Frequently Asked Questions

General Advice for Applicants:  Read and follow all of the instructions provided on the Application Portal.  If you have any questions, please contact us and ask for clarification before you submit your application.

1. Can fellows be remote or do they need to relocate to the host institution IRL? Answer: Although some flexibility might exist for fellows who need to be away from their host institution for part of their fellowship term, it is expected that fellows will be physically present in the town or city of their chosen host institution. For planning modest amounts of time away from your host institution, please make arrangements with your local advisor.

2. What kind of benefits do the fellowships have and how is this handled given they can be taken to different institutions (time off, health insurance, etc.)? Answer: LSSTC requires that host institutions provide Catalyst Fellows with benefits that are commensurate with those of other postdocs at that institution. We ask that these benefits include the following: 1) health insurance and 2) vacation days, and where possible also 3) disability insurance, 4) contribution to a retirement plan, 5) parental leave. It is therefore possible that benefits will differ slightly from host institution to host institution, and applicants might want to take these differences into account when selecting their host institution.

3. How many appointments of the fellowship will be made and are the fellowships renewable? Answer: This year, LSSTC expects to award two Catalyst Fellowships in social science and five to six in astrophysics. Catalyst Fellowships are not renewable.

4. What is the difference between expansion mentors and science collaboration mentors? Answer: In addition to their local advisor, each Catalyst Fellow will put together a mentoring committee. For astrophysics fellows, this committee will include one Science Collaboration (SC) Mentor and one Expansion Mentor. SC Mentors are astronomers or physicists beyond the postdoc stage of their careers who are particularly active within at least one of the eight recognized LSST SCs and who can therefore help the fellow learn how to participate in and benefit from these SCs. Expansion Mentors are researchers beyond the postdoc stage of their careers who either conduct LSST-related research in a non-traditional environment such as a small department/college/institute, a Hispanic serving Institute (HSI), a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) or they are a member of an ethnic group that is underrepresented in astrophysics. For social science fellows, their mentoring committees will include an astrophysicists and at least one social scientist other than their local advisor.

5. Do research proposals need to have multiple projects? Answer: No.

6. What if I want to take the Fellowship to a university besides those listed? Answer: For standard Catalyst Fellowships, only the host institutions listed in the left column on the Host Institutions webpage are eligible to host a fellow (see If you are interested in a four-year Expansion-site Catalyst Fellowship, you can either select an institution listed in the right column on the Host Institutions webpage or contact to discuss whether your host institution of interest is an appropriate expansion site. Expansion sites are typically institutions that have five or fewer astronomy faculty, that are under-resourced, or that are historically minority serving (MSIs).

7. What if I want to move the Fellowship halfway through? Answer: Moving partway through may be possible if the site to which you desire to move is also an eligible host institution.

8. Are multiple mentors encouraged? Answer: Yes. Each Catalyst Fellow has one local advisor, who is a faculty or senior researcher at their host institution, as several other mentors that together form the fellow’s mentoring committee.

9. For the research statement, is it expected that applicants propose questions engaging LSST data, or can the statement mainly describe the applicant's research interests and some relations to LSST? Answer: In both astrophysics and the social sciences, applications that have only a weak connection to LSST are unlikely to be successful. Successful applicants are likely to plan to use LSST data, use pre-cursor data, or conduct research that has a strong connection to LSST and/or the LSST community.

10. Are there set research questions for the social scientists to investigate, or is it going to be possible to develop one's own research design? Answer: Like the astrophysics fellows, Catalyst fellows in the social sciences will have complete academic freedom. So, there is no specific set of research questions for the social scientists to investigate. That said, research proposals that have a strong connection to the Rubin LSST science community and /or the way Rubin LSST research is conducted are likely to rank more highly than those that only describe a weak connection to Rubin LSST.

11. If we select a LINCC hub host institution, would we be required to contribute more to LINCC software development (is the 4th year optional?). Answer: We hope and expect that Catalyst Fellows in astrophysics that sit at LINCC Hub institutions will take advantage of their host institution’s leadership in LINCC and get significantly involved in LINCC in some way. This involvement, however, does not necessarily need to come in the form of software development. The LINCC fellow could help design or run LINCC programs, for example. If interested in listing CMU (PI: Rachel Mandelbaum), Northwestern (PI: Vicky Kalogera), or UW (PI: Andy Connolly) as your host institution, we strongly encourage you to contact the LINCC PI at the that institution to discuss your plans for contributing to, and benefitting from, LINCC. You could also work with your proposed local advisor to come up with a goal or outcome for the extra year.

12. Will applications requesting 4 years be treated in the same way as 3-year applications? Answer: Yes.

13. Some of the current fellows have already completed a postdoc before starting the catalyst fellowship – is it disadvantageous to apply as a graduating student? Answer: No. Some of our top ranked applicants in 2021-2022 had just completed, or were just completing graduate school.

14. What is the current LSST timeline for science products? Answer: See: or

15. Are there any suggestions for social science applicants to find host institutions and local advisors at those institutions? Should social science applicants identify local advisors from the senior social scientist team? Answer: Applicants for Catalyst Fellowships in the social sciences may apply to sit at any LSSTC member institution. This list of such institutions is here: Given the wide range of disciples and methods in the social sciences, applicants are responsible for identifying a local advisor at their desired host institution. The proposed local advisor can be any faculty or senior researcher (beyond the postdoc stage of their career) at an LSSTC member institution.The local advisor should not be a member of the Catalyst senior social science team.

16. Are there particular topics/projects that will be preferred within astrophysics? Are there e.g. higher priority topics/projects to further the mission of LSST? Answer: For astrophysics applicants, there are no explicitly preferred topics or projects. We aim for the research of Catalyst Fellows to cover a balanced and wide-ranging set of LSST science topics.

17. Should social scientists expect to work with faculty supervisors who are within their social science discipline, or will this mentorship be cross-disciplinary? Answer: Either is fine, and the decision is up to the prospective applicant.

18. Is there a maximum file size for my application?   Answer: Yes, it should be no larger than 10 MB.

19. I defended my PhD in December but it was awarded in March. Which date counts for my eligibility?  Answer: The official eligibility date is the date that you were officially awarded your PhD according to the granting institution.  In this case that would be March.

20. I have a research award related to the LSSTC Catalyst Program. Is tution an allowable expense?  Answer: No. Tuition is not an allowable expense for any LSSTC award.

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