Center for Humanities & History of Modern Biology

Sydney Brenner Research Fellowship

The Sydney Brenner Research Fellowship, endowed by the Francis Goelet Charitable Trust in 2006, is one of three opportunities offered by the CSHL Center for Humanities & History of Modern Biology. It offers stipends of up to $5,000 to fund travel and other expenses associated with work on a significant research project in the history of the life sciences drawing on collections in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives. The CSHL collections themselves are very broad in scope, with extensive manuscript and photograph collections encompassing activity around the world as well as at CSHL and several precursor institutions. While around a third of our collections are digitized and can be consulted online, many materials can only be viewed at the archive. Please see descriptions of the CSHL collections at the Archives homepage and consult detailed finding aids on CSHL ArchivesSpace.

Applications are currently being accepted for the 2021-2022 academic year.


Sydney Brenner Research Fellowships are intended to support research and publication (or other exhibition/dissemination) of ambitious, original projects in the history of the life sciences. Researchers will normally spend at least half the time for the Brenner-funded research in residence at CSHL.

About the Award

Award Benefits

The Sydney Brenner Research Fellowship awards up to $5,000 (USD) to each recipient to support direct costs of completing the proposed project, which should include a period in residence at CSHL. While here, Brenner Fellows will have a work space in the Carnegie Library, complete access to our collections, and support from our team of archivists, librarians, and historians. If space permits, Brenner Fellows will have the opportunity to rent accommodation on campus during their stay.

Who is Eligible?

The fellowship is open to scholars (at any career stage), journalists, writers, filmmakers, and creative artists undertaking substantial research into the history of the life sciences using but not limited to the collections at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archvies.

Application Instructions

Application Deadline

Applications must be received by 11:59pm EST (UTC−05:00) on 31 March 2021 to be considered for the 2021-2022 academic year.

How to Apply

The application package must include the following:

  1. A completed application form, including names and contact information for two individuals who are familliar with your work and would be willing to provide letters of recommendation upon request from CSHL.
  2. A research proposal (see below for detailed instructions).
  3. A selected bibliography of titles or collections in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library and Archives that are relevant to your research proposal.
  4. A brief budget statement showing the expenses for which support is requested.
  5. A curriculum vitae. Please include education and employment history, dates of study, areas of study, previous publications, and previous or current fellowships, grants, and awards.

Please submit applications electronically via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Attach all documents in .pdf, .doc, or .docx formats, with a brief covering letter in the body of the email. Please format the subject line of your email as "Sydney Brenner Research Fellowship application [Year] - [Your Name]"

About the Research Proposal

In a maximum of 1000 words, the proposal should explain your research question or objective, the sources you intend to use (both at CSHL and elsewhere), and the significance of the proposed research to your scholarly trajectory and to your discipline or field. Please specify the items or record groups you would use at the CSHL Library and Archives and give a tentative schedule for completion of your project.

Please submit your proposal in double-spaced 12-point font.

Selection Criteria

The Brenner Fellowship committee seeks proposals that are sophisticated, detailed, and original. Relevance of CSHL collections to the project (and vice versa) is an important factor, but the committee's primary consideration will be the overall quality and significance of the project. If you are still at the initial stages of formulating a project, please consider applying instead for one of our travel grants to visit CSHL.

Announcement of Scholarship Recipients

The Brenner Fellowship committee will notify recipients in April of a given year.

Award Conditions

What is Expected of Fellowship Recipients
  • Brenner Fellowship funds must be used during the academic year following notification of the award (July 1 to June 30).
  • If possible, Brenner Fellows will present preliminary results of their research to the CSHL community in a talk.
  • The research findings should also be presented in professional talks or other venues, and culminate in scholarly articles, book(s), or other forms of creative expression.
  • A copy of the final research output is to be donated to the CSHL Library and Archives.
  • Allowable Expenses

    The stipend can be used for any purpose relating to the scholar's research project, including travel, transportation, daily expenses, and accommodations at CSHL and other relevant archives, over the course of one year. Other types of permissible expenses include those associated with translating relevant primary sources, recording oral history interviews, transcribing oral history interviews, and microfilming archival materials.

    Previous Awardees


    Year Awardee Research Product
    2020-2021 Erling Norrby
    The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
    Review Delbruck, Hershey, and Luria: Recipients of the Nobel Prize Physiology and Medicine 1979
    2020-2021 Daniel Nicholson
    Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research, Klosterneuburg, Austria
    Rethinking Schrodinger’s Impact on Molecular Biology
    2020-2021 Gina Surita
    Princeton University
    The Currency of the Cell: Energy, Metabolism, and Life in Twentieth-Century Biochemistry
    2019-2020 Helen Muller
    University of New Mexico
    Nobel Laureate H.J. Muller’s Tumultuous Life in 1930’s Russia
    2019-2020 Nuala Caomhanach
    New York University
    The Unfinished Synthesis: The Rise of Phylogenetics in an Age of Climate Change, 1880-1990
    2018-2019 Alison Kraft
    Max Planck Institute for
    the History of Science (Berlin, Germany)
    Visiting Scholar, Department I: Structural Changes in Systems of Knowledge
    The Walker B. James Lab: a case study of biophysics in the interwar period.
    2016-2017 Matthew Cobb
    University of Manchester
    Professor, School of Biological Sciences
    An article and BBC radio program on the collaboration of Crick and Brenner, 1956-1976.
    2015-2016 Miriam Rich
    Harvard University
    Doctoral Candidate, History of Science
    Ph.D. thesis chapter on the scientific concept of defects of development.
    2014-2015 Erika Langer
    University of San Francisco
    Doctoral Candidate, History of Health Science

