Mission and Vision
Grainger Fellows in the Department of Physics are a vibrant and close-knit group of postdoctoral researchers. They enjoy remarkable freedom and independence to pursue groundbreaking research across all areas of experimental physics at the University of Chicago. Our research spans atomic physics, soft matter and condensed matter physics to astrophysics and particle physics undertaken at local and international laboratories. We tackle the most important and interesting problems through rigorous inquiry and pioneering techniques. The principal mission of the fellowship is to attract experimental physicists in any field at the early stage of their careers from diverse intellectual backgrounds to Chicago and provide them with an inclusive world-class environment for their research to thrive.
Fellows are free to lead their own research program and collaborate with local research groups of their own choice. They have access to state-of-the-art facilities, mentoring from leaders in the field, and collaboration with outstanding students on campus. This is accomplished through cross-appointments at one or more of our renowned research institutes – the James Frank Institute (JFI), Enrico Fermi Institute (EFI), and Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP), Institute of Biophysical Dynamics (IBD), Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) – each with their own unique, friendly and lively research communities. These are all conveniently located adjacent to the historic quadrangles, enabling easy access to any community within a few minutes’ walk. The Chicago campus features numerous new laboratories, for example the KICP and PME are housed in the Eckhardt Research Center opened in 2015, and the EFI is located in the completely refurbished Michelson Center for Physics that reopened in 2017. Fellows also benefit from the proximity and close-ties with Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory for collaboration, where several faculty hold cross-appointments.
The interdisciplinary research institutes are a unique structure at Chicago to cultivate creative research that often emerge at the boundaries of traditional disciplines, supported by the academic freedom of the Grainger Fellowship. Fellows are drawn to this curiosity-driven culture of Chicago and enjoy our eclectic colloquia and seminar series in the department and research institutes. Our friendly environment encourages informal conversations between speakers, fellows and local communities. In particular, postdoctoral fellows enjoy regular lunches at the Quadrangle Club to meet distinguished colloquium speakers. In addition to faculty mentoring, fellows have access to all UChicagoGRAD career development services on campus. These programs succeed because our culture takes pride in promoting open exchange of ideas, challenging our own views and engaging with disciplines beyond our own expertise. We are always excited to see how our fellows change the way we think about our subject.
Diversity and inclusion is integral to the mission of the university and department with continued commitment to this institutional value. The physics community is no exception and we foster an environment where anyone pursuing scientific learning and inquiry at Chicago, regardless of sociodemographic background, feels included and can thrive. This is reflected no less in the diversity of the student body who regularly participate in research activities mentored by postdoctoral fellows. As independent early career members of the Department of Physics, fellows are leaders committed to fostering diversity, inclusion, and well-being within the Department of Physics and greater Chicago area. We support and uplift members of our community who are historically underrepresented in physics including regular departmental Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committees, Women and Gender Minorities in Physics (WaGMiP) to university-wide First-Generation, Low-Income, Immigrant (FLI) networks. Our facilities welcome those who require elevator and ramp access to all floors, and are fitted with all-gender single-use restrooms. No matter your demographic and socioeconomic background, there is a place for you to pursue research here in Chicago.
Our department enjoys broad outreach opportunities, complementing institute activities such as KICP’s outreach program and EFI’s Compton lecture series to engage with the wider community. This is part of important efforts to widen participation in physics, where fellows are always welcome to participate and propose their own projects. We furthermore believe a supportive community along with individual well-being are fundamental to academic success. A central part of our culture is social events during academic quarters, notably the popular Physics Tea Time bringing the whole department together for informal catch-ups as well research-institute specific such as Cookies, Coffee, and Conversation in KICP. Fellows also enjoy the full breadth of cultural activities away from the laboratory in the city and greater Chicago area. This includes renowned museums and galleries, a vast network of trails, gardens and parks, sports events, the beautiful lakefront, eclectic cuisine, theatre and arts, music festivals and concerts.
We are committed to increasing the diversity of our department at all levels including Grainger Fellows. Prospective candidates who identify with under-represented groups including women, racial and gender minorities, those with disabilities, as well as first-generation, low-income, and immigrant demographics are especially encouraged to apply. We recognise and welcome applicants who may require flexibility or have career breaks due to parental, health, caregiving and other personal circumstances, and are committed to supporting these individuals at Chicago. We value education, outreach and efforts that foster a more supportive, diverse and inclusive departmental climate, and welcome application materials highlighting such activities. International applications are welcome from candidates of any nationality and citizenship. The fellowship period is two years and research groups typically support postdoctoral fellows who wish to continue beyond this period through mutual agreement and availability of funds.
Mr. David Grainger and The Grainger Foundation generously created the Grainger Postdoctoral Fellows Fund in 1986, responding to a need Professor James Cronin expressed to provide support for postdoctoral scholars. This was the first fellowship of its kind in the Physics Department, providing a competitive offer to attract talented Physics postdoctoral researchers.