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Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to common questions about Beckman Center fellowships. Please also read our guide for applicants for more detailed information, including the application process and selection criteria.

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Life at the Institute | The Beckman Center Application | Visas for International Fellows

Life at the Science History Institute

What sorts of projects does the Science History Institute fund?

Our fellows’ research projects cover a wide variety of subjects. Fellows studying the history of 16th-century alchemy will find themselves next to someone researching the history of 20th- and 21st-century semiconductors or pharmaceuticals. The eligibility of research topics is explained on the main fellowship page. You can also read about the research interests of our current and former fellows.

Will I have to be in Philadelphia all the time?

All our fellowships are residential. This means that you need to live within 20 miles (32 km) of Philadelphia and be present at the Institute during the work week. While you may leave for short periods (e.g., conference travel), extended periods of absence are only permissible for medical emergencies or other special circumstances to be agreed in advance with the director. In those cases your stipend and fellowship may be suspended or even canceled. It is important that you contact us immediately in case of an emergency so that we can decide the best course of action.

Am I expected to keep set hours?

No, but please be mindful that although staff members work flexible hours, they are almost always in the building between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Obviously we like you to be around during the workday as much as possible to enable interaction with staff and other fellows, but if there is a clear benefit to your research for you to work elsewhere, this can be arranged. Long-term fellows have keys to the building and can also work before or after hours, including on weekends.

What latitude do I have for attending conferences and colloquia?

We encourage our fellows to attend conferences and colloquia and engage with local academic communities. You do not need to ask for permission to travel to conferences or to attend colloquia, but you should always notify the director of your absence. All Science History Institute fellows should identify themselves as such in any presentations made during the academic year in which they hold their fellowship, though if you have another affiliation, listing dual affiliation is entirely appropriate.

Are there any additional requirements of the fellowship?

We ask that you attend weekly Lunchtime Lectures, weekly check-in meetings, and our biweekly work-in-progress series. You should also drop in to the weekly bring-your-own social fellows’ lunches whenever possible.

What hours do fellows have access to the Othmer Library?

The Othmer Library is open for fellows Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Most of our books are in closed stacks, so you need to request books to check out. The process is easy, and books are made available quickly. Reference books are accessible in our reading room for everyone but cannot be checked out.

Will I be able to use the University of Pennsylvania’s library system?

Once in residence you will be able to apply for a PennCard, with visiting student/scholar status, which grants full access to the University of Pennsylvania’s libraries, online journals, and databases and will allow you to make use of other Penn facilities.

I am someone who requires accommodations for a disability. How will the Institute meet my needs while I am a fellow?

The Science History Institute is committed to ensuring that everyone can experience our collections, research, and facilities. You can read more about our efforts on our accessibility page. We invite you to share how we can be more accessible to you while you are here as a fellow. Please email accessibility@sciencehistory.org or call 215.925.2222 with requests, questions, or feedback.

How will I be paid?

You will be paid throughout your stay in regular installments (once a month for Beckman Center fellowships, usually twice a month for other fellowships). It is very easy, even for non-Americans, to open a local bank account (free of charge), and your stipend will be paid directly into your U.S. bank account. Your stipend can also be wired to an account abroad, but it is not recommended.

What should I know for my first few days as a fellow?

On your first day you are introduced to the Institute through orientations about our building, library, computer procedures, and so on. We provide you with printed guides to the Institute and do everything we can to make your transition a smooth one. (Please note that since we enroll several staff members in your orientation, it is vital that we know the exact date of your arrival at the Institute and that you arrive promptly at the scheduled time.)

Will I have an opportunity to work with other parts of the organization?

Yes! We think it is important to connect ongoing scholarship to audiences beyond academia. Though we do so directly through weekly lunchtime lecture talks and regular public lectures like Fellow in Focus, we also encourage fellows to take part in the Institute’s broader public offerings, both as facilitators and visitors. We see doing so not only as a public service and an important part of a scholar’s life but also as a great way to develop or enhance public speaking, teaching, and multimedia skills—all of which are becoming increasingly important to working both inside and outside the academy.
 

Past fellows have developed public programs, given lectures, taken part in online Twitter chats, written for the Institute’s publications, and more. For more information about outreach opportunities for fellows, contact Rebecca Ortenberg at rortenberg@sciencehistory.org.

The Beckman Center Online Application

How do I apply for a Beckman Center fellowship?

Beckman Center fellowships require an online application. We do NOT accept paper applications. If you are having trouble with the online application, please contact us at fellowships@sciencehistory.org.

When will applications be available?

Beckman Center applications usually become available by the fall preceding a fellowship year. For example, you can expect applications for 2020–2021/2022 fellowships to be available in November 2019.

When are successful candidates notified?

Once the application deadline passes, a peer-review committee convenes to evaluate the applications as soon as possible. You can expect to hear from us within three months of submission, regardless of the outcome of your application.

How are references submitted?

On the application form you will provide the names and contact details of two referees. When you submit your application, these individuals will immediately receive an email instructing them on how to submit the letter through our website. Please inform them that you have planned to use them as a reference and that they should have a letter ready to submit. Reference letters are due within two weeks of the application deadline.

Help! The online application isn’t working! What do I do?

When too many people are trying to submit applications at once, applicants sometimes receive an error message when submitting. This is especially common on the day of the application deadline. If you are having trouble, try again in a few minutes or a few hours. Another common problem has to do with an applicant’s browser; if you experience difficulty, try clearing your cache, quit and restart the browser, and then try to submit again. If you still encounter problems, you can send your application materials in a PDF or Word document to fellowships@sciencehistory.org.

Visas for International Fellows (Beckman Center fellows only)

Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to apply for a fellowship?

No, Beckman Center fellowships are open to applicants of any nationality with the necessary academic credentials. For all other fellowships, applicants must be eligible to work in the United States.

Does the Institute provide visas to international fellows?

Yes, Beckman Center fellows will be provided with visas, which are provided via the University of Pennsylvania Office of International Programs. For all other fellowship opportunities please email the appropriate contact person to find out if you require a visa and, if so, what kind of visa might be necessary.

How does the visa process work?

If we are providing you with a visa, a staff member will contact you in advance of your fellowship with instructions for obtaining that visa. Once you receive this information, you should begin the process as soon as possible as it sometimes takes several months. The Science History Institute is able to provide only J-1 visas to international fellows. These visas are intended generally, barring extenuating circumstances, to begin when the scholar’s residence at the Institute begins. The fellow must without exception be in residence for a visa to be active. Absences of more than 30 days will result in a forfeiting of the visa, as per U.S. requirements. We provide visas through the University of Pennsylvania and in compliance with the federal government. We are not visa specialists and recommend that all international scholars read their information for visiting scholars and contact their office directly with specific questions.

What are the language requirements?

Excellent spoken and written English is essential: once at the Institute, fellows are full members of the Science History Institute community, participating in writing groups and discussions, and use English daily. The University of Pennsylvania has adopted new requirements for proof of competency in English, which can be satisfied with an interview, TOEFL scores, or educational or work experience in an English-speaking university. We will contact you with specific instructions for verifying competency, if English is not your native language, after you have been awarded a fellowship. Please contact fellowships@sciencehistory.org if you have questions or concerns.