    Molecular Ferment: The Rise and Proliferation of Yeast Model Organism Research (2016), University of California, San Francisco, (Doctoral Dissertation).

    Dr. Langer says of the Sydney Brenner Research Scholarship and her time at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory:

    My visit to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory deepened my understanding of my subject matter, not only through the Archives' preservation of rich source materials relevant to my project but also through the direct experience of the Laboratory setting--its architecture, environment, and celebration of living history. The Archives offers scholars excellent open access to its digitized collections, but I am indebted to the Sydney Brenner Research Scholarship for the unparalleled experience of an in-person visit with the superb help of onsite staff.


    2013-2014 Lijing Jiang
    Princeton University
    Postdoctoral Fellow
    A book on the history of cell death and aging research.
    2012-2013 Gregory J. Morgan
    Stevens Institute of Technology
    Associate Professor, Philosophy
    A book on the history of tumor virology.
    2011-2012 Judith Cuddihy
    Acquisition and Developmental Editor
    Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
    An exhibit showcasing the life of scientist Calvin Bridges (1889-1938).
    2008-2009 Marsha Richmond
    Wayne State University
    Associate Professor, History of Science
    Examination of CSHL's visual collections for the history of women's role in early genetics.
    2007-2008 James Schwartz
    Harvard University
    Visiting Scholar in Molecular and Cellular Biology

    James Schwartz's book, In Pursuit of the GeneIn Pursuit of the Gene: From Darwin to DNA (2010), Harvard University Press. (book)

    The mystery of inheritance has captivated thinkers since antiquity, and the unlocking of this mystery—the development of classical genetics—is one of humanity’s greatest achievements. This great scientific and human drama is the story told fully and for the first time in this book.

    Acclaimed science writer James Schwartz presents the history of genetics through the eyes of a dozen or so central players, beginning with Charles Darwin and ending with Nobel laureate Hermann J. Muller. In tracing the emerging idea of the gene, Schwartz deconstructs many often-told stories that were meant to reflect glory on the participants and finds that the “official” version of discovery often hides a far more complex and illuminating narrative. The discovery of the structure of DNA and the more recent advances in genome science represent the culmination of one hundred years of concentrated inquiry into the nature of the gene. Schwartz’s multifaceted training as a mathematician, geneticist, and writer enables him to provide a remarkably lucid account of the development of the central ideas about heredity, and at the same time bring to life the brilliant and often eccentric individuals who shaped these ideas.

    In the spirit of the late Stephen Jay Gould, this book offers a thoroughly engaging story about one of the oldest and most controversial fields of scientific inquiry. It offers readers the background they need to understand the latest findings in genetics and those still to come in the search for the genetic basis of complex diseases and traits.

    2006-2007 Robert Olby
    University of Pittsburgh
    Department of History and Philosophy of Science

    Francis Crick: Hunter of Life's Secrets Book CoverFrancis Crick: Hunter of Life's Secrets (2009), Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. (book)

    "This engrossing biography by one of molecular biology's foremost scholars reveals the remarkable evolution of Francis Crick's scientific career and the shaping of his personality. From unpromising beginnings, he became a vital contributor to a remarkably creative period in science. Olby chronicles Crick's life from his early studies in biophysics, to the discovery of the structure of DNA, to his later work in neuroscience and the nature of consciousness. This account is woven together with insights into his personal life gained through access to Crick's papers, family, and friends. Robert Olby's book is a richly detailed portrait of one of the great scientists of our time."

    Review from Human Genetics:

    Crick could have wished for no more suitable biographer than science historian Robert Olby, who knew him for almost 40 years and who has had full access to family members and documents...Olby gives a vivid account both of Crick's work over a period of 60 years, and of his life, and there is much in this book that will prove to be unfamiliar, perhaps especially to geneticists...For exploring and documenting all these and other aspects of Crick's life in a readable, sensitive and not uncritical manner, readers from all backgrounds have much to thank Robert Olby for. His story will help to confirm Francis Crick as one of the key people responsible for the transformation of our understanding of life and its processes.




    FileDescriptionFile size
    Download this file (BrennerSydney Fellowship application form.pdf)BrennerSydney Fellowship application form.pdf 82 kB