Postdoctoral Researchers

The Center for Theoretical Neuroscience (CTN) at Columbia University is looking to fill multiple Postdoc positions immediately. Positions are open under specific projects as well as general research involving computational and theoretical approaches to study topics in neuroscience at the synaptic, cellular, circuit, and behavioral levels.

Candidates should visit our publications page and faculty’s individual pages to determine which faculty member(s) they would like to work with. Current faculty at the Center include:

Larry Abbott, Co-Director
Ken Miller, Co-Director
John Cunningham
Stefano Fusi
Ashok Litwin-Kumar
Liam Paninski

Applicants are expected to have a PhD in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Statistics, Neuroscience, Biology, or a related discipline and, preferably, experience in theoretical neuroscience or the statistical analysis of neuroscience data.

All appointments are initially for one year and are renewable for at least three years given satisfactory performance. The salary is competitive and the start date is negotiable. Successful candidates will also be integrated into the large, vibrant neuroscience community at Columbia University.

The Center for Theoretical Neuroscience is located in the Jerome L. Greene Science Center at Columbia’s Manhattanville Campus, and is part of the Zuckerman Institute, which houses sixty laboratories employing a broad range of interdisciplinary approaches to transform our understanding of the mind and brain.  

Applicants should send the following docs to

1. CV, including a list of publications
2. Statement of research interests
3. Three letters of reference (reference writers should send their letters directly to

Columbia University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity employer. Columbia values diversity among its students, staff, and faculty and strongly welcomes applications from women, persons with disabilities, protected veterans, and underrepresented minorities.

Graduate Students

Our Center does not itself constitute a Ph.D.-granting program. Rather, you can do your Ph.D. research in our Center while enrolled in, and otherwise meeting the requirements of, any Columbia Ph.D.-granting program.

We are most closely associated with the Neurobiology and Behavior program, and are very involved in admissions decisions for that program and also for the M.D.-Ph.D. program and to a lesser extent the Integrated Ph.D. program at the medical school. Liam Paninski is also in the Statistics program, and can play a role in the admissions process for that department. There are many other relevant programs from which Theory Center students may come, but again we do not play any direct role in these programs or their admissions. These include the other Medical School Ph.D. programs and the Applied MathematicsBioengineering, (see also Paul Sajda's home page), BiologyComputer ScienceElectrical Engineering (see also Aurel Lazar's home page), Physics, or Psychology (see also Norma Graham's homepage) programs. Theory Center students currently come from the Neurobiology and Behavior, Integrated, M.D.-Ph.D., Applied Math, and Physics programs.

We are most strongly committed to taking in students that we were involved in selecting for admission. To date, strong students in other programs who wish to work in the Theory Center have generally not had problems finding a theory center advisor; while we are not anticipating changes, it is always possible that this may change and we can make no promises.

Note that the priority application deadline for many programs is in early or mid December.



Ada Lovelace Fellowship: A three-year fellowship for Ph.D. students at North American universities (international students eligible) who are underrepresented in the field of computing and pursuing research aligned to the research areas carried out by Microsoft Research. Apply after completing your first year. Nominations from the university accepted through mid-August; proposals accepted through mid-September.

The following fellowships can support theorists who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents:

DOE Computational Science Fellowship: Apply when applying to grad school or as 1st-yr grad student; applications open in October, deadline mid-January.

Hertz Foundation Fellowship: Apply when applying to grad student or as 1st-yr grad student (rare exceptions for more advanced students, see FAQ); applications open in Summer, deadline in Fall.

National Defense Science & Engineering Graduate Fellowships: Apply when applying to grad school or as 1st- or 2nd-yr grad student (rare exceptions for more advanced students); applications open around Sept. 1, deadline mid-December. Open to all of neuro/cognitive science. You need to discuss "how your research might be of interest to the Department of Defense (DoD)", but there is no service requirement of any kind associated with an award.

National Physical Science Consortium Fellowship: "Applicants at any stage of their graduate program may apply, as long as they will be available to accept two summers of paid internship." Requires an employer-sponsor to choose you, and you have to intern with them for two summers. 82% of fellowships go to women and/or minorities. Deadline Nov. 30.

Soros Fellowship For New Americans: For immigrants or children of immigrants (both parents must be immigrants) who now are citizens, permanent residents, or have or had DACA status. Apply when applying to grad school or in 1st or 2nd year of grad school. Deadline is Nov. 1.

