Postdoctoral Socio-Environmental Immersion Program 2015

Printer-friendly versionPDF version
Nov 03, 2014


Please note: late applications will not be accepted.

  • Pre-screening application deadline: September 22, 2014, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).
  • Collaborator selection and commitment deadline: October 8, 2014, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).
  • Fellowship application deadline: November 3, 2014, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).


The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), located in Annapolis, Maryland, invites applications for two-year postdoctoral fellowships that begin June 1, 2015.

The new Postdoctoral Socio-Environmental Immersion Program will bring early-career scholars to SESYNC to:

  • undertake individual synthesis projects,
  • participate in workshops led by distinguished natural scientists and social scientists, and
  • enhance their collaborative network, computational skills, and understanding of the science–policy nexus.

Fellows will undertake synthetic projects focused on ecological systems and environmental change or on social systems and environmental change. Proposed projects can be interdisciplinary, but we also welcome applications that are primarily focused on ecological science or primarily focused on social science.

Applicants should choose a project idea and work with a prospective Research Collaborator, who will function as a project mentor, to co-develop it. Research Collaborators may be either from a continually updated list of scholars (provided by SESYNC to successfully pre-screened prospective Fellows) who have expressed previous interest in working with SESYNC postdocs or someone you recruit. SESYNC must approve all potential Research Collaborators to ensure they understand the commitment they are making to your progress and success. Applications for Research Collaborators are due by September 15, 2014, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Synthesis is a research approach that accelerates knowledge production by distilling or integrating existing data, ideas, theories, and methods to draw more reliable or generalizable conclusions and to reveal novel areas of study. Synthesis often involves merging large and/or heterogeneous data sets from multiple sources, researchers, or fields of inquiry, as well as critical analysis in evaluating arguments and interpreting evidence. It can employ a diverse array of theoretical and methodological approaches (e.g., statistical/mathematical, structured case studies comparison, cultural analytics, scenario studies, game theory, ethnographic studies, organizational theory, simulation/computational modeling, etc.).

A key element of successful postdoctoral fellowship applications will be the identification of specific research questions and how they will be addressed using synthesis methods. Applications should identify the sources and accessibility of existing data and the theoretical and analytical methods to be used. Prospective Fellows should not propose projects that require extensive collection of new data. SESYNC offers substantial computational support and training opportunities for Fellows. Therefore, successful applicants need not have experience in all of the technical aspects of their analyses. Successful applications will also clearly delineate the roles of the Fellow and the Research Collaborator in the project.

Fellows have the opportunity to participate in a wealth of Center activities as observers and as active and welcome participants. These include working groups analyzing novel databases and writing papers on areas as diverse as non-native pest risk and globalization, adaptive water governance, macroevolution of ecosystem services, and differing ecological vs. political time scales.

Focus for 2015 Cohort: Ecological Systems, Social Systems & Environmental Change

Unique among environmental postdoctoral programs, a learning component of the new SESYNC postdoctoral program will steep Fellows in theory foundational to understanding socio-environmental systems. The core of this experience is a structured series of collaborative workshops led by visiting scholars but tailored to the postdoctoral experience. Periodically during the first year, small groups of distinguished scholars from disciplines important for socio-environmental research will visit SESYNC for several days of seminars, small-group discussions, and one-on-one interactions. During the second year, these scholars will revisit SESYNC for a capstone symposium with the possibility of a resulting synthetic paper(s) with the Fellows. For the 2015 postdoc cohort, the scholars will come from ecology, economics, anthropology, and sociology.

Whether you consider yourself a natural scientist, a social scientist, or an interdisciplinary environmental scientist, the SESYNC Postdoctoral Socio-Environmental Immersion Program provides the freedom and support to do cutting-edge synthesis research while increasing your capacity to collaborate across disciplinary divides. It provides opportunities to help you chart your own academic and professional path in a vibrant environment focused on actionable science for a more sustainable future.

Preliminary Screening

Interested applicants must first submit a pre-screening application. If the applicant meets the requirements below, and their background and interests are an appropriate match for SESYNC, they will then receive the list of SESYNC Research Collaborators.

To be eligible for the fellowship, prospective Fellows must have received their PhD in an appropriate discipline within the past five years: no earlier than June 1, 2010, and no later than June 1, 2015. If the applicant has not received their PhD at the time they submit their application, a letter from their graduate advisor or a committee member must also be submitted during the screening process and with the final application. The letter should verify expectations for date of degree completion. Candidates who are offered a fellowship but do not complete their PhD by June 1, 2015, will have to reapply.

To submit a pre-screening application, please go to Applicants must include a CV. If the applicant has not yet received his or her PhD, a verification letter must be included as described above.

Pre-screening applications are due September 22, 2014, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) but will be accepted on a rolling basis before then. The list of SESYNC Research Collaborators will be made available by September 23, 2014.


Upon receiving the list of SESYNC Research Collaborators, successfully pre-screened applicants should initiate contact with potential Collaborators with whom they might be interested in co-developing a synthesis research project. The list of SESYNC Research Collaborators will include preliminary project ideas, short bios, and contact information.

If the prospective Fellow and Research Collaborator mutually agree to co-develop a proposal for this fellowship, the prospective Fellow should take the lead in writing and developing the proposal.

