Science and Innovation Fellowship

The Science and Innovation Fellowship at the Center on the Developing Child supports the research of Harvard University advanced doctoral students whose work is related to early childhood health, learning, and behavior. Selected fellows receive a stipend and join an active, interdisciplinary learning community for one academic year. The goal of the fellowship is to support a new generation of leaders who will drive innovation that impacts the early childhood field and the lives of children facing adversity.

Science and Innovation Fellowship

Open to all Harvard Doctoral Students

Join a cohort of innovators working across disciplines to impact the early childhood field and the lives of children facing adversity.

PLEASE NOTE: The Science and Innovation Fellowship at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard will be on pause for the 2022–2023 academic year and will not be recruiting a cohort.

June 16, 2021 The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University announced today that three Harvard doctoral students have been awarded Science and Innovation Fellowships for the 2021- 2022 academic year. Each Fellow will receive a grant to support her or his independent dissertation research.

The Fellowship was created with the aim of creating a new generation of leaders who will leverage science for innovation in early childhood policy and practice settings to make research actionable. The Fellowship program fosters interdisciplinary collaboration and builds each Fellow’s capacity to design, conduct, and translate research into practices and policies that will improve outcomes for children facing adversity.

The year-long fellowship experience is designed around a cohort model that prioritizes the development of a multi-disciplinary learning community. Fellows are encouraged to share learning across their respective fields and constructively question their own thinking as well as each other’s. Fellows receive training in the IDEAS Impact Framework, a science-based innovation approach to program development and evaluation. They learn strategies for effectively framing and communicating their research to non-scientific audiences, as well as how to develop effective policy design and good leadership practices. Fellows give a capstone academic roundtable to an invited group of interdisciplinary Harvard experts. This unique opportunity allows Fellows to receive different perspectives and constructive feedback on their research.

Over the past 13 years, this fellowship program has supported 53 emerging scholars whose research is focused on a range of factors that can affect early childhood development, with a view to finding novel solutions to persistent challenges.

Learn more about the 2021-2022 Science and Innovation Fellows

For More Information

Science and Innovation Fellowship logo

Who is Eligible?

Science and Innovation Fellowships at the Center on the Developing Child are open to Harvard University doctoral students whose research aligns with the mission of the Center. Students from the biological and social sciences (e.g., HMS, T.H. Chan, GSAS) as well as Harvard’s professional schools (e.g., HKS, HLS, HBS, and HGSE) are eligible to apply. Applications are available in the Fall and are due to the Center in January. Decisions are made in the Spring. The fellowship year runs from September through May.

Fellowship Program Components

The fellowship program is designed to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and cultivate a robust learning community. In addition, we deepen each fellow’s capacity to design, apply, and translate research to advance work with children who face adversity. It includes:

  • A stipend to support each fellow’s independent dissertation research;
  • A series of monthly skill-building workshops to prepare students to serve as emerging leaders and change agents in their respective fields; and
  • A capstone interdisciplinary roundtable, hosted by each fellow with an invited group of experts.

Fellows are expected to participate in all fellowship activities. At the beginning of the fellowship year, fellows create a work plan for the research activities they will conduct during the fellowship. They share progress with their fellowship mentor, Center staff, and cohort members throughout the year. During the year, working sessions provide the fellows with training in the Center’s approach to science-based innovation, including the IDEAS Impact Framework and “Science X Design” curriculum, as well as strategies related to communicating research to non-scientific audiences, leadership practices, and stakeholder and community engagement. In the Spring of the fellowship year, each fellow gives a capstone presentation on their research to an invited group of faculty of the fellow’s choosing along with key stakeholders of the community. This academic roundtable is a unique opportunity for the fellow to receive feedback from and ask questions of their personal “dream team” of interdisciplinary experts.

Application Requirements

What are the components of the application?

  • Statement of Interest
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Official Harvard Transcript
  • Letter of Recommendation (from the Harvard faculty member who will serve as fellowship mentor)

Candidates should have excellent academic records and defined research interests related to early childhood health, learning, and behavior. Priority will be given to candidates whose work aligns with the Center’s mission crosses disciplinary boundaries, and offers promising new thinking in support of the healthy development of children and their families. Candidates may explore the Science section for key concepts that are related to the Center’s mission, including:

  • Reducing the damaging effects of stress and adversity on early childhood development and adult caregiving
  • Building resilience and promoting protective factors in early childhood
  • Investigating gene-environment interactions and implications for early childhood health, learning, and behavior

All Harvard University doctoral students from the biological and social sciences as well as the professional schools are eligible to apply. As part of the application, each candidate must name a Harvard faculty member who will serve as a mentor during the fellowship year. The mentor’s responsibilities include providing input on the fellowship year work plan and helping to identify an interdisciplinary group of university faculty and key community stakeholders to provide feedback at the fellow’s capstone presentation. There is an expectation that significant progress will be made on the fellow’s research during the year; specific benchmarks will be determined individually with input from the faculty mentor. The mentor will need to be an on-site Harvard professor to maximize engagement and participation for the duration of the fellowship year.

Statement of Interest

The Statement of Interest consists of three required sections (with approx. 550 words per section): Personal Essay, Research Focus and Its Implications; and Leadership Capacity and Vision. It represents an opportunity to introduce yourself and provide insight into your career aspirations. You should describe your research agenda, its connection to the Center’s mission and the early childhood field, and the implications your research may have for catalyzing innovative thinking or action in early childhood policy or practice. Include your leadership experiences as well as any additional relevant information about your background. Please be sure that when you describe your research topic and its connection to the Center, you include your research question along with the current status of your dissertation research. Provide a detailed description of the scope of the research you want to focus on in your fellowship year.

Official Harvard Transcript

Official transcripts must be requested from your school’s Registrars’ office or from the National Student Clearinghouse. (NOTE: Requests may take 2-4 weeks to process, and longer during holidays. Harvard University offices are closed December 24, 2021 to January 1, 2022 and will reopen January 3, 2022. It is the applicant’s responsibility to confirm that the transcript will arrive by the application deadline.) Transcripts should be emailed to For details on mailing a hard copy of your transcript, please see the Application FAQs.

Letter of Recommendation

The letter of recommendation from the Harvard faculty member who has agreed to serve as your fellowship mentor should include:

  • Details on your capacity to draw on the program’s scaffold to advance your work;
  • The importance of your research to innovating in practice or policy contexts; and
  • Any additional relevant details on your background.
  • The Harvard faculty fellowship mentor should complete the letter of recommendation on department letterhead, and email it as a PDF to by the application deadline. The email subject line should be: SIF.Rec.Ltr.StudentLastName.

For additional application details and questions, please see our Application FAQs.

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