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Innovation Scholar

Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute
New York City, New York
Salary is commensurate on experience
Closing date
Apr 10, 2022
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Columbia's Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute seeks Innovation Scholars in the research area of quantitative approaches to mind, brain and behavior. The Innovation Scholars Program provides an opportunity for exceptionally talented early-stage career scientists to embark on an independent research program as an alternative to traditional postdoctoral training. Scientists within approximately two years of receiving a doctoral degree are appointed as Principal Investigators for an initial term of three years with the possibility for an additional two year extension. Innovation Scholars will pursue a research program with the potential for societal impact and contribute to the scientific mission and community life of the Institute.

The Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute brings together world-class scientists to transform our understanding of the brain and mind. Scholars are welcomed into the vibrant intellectual community of the Institute with broad-ranging collaboration opportunities. Innovation Scholars benefit from structured mentorship, plentiful training opportunities, and competitive financial support. Scholars enjoy access to Institute resources commensurate with Institute faculty. Scholars are matched with two or more faculty hosts, at least one of whom is based at the Zuckerman Institute, who are the scholars’ first point of contact for support and guidance. Scholars will be supported in the application to faculty positions at Columbia and elsewhere.

Columbia University is an Equal Opportunity Employer/Disability/Veteran and is committed to the hiring of qualified local residents.

Columbia University welcomes and strongly encourages applicants from underrepresented minorities in STEM (Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, Native Americans or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders), individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, veterans, individuals with disabilities and women (particularly from the above categories).


Core to the mission of the Zuckerman Institute is launching the next generation of scientists who will transform the way we understand mind and brain by diverging from the status quo, asking new questions and pursuing answers in highly collaborative ways. The Innovation Scholars Program is a distinctive undertaking designed to foster multidisciplinary research and accelerate the careers of exceptional early-career scientists into either academic or industry positions. The goal of this newly created opportunity at the Zuckerman Institute is to invest in the significant, yet often underappreciated, phase of a scientist’s career between a postdoctoral fellowship and faculty appointment. This is a critical juncture that deserves more attention as a fertile zone for cultivating the next generation of neuroscientists.                

Already poised with the experience, knowledge and skill to be a principal investigator, but eager to break the mold of academic science and work outside the silo of a single laboratory, the Innovation Scholars will be agents of change who work at the nexus of many disciplines. The Innovation Scholar will advance a creative research agenda while benefiting from competitive financial support, structured mentorship, plentiful training opportunities and career guidance. The scholar would be expected to pursue collaborations within and outside of the Institute, bring in different perspectives and act as a generator of ideas across various areas of research. Of particular importance is the Innovation Scholar’s dedication to societal impact.                        

The Innovation Scholar Program will play a critical role in the future of neuroscience by allowing individuals to explore nonlinear paths and partnerships, forming a new kind of scientist who will push the boundaries of discovery and advance our understanding of mind and brain.


Position and duration

The expected appointment is for three years, renewable annually, with optional renewal up to a maximum of five years in total. Scholars will be supported in the application to faculty positions at Columbia and elsewhere.


Scientists within approximately two years of receiving a doctoral degree are eligible to apply. Applicants must have completed their degree by the start of the program. If an applicant has experienced significant postgraduate career interruptions due to personal or other extenuating circumstances, they may submit a supplemental essay.

Selection process

Scholars are selected by the Zuckerman Institute Innovation Scholars committee. Applicants will be judged on their ability for independent, self-directed work in neuroscience and the potential impact of their research within and outside of the scientific sector. Up to two scholars will be selected for 2022, with additional scholars added to the program in subsequent years.

Application Instructions

Complete applications received by March 31, 2022 will receive full consideration.

Please submit applications online at

In preparing the application, candidates are encouraged to learn more about the Institute and its scientific and diversity goals. Application components:

  1. Research proposal including the work’s novelty and potential scholarly impact (up to 3 pages)
  2. Statement of applicant’s fit with the Zuckerman Institute, including potential contributions to the Institute’s goals and societal impact. Include suggested faculty hosts (2-4 from Zuckerman Institute and Columbia more broadly) with brief rationales (1 page)
  3. CV
  4. 3 letters of reference

Optional: If you have experienced significant interruptions in your postgraduate career due to personal or other extenuating circumstances, you may submit a supplemental essay to help the committee understand your desire to apply for this program outside of the two-year postgraduate guidelines (max 300 words).


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