Earth Institute Postdoctoral Research Fellows Program in Sustainable Development

The Earth Institute Postdoctoral Research Fellows Program in Sustainable Development is one of the world’s premier programs for recent Ph.D., M.D. and J.D. recipients dedicated to a better understanding of critical scientific and social issues related to meeting global sustainable development goals. Postdoctoral fellows work closely with one or more members of the Earth Institute faculty and other Columbia University faculty, joining multidisciplinary teams of outstanding, committed scientists from the centers and programs of the Earth Institute and an extensive list of departments across Columbia University. The fellows also collaborate closely with one another in an environment conducive to sharing ideas and expertise they have gained from their diverse academic backgrounds and experiences.

The Fellows Program provides postdoctoral scholars who have a foundation in one of the Earth Institute’s core disciplines (social/earth/biological science, engineering or health), the opportunity to acquire the cross-disciplinary expertise and breadth needed to address critical issues in the field of sustainable development. Those who have developed cross-disciplinary approaches during graduate studies will find numerous opportunities to engage in cutting-edge research programs at the Earth Institute.

The 24-month program offers a unique intellectual surrounding that fosters cross-disciplinary interaction and research. Examples of research projects pursued by current and past postdoctoral fellows cover a wide array of issues, including:

  • How patterns of everyday living and social structures are threatened and adapting as climate change transforms the environmental contexts that give rise to native traditions
  • Applying economic game theory to issues surrounding water supplies by looking at cost and subsidy mechanisms to ensure equitable and sustainable water distribution and quality management
  • Approaching energy policy through psychology and looking at the ways in which knowledge about human behavior inform public policy to provide options that encourage individuals to reduce personal energy consumption
  • Investigating the roles peace-building and conflict resolution play in facilitating sustainable development in less privileged nations
  • Connecting infectious disease, meteorology and ecosystems monitoring by looking at ways in which information about environmental changes and weather patterns can be used to prevent, track, and contain epidemics
  • Applying spatial information to environmental justice and how land use transitions are affecting the ecological and social geographies of urban regions, especially those that are experiencing rapid industrialization and globalization


Each fall the Earth Institute seeks applications from innovative postdoctoral candidates interested in a broad range of issues in sustainable development. International candidates are encouraged to apply. The program accepts recent Ph.D. graduates, which usually means the Ph.D. should have been completed by no more than three years at the time of application.  All doctoral requirements must be fulfilled before the beginning of the fellowship. New fellowships typically begin each year on September 1. The fellowship may be extended for a third year but only if the fellow can obtain independent funding. 

Candidates submit proposals and work on research based in one of the Earth Institute’s core disciplines or thematic areas represented by the Cross-Cutting Initiatives of the Earth Institute:

The main goal of a fellow’s time at the Earth Institute is to conduct research that promotes global sustainable development.  Work may include participating in an existing multidisciplinary Earth Institute project, an extension of an existing project, or a new project that connects existing Earth Institute expertise in innovative ways. Fellows may participate in teaching at Columbia at a part-time level. 

For more information contact the Earth Institute Postdoctoral Fellows Program administrator at fellows@ei.columbia.edu.