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ETH Zurich Postdoctoral Fellowship Program

Final Report Summary - ETHFELLOWS (ETH Zurich Postdoctoral Fellowship Program)

The ETH Zurich Postdoctoral Fellowship Program supports incoming fellowships for postdoctoral researchers at ETH Zurich. The program is intended to foster high-potential, young researchers, who have already demonstrated excellence in terms of internationally competitive achievements in the early stages of their professional careers. Applications have to be made jointly by the candidate and their host, who must be an ETH Zurich Professor and who will act as a mentor of the fellow. The duration of an ETH Fellowship is two years.

All eight calls and the respective evaluation have been published on time. Overall 366 applications have been submitted. 112 fellows have been selected under the ETH Fellows program according to Annex I. Of these 112 fellows, 80 have been cofunded (Call 1 to 6, 1st cohort). The other 32 fellows have been selected for funding fully by ETH Zurich means (Call 7 and 8, 2nd cohort). Overall, the central aim of funding 144 fellowship years under COFUND with 8 bi-annual calls has been reached in February 2016, with 144.5 fellowship years. In the last reporting period (1.3.2015-29.2.2016) no new fellows were selected under this scheme due to termination effects and the cost neutral extension of the program.

The quality of submitted applications was very high. Therefore a thorough quality based selection is key for our program. The selection is based on the recommendations of the external reviews and referees of the research commission of the ETH Zurich. In the first step a little more than half of the candidates have been invited for interviews; of these, again a little more than half have been recommended for funding. This allowed us to fund 11 to 16 excellent fellows in each round. Based on all eight calls, the success rate was 33 %.

The applications process is described transparently on our webpage All candidates have been informed shortly after the final decision meeting or – if they have not been invited to the interview, after the preselection – about the funding decision. Candidates and mentors, whose application have been rejected, have been given the reasons in a signed letter. Fellows and mentors, whose application have been successful, have been informed by an official letter about the conditions, their rights and duties in this fellowship, including the obligation to use the brand “Co-funded by Marie Curie Actions” in all publications. All processes from the submission to the election for each call have been executed within the planned 4 months. The selected fellows have been invited to a bi-annual social event and have been informed about the possibilities of the Career Planning Workshops offered by the ETH Zurich.

It is very important for this program that all research fields represented at ETH Zurich receive funding, in order to foster excellent science bottom up. The selected 112 fellows represent the following research areas defined by COFUND: Life Sciences (30), Physics (19), Environment (19), Engineering (17), Chemistry (13), Mathematics (11) and Social sciences (3). This distribution represents 15 of the 16 departments of the ETH Zurich and proves that a wide range of disciplines are covered. From the 112 elected fellows, 31 are women (28 %). This was exactly the same percentage as the ETH Zurich average for the postdoctoral sector, which was 28 % in 2014. The highest proportion of females can be found in the environmental disciplines (9 out of 19) followed by life sciences (10 out of 30).

The elected fellows are recruited highly internationally, having 27 different nationalities, and having received their PhD in 18 different countries. The majority of the elected fellows are nationals of the EU (69 fellows, 62%). The other 28 % were dominated by fellows having US or Canadian nationalities (20 fellows, 22 %). Also the numbers of PhD received in the USA (29 %, 33 fellows, of which 11 non US-citizens) shows that the program can successfully attract excellent postdocs from North America to Switzerland for their next career step. Also when the fellowship is finished, fellows stay highly mobile. Of the 74 fellows, who have finished the fellowship, 33 have left Switzerland.

The impact on the careers of fellows supported by the ETH Zurich Postdoctoral Fellowship program under COFUND can now be better assessed, as 74 fellows have finished their fellowship by February 29, 2016. 33 Fellows mainly from the 2nd cohort of funding is still active. Based on these numbers and a web research 50 % (37) of these were able to achieve the next higher career step and of these 16 % are now working in a faculty position. In more detail: 1 fellow has received recently an associate professorship, 11 fellows have received an assistant professorship position. 11 fellows have obtained an independent group leader position outside of ETH Zurich, and 5 at ETH Zurich; 9 others have secured a group leader positions in industry. Most other fellows have received further postdoc employment at ETH Zurich (32).

The vast majority of the fellows have indicated in their final report that the experience was very beneficial in terms of continuing education, research output and networking. Furthermore, they report that the fellowship has been a very good personal experience. They were highly satisfied with employment conditions, especially concerning salary, integration into the group and support for administrative issues. Furthermore, the access to first class infrastructure at ETH Zurich was reported as a key advantage to their research stay and further academic qualification.

We believe that our program is highly successful, because applicants have a large degree of freedom in choosing from all research fields at ETH Zurich, as long as the proposal is submitted in consensus with the host. The uniqueness lies in the combination of openness, stringent quality control and excellent work environment.

Webpage: Contact Address: Wendy Altherr, Office of Research, ETH Zurich, HG E 32.1 Rämistrasse 101, 8092 Zurich, Tel: +41 44 632 02 74,