Cornell chosen to host fellowship in planetary astronomy

Cornell has been selected as one of 14 U.S.-based host institutions for the 51 Pegasi b Postdoctoral Fellowship in Planetary Astronomy. The fellowship, supported by the Heising-Simons Foundation, provides up to eight postdoctoral scientists per year up to $375,000 of support for independent research over three years. The fellowship includes mentorship, an annual summit, and the opportunity to conduct theoretical, observational, and experimental research in planetary astronomy.

According to Nikole Lewis, assistant professor of astronomy, Cornell was chosen to host this fellowship because it is one of the few places in the U.S. that includes planetary science as part of the astronomy department.

“The intersection of planetary science and astronomy is our bread and butter; it’s the Cornell legacy,” she said. “At Cornell, projects that cross over between solar system and exoplanetary system science are common.”

More than two dozen researchers at Cornell are engaged in planetary astronomy and exoplanet science research, including both theory and observations. As Lewis notes, Cornell is a leader in solar system missions. The co-location of planetary science and astronomy fields in a single building has fostered interdisciplinary research spanning nearly a dozen space and ground-based facilities, in numerous disciplinary areas, such as exoplanet observations and instrument development. The interdisciplinary Carl Sagan Institute, for example, is developing the forensic toolkit to find life in the universe, whether inside the Solar System or beyond.

Established in 2017, the Heising-Simons Foundation 51 Pegasi b Fellowship is named for the first exoplanet discovered orbiting a Sun-like star.

Applications for the 2020 fellowships will open on July 15, 2019 at 9AM (Pacific time) and will close on September 20, 2019 at 11:59PM (Pacific time). Individuals who belong to groups that have been historically underrepresented in planetary sciences and astronomy such as women, persons with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, gender and sexual minorities, and others who may contribute to diversification of the field are particularly encouraged to apply.

Further information regarding the 51 Pegasi b Fellowship at Cornell is available from Professor Lewis at

Image credit: NASA/JPL

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