Soft AE Fellows Application Process

Applications are currently being accepted for NRT Soft AE Fellows to join the program starting in Spring 2024 semester.

Eligibility to Apply:  Penn graduate students whose research interests align with the general Soft AE scientific goal of deploying autonomous experimentation (AE) to accelerate soft materials experimentation.

Applicants should also be interested in and open to learning about science policy. First and second year PhD students who would like to build a substantial part of their dissertation around the use of autonomous experimentation for soft materials research are especially invited to apply. Students later in their programs who already have strong research compatibility with the research theme of using autonomous experimentation for soft materials research are also welcome to apply.

There are no citizenship restrictions for application. Some of our stipend-funded slots are restricted to U.S. nationals, but there are a limited number available for other citizens.

Soft AE Fellow positions will come with access to research, travel and Immersive Experience funding. A subset of the positions will also include funding towards the students’ stipend and tuition. The other Soft AE positions depend on departmental or PI-based support of the student’s stipend and tuition (i.e., would be non-NRT funded).

If you are offered a position, details will be clear on your offer letter and available to you and your PI before you decide to accept the offer.

Expectations:  Soft AE Fellows (and their PIs) should be fully supportive of the overall NSF’s NRT goals and excited to participate and grow the NRT Soft AE community at Penn. Please read and explore these NSF NRT pages on Impact and Innovation, including the left side-bar information (About the NRT and Program Building Blocks).

Participation as a Fellow would include some or all of these components, depending on how early or far along a trainee is in their PhD program when they start the Soft AE program: a) formal coursework, b) inter- and transdisciplinary research and research communication workshops and forums, c) seminars bringing together data science, soft materials and science policy experts and learners, d) grad student workshops on career navigation, skills and exploration, e) outreach/mentorship to more junior and potential Soft AE trainees, f) participation in NRT-network wide (or subsets of related NRT) meetings, programs, events, g) commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity values and support of Soft AE efforts to diversifying and broadening participation in STEM, h) an Immersive Experience that would be tailored to and advance Fellows’ NRT-related research (e.g., for data collection, extended workshop, or internship) or training (e.g,. understanding of science policy, science communication skills) at an institution external to Penn (e.g., National Labs, Industry, Government, NGOs, non-Penn higher education, i) community engagement/other outreach aligned with the NRT Soft AE areas, and j) active participation in the evaluation and assessment process of our Soft AE program.

Applicants should first discuss the NRT Soft AE program and their application with their Penn faculty supervisor(s). Applicants will need the support of their PIs to be competitive in their applications.

Deadline: All materials must be received by 5 pm, January 8, 2024 (Philadelphia time).

Application Components: Applicants should submit the following items to be considered.

  • Completed Application Form
  • CV (3-page maximum)
  • Current Penn Transcript (unofficial is OK)
  • Statements (2-page, single space, 11+ point font, maximum each): 1) Research: Provide a brief summary of your current research, broader research interests and how they are relevant to the Soft AE Program. 2) Training and Diversity: Discuss your longer-term professional plans and how joining a NRT could facilitate these plans including how you might use the Immersive Experience component of the program; feel free to include any thoughts about general/current PhD training available to you. Include how you envision diversity, inclusion and equity (however you would like to approach these topics) as part of either training or outcomes of training.
  • Letter of support from your primary faculty supervisor (emailed directly from the faculty member to the email below; if you are co-supervised, you can include a letter from 1 or both). Letters that address support and fit of your specific participation, as well as general support for and willingness to engage in the Soft AE Program (as a PI) will provide for the strongest applications.

All materials, other than the form, should be directed to Kristin Field ( Please put your “Last name, First name and NRT Application” in the subject line.

Questions can be directed to K. Field at the same email address.