Chemistry (York Structural Biology Laboratory)
Former Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship holder