Prospective Fellows are also invited to recruit their own Research Collaborators. However, all potential collaborators must submit an application to formally assume this role. The Research Collaborator cannot be the prospective Fellow's PhD advisor, PhD mentor, current postdoc advisor (if relevant), or past collaborator or mentor. Applications for Research Collaborators are due by September 15, 2014, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Final proposals must be submitted via a webform provided to prospective Fellows who have been successfully pre-screened. Required components of the application are described below. Fellowship applications are due by November 3, 2014, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Selection Criteria

Postdoctoral applications will be evaluated by the following criteria:

  • Explanation of how the proposed research will advance understanding of socio-environmental systems.
  • Novelty, creativity, and/or urgency of proposed activities.
  • Feasibility of producing meaningful synthetic research within a two-year time frame, including identifying and showing ability to access appropriate data and methods.
  • Applicant qualifications and experience.
  • Clear delineation of the value of the collaboration and the respective roles for the Fellow and Research Collaborator in the project.
  • Potential to contribute to and benefit from other research activities at the Center.
  • Explanation of interest in interdisciplinary and/or transdisciplinary research.

If invited, candidates must be available for Skype interviews on January 22 and 23, 2015, and for in-person interviews at SESYNC on February 16 and 17, 2015


Appointments will be through the University of Maryland, and fellowship awardees must be based at SESYNC’s facilities in Annapolis, Maryland. Depending on their research interests, Fellows may choose to spend part of their time at the offices of our partner organization, Resources for the Future, located in Washington, D.C.

The SESYNC postdoctoral fellowship provides an annual stipend, full University of Maryland employee benefits, and a small annual travel allowance to attend meetings or to meet with collaborators.

Postdoctoral fellowships are awarded for a maximum of two years and include structured mentoring programs, facilitated access to policy makers, and opportunities to participate in ongoing Center activities.

SESYNC Research Collaborators will also receive support to travel to SESYNC to work with the Fellow.


Pre-screening application deadline: September 22, 2014, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Collaborator selection and commitment deadline: October 8, 2014, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Fellowship application deadline: November 3, 2014, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Components of an Application

Include the following as a single PDF, using single spacing, 12-pt type fonts, and 1-inch margins. Applications that do not submit the correct components will not be sent for review. Applications, as well as reference letters and Research Collaborator letter, must be received by SESYNC by November 3, 2014, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).

[1] Cover Sheet (1 page)

  • Descriptive title (“SESYNC Postdoc: ….”)
  • Short title (25 characters max)
  • Name and contact information
  • Date of PhD defense: If the defense has not yet occurred, applicants need a letter from their graduate advisor or committee member verifying the expected data of completion. Candidates who are not expected to complete their PhD by June 1, 2015, will be removed from competition.
  • SESYNC Research Collaborator name, title, and affiliation
  • Project summary (250 words), appropriate for the public and to be posted on the SESYNC website
  • Keywords (up to 5 keywords different from those used in the title)
  • Potential conflicts of interest with members of the SESYNC Scientific Review Committee or Leadership Team (A conflict of interest will not disadvantage your application. Rather, we need this information to follow proper review protocol.)

[2] Research Proposal (5 pages max, including references)

  • Problem statement: Clear and concise statement of the project goals including specific research questions and how the project will advance understanding of socio-environmental systems
  • Methods to be used for the synthesis project
  • Description of prospective Fellow’s and Research Collaborator’s respective roles in the project and plans for maintaining communication throughout the project

[3] Status of Synthesis Material (1 page max)

  • Type of material (datasets, models, case studies, theories, etc.)
  • Location and accessibility of material

[4] Anticipated Cyberinfrastructure Needs (1 page max)

If applicable, briefly describe any anticipated needs for cyberinfrastructure support. This information should include descriptions of data sets to be used during this project; new data sets or software/databases to be developed; high performance computing needs; required data aggregation or fusion; and visualization software needs. Applicants should review SESYNC's IT and Data and Software policies and are encouraged to contact SESYNC cyberinfrastructure staff prior to submission if the project’s needs are beyond the scope of services outlined in these documents.

[5] Interdisciplinary Goals (~1/2 page)

In a paragraph of 200 words max, describe one or two topics and/or methods outside your area of expertise about which you would like to deepen your knowledge. One of SESYNC’s strengths is its diverse interdisciplinary culture, which provides many opportunities for such growth. For example, an ecologist proposing a project on nutrient dynamics in marine reserves could learn social network theory and techniques to illuminate relationships among people using reserves. Past and current postdocs have learned about development economics, agent-based modeling, and data visualization techniques, to name a few.

[6] Full CV of the Applicant

Include names and contact information for two references.

Letters of Recommendation & Commitment

Please arrange for each reference to provide a letter of recommendation regarding your:

  • background,
  • ability to carry out the independent research as proposed, and
  • ability to engage in collaborative research as part of the SESYNC community.

These letters should be submitted directly by the recommender, separately from your application, via email to:

Please also arrange for a letter of commitment from your SESYNC Research Collaborator describing their view of their role and commitment as mentor and collaborator. These letters should be submitted directly by the Collaborator via email to:

All letters of recommendation must be submitted by the application deadline of November 3, 2014, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Application & Submission Process

Access to the approved list of Research Collaborators and the URL for the application webform will be emailed to all successfully pre-screened applicants.

Applications must be submitted as a single PDF file with all sections in the following order:

  1. Cover Sheet
  2. Research Proposal
  3. Status of Synthesis Material
  4. Anticipated Cyberinfrastructure Needs
  5. Interdisciplinary Goals
  6. Full CV of the Applicant

International applicants should review visa requirements before applying.

The deadline for applications for fellowships beginning June 1, 2015, is November 3, 2014, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).


Please contact Dr.  Bill Burnside via email at:

The University of Maryland is an Equal Opportunity Employer
Minorities and Women Are Encouraged to Apply

Share: Facebook Icon Twitter Icon Linked Icon