Below are many of the most common questions asked by prospective and new fellows at CHF. If you have any questions that are not addressed here, simply e-mail fellowships@chemheritage.org or travelgrants@chemheritage.org.

Application process

  • Am I allowed to apply for a concurrent fellowship?

    There is no restriction on having a concurrent fellowship as long as it doesn’t prevent you from working on the research outlined in your proposal and from participating in the scholarly activities at CHF (i.e. from being “in residence” here, Monday through Friday, 9-5).

  • When are successful candidates notified?

    Once the application deadline passes in mid-February, a peer-review committee convenes to evaluate the applications as soon as possible. You can expect to hear from us by the end of May, regardless of the outcome of your application.

  • Is my research project appropriate? What sorts of projects does CHF fund?

    Our fellows’ research projects cover a wide variety of subjects and time periods, owing to CHF’s desire to broadly construe our mission to support research in the history and social studies of the chemical and molecular sciences, technologies, medicine, and industries. Fellows studying the history of 16th-century alchemy will find themselves next to someone researching the history of 20th- and 21st-century semiconductors or pharmaceuticals. To learn more about the research interests of our current and past fellows, please visit our current fellows page. If you have any concerns about whether your project is appropriate, please contact us.

  • How are references submitted?

    In the application form you will provide the names and contact details of two referees. We will e-mail your references, instructing them on how to submit the letter through our Web site. Please inform them that you have planned to use them as a reference and that they should have a letter ready to submit. Your referees will be asked to submit their references by February 28.

International fellows

  • Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to apply for a fellowship?

    No, fellowships are open to applicants of any nationality with the necessary academic credentials.

  • Does CHF provide visas to foreign fellows?

    Yes, we are fortunate to be able to maintain a relationship with the University of Pennsylvania’s History and Sociology of Science (HSSC) Department such that the Penn Office of International Programs provides visas for our fellows. They do so because CHF Fellows actively engage with life at University of Pennsylvania.

  • How does the visa process work?

    CHF is able to provide only J1 visas to international fellows. These visas are intended generally, barring extenuating circumstances, to begin on September 1, when the scholar’s residence at CHF begins. The fellow must, without exception, be in residence for a visa to be active. Absences of more than 30 days will result in a notification of Penn OIP and forfeiting of the visa, as per United States requirements.

    While we do provide visas, we do so through the University of Pennsylvania and in compliance with the Federal Government. We are not visa specialists and recommend that all international scholars read the Penn OIP information page on J1 visas and contact their office directly with specific questions. For more on visas and Penn OIP, please see: http://www.upenn.edu/oip/isss/j1/scholar

  • What are the language requirements (if any)?

    Excellent spoken and written English is essential: once at CHF, fellows are full members of the CHF community, participating in writing groups and discussions, and use English daily.

Life at CHF and other logistical details

  • When should I arrive at Philadelphia for my fellowship? How long is appropriate for me to stay?

    Our fellows should arrive around the beginning of September, but a few folks like to start a little early (late August) or a little later (late September) if they have prior commitments (such as giving a paper at a conference). Our fellows typically depart in June, though some choose to stay on for the summer. For the most part, we cannot accommodate fellows before July 15 in the fellowship year for which you apply.

  • Will I have to be in Philadelphia all the time?

    The CHF fellowships require fellows to be in residence throughout their fellowship tenure. While you may leave for short periods (e.g., conference travel), extended periods of absence are only permissible for medical emergencies or other special circumstances. In those cases, your stipend and fellowship may be suspended or even canceled. It is important that you contact us immediately in case of an emergency so that we can decide the best course of action.

  • Is it possible to split my fellowship term up?

    No. If you apply for a short-term fellowship, you must be able to take the fellowship that you apply for and accept at one continuous stretch. You may reduce the length of your short-term fellowship to accommodate your schedule but the stipend will also be reduced by a comparable amount.

  • How will my stipend be paid, and to where?

    Your stipend will be paid throughout your stay in regular installments. It is very easy, even for non-Americans, to open a bank account here (free of charge), and your stipend will be paid directly into your US bank account.

  • Do I get a research allowance in addition to my stipend?

    All of our long-term fellowships come with a research allowance. Postdoctoral fellows receive $2,000 and dissertation fellows receive $1,000 in addition to their fellowship stipends. These allowances can only be spent while you are a CHF Fellow. Short-term fellows do not receive a research allowance.

  • What can I use my research allowance for?

    Your allowance can be used to reimburse you for any research-related expenses you incur while a CHF Fellow. Examples of appropriate expenses would be for travel to an academic conference or workshop (including food and lodging while there), travel to use other research collections, photocopying or other duplication costs of research materials, and oral history interviews. You may not use this allowance for personal expenses, such as travel to and from your home. You should obtain previous approval from the Library Director to be sure that your expense will be eligible for reimbursement.

  • Will I need to pay taxes on my stipend?

    U.S. federal taxes are not withheld on fellowships for students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. You can find additional information about tax issues related to your fellowship awards on the Web at the IRS’s Tax Information for Students Web site. For international fellows, the tax situation depends on the rules and regulations of your home country. The University of Pennsylvania’s Web site has general tax information for international students and scholars.

  • Will CHF provide health insurance?