See also more general science or neuroscience fellowships listed here. In particular, for U.S. citizens/permanent residents, NSF fellowships (can apply as an undergrad senior and/or post-college, but only once as a grad student, either 1st or 2nd year; our students typically apply in their 2nd year) and NIH NRSA awards (apply after finishing 2nd year grad, i.e. after passing quals). As a grad student here we will guide you in applying for NSF and NRSA awards.

European citizens might look into the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation Fellowship, though it appears to be only for experimentalists; looks like you can apply when finishing undergrad or in 1st or 2nd yr of grad (?).

Fellowships providing only partial support:

Intel Computational and Data Science Fellowship: For women or under-represented minorities. Can apply anytime in first half of graduate studies; preference for those early in their studies. Deadline April 30. Adds $15,000/yr for two years to your stipend, does not otherwise pay for tuition/fees/stipend.

GEM Fellowship: For under-represented minorities; must be US citizen or permanent resident. Provides tuition, fees, and $16,000 toward stipend for one year. Must apply at same time as applying to graduate school, it appears. Requires one summer internship with an employer sponsor. Deadline Nov. 13.


Here is a compendium of postdoctoral fellowshipsThis page has a list of diversity fellowships and of fellowships for international postdocs.

There are two terrific awards for those transitioning from Ph.D.'s in physical/mathematical/computational sciences into biomedical postdoctoral research. These are "mentored research development awards", supporting both several years of postdoctoral training and the first years of a faculty position, with higher stipends than most postdoctoral fellowships plus some research money. For US citizens/nationals/permanent residents, there is the NIH K25 award (deadlines every 4 months). It is only offered by some of the NIH institutes, and each seems to have different requirements, so you need to talk with the relevant program officers to get details and see if your situation fits. For citizens/nationals/permanent residents of the US or Canada, there is the Burroughs Wellcome Career Award at the Scientific Interface, with preproposals due around Sept. 1, and invitations needed to then submit a full proposal in January; you must have completed at least 1 and no more than 4 years of postdoctoral research by January deadline.

Individuals planning to move from another country to the US (or more generally to move between countries) can apply for the Human Frontiers Science Program (HFSP) postdoctoral fellowships. You must be changing fields, either within the life sciences or coming from outside the life sciences. Applications open in June, deadline in August. You cannot have started working in your postdoc lab before April of your application year and may not have spent more than 12 months total in the U.S. (or more generally, in the new country) in education or training by April of the following year.

Graduate students (any nationality) in later Ph.D. years, before selecting a specific postdoctoral lab, can apply for the James McDonnell Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship Awards in Studying Complex Systems. They don't seem to define what "complex systems science" is but Elad Ganmor from Elad Schneidman's lab got one so apparently at least some forms of theoretical neuroscience will qualify. Application deadline in June for someone expecting to complete the Ph.D. in the following calendar year.

Women and minorities (Hispanic, Black, Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander, or American Indian/Alaska Native), apparently of any nationality (but check with program officers), can apply in late Ph.D. or beginning postdoc years for the Hannah H. Gray Fellowship from the HMMI (Howard Hughes Medical Institute) for postdoctoral work in the U.S.

More general postdoctoral fellowships for biomedical research:

For U.S. citizens/permanent residents: the NIH F32 award (postdoctoral training grant) is for a period of new training as a postdoc.

Citizens or non-citizens may apply for the NIH K99 Pathway to Independence award. This mentored research development award supports the last 2 years of postdoctoral work and the first 3 years of a faculty position. Generally must be no more than 5 years since receipt of the Ph.D. at time of application, some exceptions.

All of these NIH grants have 3 deadlines/year (every 4 months).

Helen Hay Whitney Research Fellowships are for initial stages of postdoctoral work in biomedical sciences; application deadline July 1; apply in final stages of Ph.D. or first year of postdoc. Open to any citizenship, although "We expect that most applicants will reside in North America at the time of application."

For physician/scientists, Burroughs Welcome has Career Awards for Medical Scientists, which are mentored research development awards to bridge the last years of postdoctoral/fellowship training and first years of a faculty position. 

Marie Curie postdoctoral fellowships for EU citizens or those who have been working in EU to work abroad; less than 12 months in new country at application deadline.

See also Society in Science and Life Sciences Research Fellowship.

The following have specific location or citizenship requirements: EMBO (selected countries), ELSC (Israeli Citizenship), and EGL (Israeli Citizenship).


In addition to the programs listed above, you could look through this compendium of non-NIH funding opportunities for biomedical/behavioral research, particularly if you are non-U.S. citizen/resident, to find programs for which you may be eligible.

The Neuroscience Scholar's Program of the Society for Neuroscience provides a three-year fellowship offering funds for travel and career development for "underrepresented and diverse undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows in the field of neuroscience."