In recognition of Stephen Hawking’s exceptional contributions to scientific knowledge and popularisation of science, UKRI is supporting fellowships, delivered jointly by STFC and EPSRC, to support and develop the next generation of visionary scientists in theoretical physics at the beginning of their careers.

The objectives of the scheme are:

  • To fund new high quality research and support the development and training of postdoctoral researchers in the field of theoretical physics.
  • To train a cohort of researchers with the skills to continue a legacy of public engagement in the field of theoretical physics.

The fellowships provide up to 4 years’ funding for fellows with a strong passion for curiosity-driven science that seek to challenge current assumptions, advance scientific knowledge and inspire the public through their discoveries. The funding also supports training on public engagement and scientific communication to develop skills to explain complex scientific ideas to wider audiences and with the aim of continuing Stephen Hawking’s work in bringing science into popular culture.

Proposals are welcomed from all areas of theoretical physics and areas of mathematics and computer sciences which underpin and contribute to the development of theoretical physics. The scope of the fellowships extends beyond Stephen Hawking’s active areas of research such as cosmology, general relativity and quantum gravity and UKRI invite other aspects of theoretical physics such as classical gravity, string theory, statistical physics, nuclear physics, particle physics, particle astrophysics, theoretical astronomy, solar and planetary physics.

Proposals are also welcome from across the fundamental mathematical and computer sciences where the applicant can demonstrate that the research will underpin these approaches and can directly build capability in the area of theoretical physics, such as quantum computing.

Deadline and timescales (2020)

We do not currently know when the next round (round 2) will be open to applications, the last round (round 1) was in 2020, information from that call included below for reference. Please note the STFC website advises that 'applicants who apply for a STFC Ernest Rutherford Fellowship in the 2021 to 2022 round cannot apply for a Stephen Hawking Fellowship round two.'

The UKRI assessment process for the Stephen Hawking Fellowships follows three stages – an outline submission, an invited full proposal and an interview stage.

UKRI have now placed a cap on the number of applications any institution can submit and the Department of Physics will be running an internal sift process to select Oxford's ten candidates.

Applications for that sift should be sent to by noon on 14 October 2020 and we intend to let applicants know the panel outcomes by 28 October. This will then give selected applicants three weeks to work with their Research Facilitators to develop the proposal for the outline funder application.

Please read the funder guidance in detail to ensure you understand the call requirements before writing your sift proposal. Do note that this is a post-doctoral level fellowship, therefore award holders will not be eligible to apply for further Research Council funds, e.g. New Investigator Awards, as PIs or Co-Is in their own right. Please also note that you must have been awarded your PhD at time of application, ie by 18 November. The funders have clarified that the call is not intended to cover theoretical biophysics.

Please send the following by noon on 14 October 2020:

  • 2-page CV in funder format using the template available on the funder webpage
  • 2-page outline proposal submitted in the expected funder format for the full proposal (ie in 11pt Arial with 2cm page margins). As the first stage funder sift will be on “Research Quality” and “Research Importance” (see p12 of guidance) it is recommended that you spend the greater proportion of your two pages demonstrating how your proposal meets those criteria. However, the panel will be interested to read how you intend to fulfil the public engagement criteria of the full proposal call, and we therefore recommend that you outline that in a short section (no more than half a page).
  • Name of Oxford academic sponsor who has agreed to assist with your full proposal if you are selected as an Oxford candidate. This is likely to be the named individual who will act as your mentor should your proposal be awarded. Please let us know if you are expecting different individuals to undertake these roles.
  • Statement that Oxford is your first choice of institution to hold a Stephen Hawking Fellowship. Whilst we understand that, given the limited number of places each University can support, applicants may wish to apply to the internal sift processes of more than one institution, we expect any candidate applying for the Oxford sift process to be able to continue their application to the funder submission stage if selected by our panel.