Los Alamos National LaboratoryCenter for Space and Earth Science
Part of the National Security Education Center

Chick Keller Postdoctoral Fellowship

A prestigiously named Los Alamos Postdoctoral Fellowship, for cutting-edge experimental, theoretical, computational, and engineering research covering one of the four CSES Science Disciplines - Astrophysics and Cosmology, Space Science, Geophysics and Earth Systems


  • Professional Staff Assistant
  • Sarah Balkey
  • (505) 667-8777
  • Email

Focus Area Leaders  

  • Planetary Science Focus Leader
  • Ann Ollila
  • (505) 667-9675
  • Email


The Center for Space and Earth Science (CSES) introduced a newly named Los Alamos Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2017 – named after Chick Keller, Director of the LANL Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP) from 1980 to 1990. IGPP was the predecessor of the current CSES.

The Chick Keller Fellowship will be administered through the Los Alamos Postdoc Program in an analogous manner to the already existing named Postdoctoral Fellow programs (Director’s, Agnew and Metropolis).

CSES appointed the first two Chick Keller Fellows in FY17, and the intent is to flesh out the CSES roster over the next few years to the point where CSES has ~8 CK Fellows at any one time, ~2 per Science Discipline Area.


The Chick Keller Postdoctoral Fellowship seeks outstanding candidates in any of the four CSES Science Disciplines:

Astrophysics and Cosmology -with the goal of advancing theoretical, modeling, computational and experimental sciences that map to capabilities needed in divisions involved in weapon simulation (e.g., nuclear physics, radiation hydrodynamics, plasma physics, magnetohydrodynamics (MHD), uncertainty quantification) and national security (e.g., nuclear detection, transients, sensing, imaging, space weather).

Space Science - with the goal of advancing our understanding of the space environment from the Sun to the Earth and beyond, and particularly understanding how the space environment affects the systems in space that support security and quality of life in our increasingly technological society.

Geophysics - with the goal of advancing theoretical, experimental, modeling, and simulation studies that address fundamental issues in basic earth processes as well as promoting capabilities needed for a better understanding the perturbation of natural geologic systems in response to human actions. These perturbations change in pore pressure, temperature, permeability (e.g., fracturing) and fluid/gas chemistry. The overarching goals of this focus is twofold: improving both our sensing capability (e.g., how can we extract more knowledge from data and improving the detection of small events in noisy data sets) and our predicting capability (how can we better understand the behavior of complex Engineered Natural Systems despite the inherent uncertainty).

Earth Systems - with the goal of advancing and integrating theoretical, modeling, simulation, sensing, observational, and experimental sciences that push the frontiers of predictability of complex natural systems, their variability, interdependence, and their responses to forcing, as well as human interactions with these systems. These systems include the subsurface and soil, the biosphere, biogeosphere, cryosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and anthoposphere of planet Earth at multiple scales, as well as human interactions with these systems.

Planetary Science - with the goal to advance our knowledge of planetary bodies beyond Earth, including surface properties and processes, internal structures, atmospheres, and evolution over time. We seek to advance our abilities to design, build, and operate remote instruments in extreme environments. Planetary Science utilizes data from a broad swath of platforms , including satellite, airborne, in situ, and laboratory measurements.

This fellowship is open to all nationalities and the specific focused science topics in the five science disciplines supported by CSES. The focused science topics are established by CSES on a three-yearly cycle; the current focus topics are outlined in the CSES Guidebook.

Funding and timeline

The initial commitment to a postdoc is two years, with a possible extension to a third year. Chick Keller Postdoc Fellows are funded out of the CSES LDRD (Laboratory Directed Research and Development) portfolio, and may be funded for up to three years, consistent with the 36-month project limit of the DOE LDRD Order.

The allocation of funds will be as follows:

1st year 1/2 time Chick Keller Fellow Funding
2nd year 1/2 time Chick Keller Fellow Funding
3rd year 1/4 time Chick Keller Fellow Funding

This funding profile requires division commitment for additional funding. The mentor and division will need to identify projects that will support the remainder of the funding. The initial division commitment must include a plan for 1/2 non-Chick Keller Postdoc Fellow support in the 1st and 2nd year.

The additional funding may be drawn from other LDRD projects or any other programmatic funding source. The work supported by the non-CSES funding must be clearly distinct from the CSES work to be consistent with the LDRD augmentation rule. Divisions will decide whether to commit to a third postdoc year; if they do, the 1/4 time Chick Keller Fellow support will be available.

Note: Consistent with the other LANL named fellowship rules, the Chick Keller fellowship is open to new outside applicants or to postdocs at LANL that are still in their first year .


Applications to this fellowship are open at any time, and selections will be considered at any of the Los Alamos Postdoctoral Quarterly reviews. Please refer to the posted meeting and package submission schedule (internal only) published by the LANL Postdoc Office.

Applications will be reviewed by the LANL Postdoctoral Committee and final selections will be made by the CSES Postdoctoral Committee.

Candidates may also be considered for a Director's Fellowship and outstanding candidates may be considered for the prestigious Marie Curie, Richard P. Feynman, J. Robert Oppenheimer, or Frederick Reines Fellowships.

For general information, refer to the Postdoctoral Program page. Interested candidates should submit a letter describing their research interests and a CV or resume, including a list of publications in their application.

Notes to outside applicants

Applications to the CK Fellowship require an identified LANL mentor. The mentor and applicant work together to assemble the postdoc package for the application. Applicants are encouraged to search out and make contact with prospective LANL mentors well before they finish their Ph.D. This should be facilitated by their university supervisor, or if needed, the CSES office can try to act as match maker – email chick_keller@lanl.gov.

Notes to LANL mentors

Prospective LANL mentors for Chick Keller Fellows are required to submit a one-page justification on how the proposed research contributes to the focused science topics of CSES, as part of the postdoc package.

For further technical questions, email to chick_keller@lanl.gov.