    No. You are responsible for your own health insurance during your stay at CHF. There are several companies through which fellows can purchase health insurance. International fellows should investigate health coverage from their home country (for instance, one-year travel insurance). Those traveling on a J1 visa may also need to show proof of health insurance coverage to enter the United States.

  • What IT facilities are there at CHF?

    Fellows with their own offices (all long-term and some short-term fellows) will have a PC in the office for their use. You can also bring your laptop along. There are printers for everyone’s use on each staircase, as well as photocopying machines and scanners.

  • Am I expected to keep set hours?

    Our fellows do not keep set hours, though we like to have them around during the workday as much as possible. Fellows have keys to the building and can also work before or after hours, including on weekends.

  • Am I permitted to work from home occasionally?

    Fellows can work from home “occasionally.” That is, we like to have fellows here regularly to foster the interaction we aim for within our scholarly community, but it is not unusual for fellows to do occasional research outside of the building.

  • What hours do fellows have access to the library?

    The Othmer Library is open for fellows Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Most of our books are in closed stacks, so you need to request books to check out. The process is easy, and books are made available quickly. Reference books are accessible in our reading room for everyone but cannot be checked out. Our current journals are also on open shelves in the reading room. All fellows also receive a card that grants full access to the University of Pennsylvania’s libraries, online journals, and databases.

  • Will I get an office? Are the offices shared? Do they have a lock or is the area generally secure?

    All long-term fellows will receive offices surrounding the Dow Public Square adjacent to the Othmer Library’s Jacobs Reading Room. Short-term fellows will be assigned a carrel in the comfortable and spacious Jacobs Reading Room. Offices for long-term fellows are not shared offices, so you’ll have one to yourself. Short-term fellows may share one office for meetings or phone calls if they are otherwise stationed in the reading room. There are no locks on our offices (except for our financial and HR offices). The building is pretty secure but I wouldn’t recommend leaving valuable things overnight just to be safe.

  • Is there a dress code at CHF?

    There is no dress code per se, but you will find that CHF staff dress up more than you might find at a university or college owing to frequent functions and outside visitors. Casual but presentable clothes are fine. CHF does observe “casual Fridays,” on which most people dress in a more relaxed manner. If you attend a CHF event—and fellows are invited to many of these—business or business casual attire is most appropriate. (Also, CHF is a modern, air-conditioned building that many people find chilly, even in the summer. We recommend having some warm clothing if you tend to get cold in air-conditioning.)

  • What latitude do I have for attending conferences and colloquia?

    CHF encourages our fellows to attend conferences and colloquia and engage with local academic communities. We ask that you attend our own Tuesday brown-bag lunches (our talk series) and biweekly writing-group series, and we recommend the University of Pennsylvania’s History and Sociology of Science Department’s Monday afternoon colloquia as well as the Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science’s monthly colloquia. Long-term fellowships include allowances for travel for more distant research and conferences too. During your time as a CHF fellow, you should denote a CHF affiliation in any programs and publications in which you participate.

  • What should I know for my first few days at CHF?

    On your first day you are introduced to CHF through orientations about our building, library, computer procedures, etc. You also receive advice on opening a bank account, amenities in the area in which you live, and answers to any other questions you might have. We provide you with printed guides to Philadelphia and CHF and do everything we can to make your transition to CHF a smooth one. (Please note that since we enroll several staff members in your orientation, it is vital that we know the exact date of your arrival at CHF and that you arrive promptly.)

Academic life in Philadelphia

Coming to and living in Philadelphia

  • How do I get to Philadelphia?

    Philadelphia has its own international airport with many non-stop flights to major cities. It is also possible to fly to New York City’s JFK International Airport or to Newark Liberty International Airport (located between New York City and Philadelphia) and take rail transport to Philadelphia.

  • How does one get around Philadelphia?

    If you live in the city, there are many bus and subway lines that enable you to get around easily. Downtown Philadelphia is very compact for a large city and thus quite walkable. While there are only a few bicycle lanes on Philadelphia streets, some fellows and staff who live within cycling distance nevertheless bike to and from CHF. There is an extensive regional rail system that makes it easy to get from downtown Philadelphia to suburban Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. The city’s public transportation system is called SEPTA, and SEPTA’s Web site provides information on bus, subway, and rail lines. Philadelphia is also connected to New Jersey through the NJ Transit and PATCO transportation systems should you find a place to live in New Jersey.

  • Will CHF cover my costs to come to Philadelphia?

    There is no extra allowance available for travel to and from CHF; you must pay your own way here and back. Long-term fellows’ research allowance is not to be spent on travel to and from your home and CHF, but only on bona-fide research or conference travel purposes.

  • How will I find accommodation in Philadelphia?

    CHF has a small but growing list of trusted landlords with furnished apartments in safe areas of Philadelphia who will not insist on a standard one-year lease but rather are willing to accommodate tenants for shorter periods. There are Web sites and channels from the University of Pennsylvania that can help you find housing. While it is not always easy to find a place to rent, especially if you are looking from abroad, we will do our best to help you find somewhere safe and affordable to stay.

Arnold O. Beckman

CHF’s Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry was started with a generous grant from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation in 1987.


Brown Bag Lecture Series

Enjoy a bring-your-own brown-bag lunch while listening to CHF scholars share their research.

Fellowships at CHF

CHF’s scholars, who spend anywhere from one to nine months in residence, form a vital part of CHF’s intellectual life.

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