Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Stephen Hawking Postdoctoral Fellowship

Apply for a postdoctoral fellowship focusing on a range of disciplines in the area of theoretical physics with the aim of reflecting Stephen Hawking’s work in bringing science into popular culture.

You must have either:

  • a PhD
  • at least 4 years’ experience in a relevant field by the start of your fellowship

An eligible UK research organisation must host and support you during your fellowship.

Your fellowship can be up to 3 years long. This is prorated for part-time fellows, at a minimum of 50% full time equivalent.

There is no limit on how much funding you can request. We cover 80% of your full economic costs. Your research organisation must fund the remaining 20%.

This opportunity is part of our main postdoctoral fellowship scheme and proposals will be processed through the physical sciences theme. Please make sure you read our guidance document in the ‘additional info’ section before applying.

This opportunity will transition from Je-S to a new Funding Service after 30 March 2023. Find out more about our pathway for change.

UKRI must receive your application on Je-S by 30 March 2023 4:00pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time until the opportunity reopens on the Funding Service in May 2023. Please leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

You should ensure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

Who can apply

Research grants are open to UK higher education institutions, research council institutes, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)-approved independent research organisations, public sector research establishments and NHS bodies with research capacity.

Read the guidance on institutional eligibility.

You can apply if you have a PhD or have worked in a relevant field for at least 4 years by the start date of your fellowship. Candidates who are or have been registered for a doctorate at any time may apply only if they are expecting to have completed their doctoral thesis examination by the date of the Hawking Fellowship interview. Candidates must have passed their viva voce examination by the time of commencing the Hawking Fellowship and therefore considered to hold a PhD.

There are no eligibility rules about how many years of postdoctoral experience you need or whether you are currently in a permanent academic position. This is a postdoctoral level fellowship for applicants who have not already secured significant independent funding or led the development of technical skills. Potential applicants that would consider applying for an Ernest Rutherford Fellowship, EPSRC Open Fellowship or Future Leaders Fellowships would not be at a suitable career stage to apply for this opportunity.

We encourage applicants from a diverse range of backgrounds and who have taken a non-standard career path after their first degree. We also welcome applications from candidates who want to move back into research after a career break or any other type of break from active research.

There are no restrictions on nationality.

We do not permit resubmissions of an identical previously unsuccessful proposal. Unsuccessful applicants may re-submit but are required to demonstrate within their proposal that they have made substantive change or development from the original submission. Changes to the proposals should go beyond addressing issues raised by the reviewers in line with EPSRC’s guidance on preparing re-submissions.

This opportunity is subject to the EPSRC policy on repeatedly unsuccessful applications.

For more information, read our fellowship application guide.

What we're looking for


The general terms and conditions of our postdoctoral fellowships will apply to this opportunity. Further information on our postdoctoral fellowships can be found in the guidance document, which you are advised to read before applying. Where there are discrepancies between the terms here and the standard guidance notes, the terms in the standard guidance notes shall prevail.

This opportunity will remain open until further notice and has no closing date. Successful candidates may start at any time throughout the year. Processing of a fellowship application can take 6 to 9 months and outcomes will depend on panel and interview dates.

Areas included in the opportunity are:

  • cosmology
  • general relativity
  • quantum gravity
  • classical gravity
  • string theory
  • statistical physics
  • nuclear physics
  • particle physics
  • particle astrophysics
  • theoretical astronomy
  • theoretical plasma physics
  • solar or planetary physics
  • mathematical physics
  • condensed matter physics
  • theoretical quantum optics and information
  • quantum fluids and solids
  • cold atoms and molecules

Proposals are also welcome from across the fundamental mathematical and computer sciences where the applicant can demonstrate that the research will underpin these approaches and can directly build capability in the area of theoretical physics.

Please note that the scope and ambition of this fellowship includes a requirement for applications to include a strong element of public engagement and outreach as an integral part of a wider programme of research.

Funding Available

Please see our main postdoctoral fellowships page under ‘What we’re looking for’ as the same applies.

Responsible innovation

You are expected to work within the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation.

International collaboration

Applicants planning to include international collaborators on their proposal should visit Trusted Research for guidance on getting the most out of international collaboration while protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information.

How to apply

Please first refer to this section on the EPSRC postdoctoral fellowships page and then also note the following:

  • in order for your application to be processed correctly, you must begin your grant title with the word, ‘Hawking’ followed by the rest of your grant title, For example, Hawking – a holistic approach to neutrino-nucleus topological effects in particle physics
  • applications to this opportunity will not be considered as an Open Plus EPSRC Fellowship, irrespective of the inclusion of the public engagement element in this postdoctoral fellowship opportunity. Standard terms as applied to our postdoctoral fellowships will apply unless stated otherwise

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

Assessment of your proposal will follow the standard processing and assessment criteria for EPSRC postdoctoral fellowships. Please refer to this section on the specific postdoctoral fellowships page. Proposals will be processed through the physical sciences theme in EPSRC. Input on the review stages will be provided by STFC and EPSRC. Please see our guidance notes for further information and assessment criteria.

Opportunity specific criteria

There is a requirement for applications to this opportunity to include a strong element of public engagement and outreach as an integral part of a wider programme of research. The public engagement and outreach elements of your proposal will be assessed under ‘continuing professional development’ within the standard postdoctoral fellowship scheme. You should provide at least 1 reviewer suggestion who will be able to assess the public engagement element of your proposal. Please refer to the EPSRC fellowships guidance document for further information.

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity





Get help with applying through Je-S



01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info


The original Stephen Hawking Fellowship scheme commenced in 2018 and, to date, has funded 21 new fellows in theoretical physics and the underpinning sciences through a partnership between EPSRC and STFC. This represents a total investment of over £9 million in the research leaders of tomorrow.

We have recently explored options for the future of the Stephen Hawking Fellowship to ensure it remains sustainable against a backdrop of delivering efficiency in our operations. In doing so, we have listened to the comments and suggestions from the communities regarding the operation of the scheme.

Therefore, from 2022, the Stephen Hawking Fellowship will evolve to be incorporated into EPSRC’s standard open postdoctoral fellowship scheme, while still providing opportunities for innovative research in theoretical physics. EPSRC will not issue further specific opportunities for proposals in the Stephen Hawking Fellowship. This will be a signposted opportunity which will allow candidates more flexibility and freedom to apply during the year, rather than the time-bound opportunities for proposals. The structure, operation and assessment processes will remain largely unchanged except where the scheme now fits within our standard postdoctoral fellowship scheme.

Grant additional conditions

Grants are awarded under the standard UK Research and Innovation grant terms and conditions.

Responsible innovation

EPSRC is fully committed to develop and promote responsible innovation. Research has the ability to not only produce understanding, knowledge and value, but also unintended consequences, questions, ethical dilemmas and, at times, unexpected social transformations.

We recognise that we have a duty of care to promote approaches to responsible innovation that will initiate ongoing reflection about the potential ethical and societal implications of the research that we sponsor and to encourage our research community to do likewise.

Supporting documents

EPSRC fellowship guidance for applicants
EPSRC fellowship frequently asked questions
Equality impact assessment (PDF, 192KB)

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help improve our online products and services.