Center for Humanities & History of Modern Biology

Sydney Brenner Research Scholarship

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The Sydney Brenner Research Scholarship, endowed by the Francis Goelet Charitable Trust in 2006, is one of three scholarships offered by the Center for Humanities Studies of Modern Biology at CSHL.  This scholarship offers stipends of up to $5,000 to scholars to fund travel and other expenses associated with working on a research project requiring use of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives collections on topics ranging from the history of cancer, women in science, molecular biology, genetics, neuroscience, plant biology, the intersection of biology and physics, the molecular biology revolution, and more.

Applications are currently being accepted for the 2020-2021 academic year.


The Sydney Brenner Research Scholarships support scholars, historians, writers, documentarians, and advanced-year graduate students engaged in research which will promote the knowledge of the history of any aspect of the life sciences through the publication of the research in various media, including manuscripts, books, journal or magazine articles, television and radio programs.

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About the Award

The scholarship is open to all scholars, historians, writers, documentarians, and advanced-year graduate students wishing to perform research for a specific project of relevance to the archival materials held in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives.

The Sydney Brenner Research Scholarship awards up to $5,000 (USD) to each scholarship recipient.

Scholarship recipients will be able to conduct their research in the CSHL Archives with the aid of our archival staff and librarians. They will have complete access to our collections, digital materials, and related materials for the duration of the award. Space for research and onsite accommodations are available; scholarship recipients must book accommodations ahead of time.

Please see the full description of the collections at the CSHL Archives page.

Application Instructions

Applications must be received by December 31st, 2019 to be considered for the 2020-2021 academic year.

A complete application package must include the following:

  1. The two-page application form, found at the bottom of this page
  2. A research proposal
  3. Selected bibliography of titles or collections in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library and Archives that are relevant to your research proposal.
  4. Brief budget statement showing the expenses for which support is requested.
  5. A curriculum vitae. Please include undergraduate and graduate education, dates of study, areas of study, previous publications, and previous or current fellowships, grants, and awards, and a brief description of your research interests.
  6. Two letters of reference from individuals, evaluating your proposal. These referees should be familiar with your work.
    • For paper applications, reference letters should be sent in sealed envelopes signed by the referee across the flap.
    • For electronic applications, please have your referees email their letters independent of your application prior to the December 31st application deadline.

Applications may be submitted electronically via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please attach all documents in .pdf, .doc, or .docx formats, with a cover letter in the body of the email and please format the subject line of your application email as "Sydney Brenner Research Scholarship Application, [Year], [Your Name]"

Applications may also be submitted on paper directly to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library and Archives by mail to:

Brenner Scholarship Research Program
Genentech Center for the History of
Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library and Archives
1 Bungtown Rd.
Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724

The research proposal should be a statement of your intended research describing your project. This should include a full description of the research you plan to undertake at CSHL, an explanation of the importance of the project in relation to your own research goals and the broader discipline, and justification for conducting your research at CSHL. A brief description of any additional archival collections (outside CSHL) you're planning to conduct complimentary research at and the amount of time you intend to spend at each institution (if applicable). The CSHL Archives Committee seeks a proposal that is sophisticated, detailed, and original.

The proposal should be no longer than two pages - 12 pt. font, double-spaced.

The CSHL Archives Committee will review the applications will base its selection of the Sydney Brenner Research Scholar on several factors. The Laboratory will assess the applicant's research proposal on the merits of its quality, sophistication, depth, and relevance to CSHL's archival holdings. We look for a unique proposal that will focus on a specific topic or perspective within the history of science, molecular biology, biotechnology and genetics.

The CSHL Archives Committee will decide on applications in April, 2020, and notify applicants immediately thereafter.

Award Conditions

  1. Scholars are required to travel to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory within one (1) calendar year of award notification to conduct their research using the Library and Archives collections.
  2. Scholars are expected to present the results of their research to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory community in a talk.
  3. A copy of the final research project (in the form of a scholarly book, article, or other medium) is to be donated to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library and Archives as part of its collection.
  4. The research findings are expected to be presented in a professional talk, meeting, website, or other type of presentation and to culminate in a scholarly book, article, or other project after completion of the research.

The stipend can be used for any purpose relating to the Scholar's research project, including travel, transportation, daily expenses, and accommodations for one year. The stipend is to cover expenses incurred for travel and subsistence while doing research using the resources of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library and Archives. Additional costs that may apply include recording oral history interviews, transcribing oral history interviews, microfilming archival materials, or completing other research tasks. Complimentary research to be conducted at archives outside our institution may also be included.

Previous Awardees

Year Awardee Research Product
2018-2019 Alison Kraft
Max Planck Institute for
the History of Science (Berlin, Germany)
Visiting Scholar, Department I: Structural Changes in Systems of Knowledge
The Walker B. James Lab: a case study of biophysics in the interwar period.
2016-2017 Matthew Cobb
University of Manchester
Professor, School of Biological Sciences
An article and BBC radio program on the collaboration of Crick and Brenner, 1956-1976
2015-2016 Miriam Rich
Harvard University
Doctoral Candidate, History of Science
Ph.D. thesis chapter on the scientific concept of defects of development
2014-2015 Erika Langer
University of San Francisco
Doctoral Candidate, History of Health Science

Molecular Ferment: The Rise and Proliferation of Yeast Model Organism Research (2016), University of California, San Francisco, (Doctoral Dissertation).

Dr. Langer says of the Sydney Brenner Research Scholarship and her time at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory:

My visit to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory deepened my understanding of my subject matter, not only through the Archives' preservation of rich source materials relevant to my project but also through the direct experience of the Laboratory setting--its architecture, environment, and celebration of living history. The Archives offers scholars excellent open access to its digitized collections, but I am indebted to the Sydney Brenner Research Scholarship for the unparalleled experience of an in-person visit with the superb help of onsite staff.


2013-2014 Lijing Jiang
Princeton University
Postdoctoral Fellow
A book on the history of cell death and aging research
2012-2013 Gregory J. Morgan
Stevens Institute of Technology
Associate Professor, Philosophy
A book on the history of tumor virology
2011-2012 Judith Cuddihy
Acquisition and Developmental Editor
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
An exhibit showcasing the life of scientist Calvin Bridges (1889-1938)
2008-2009 Marsha Richmond
Wayne State University
Associate Professor, History of Science
Examination of CSHL's visual collections for the history of women's role in early genetics
2007-2008 James Schwartz
Harvard University
Visiting Scholar in Molecular and Cellular Biology

James Schwartz's book, In Pursuit of the GeneIn Pursuit of the Gene: From Darwin to DNA (2010), Harvard University Press. (book)

The mystery of inheritance has captivated thinkers since antiquity, and the unlocking of this mystery—the development of classical genetics—is one of humanity’s greatest achievements. This great scientific and human drama is the story told fully and for the first time in this book.

Acclaimed science writer James Schwartz presents the history of genetics through the eyes of a dozen or so central players, beginning with Charles Darwin and ending with Nobel laureate Hermann J. Muller. In tracing the emerging idea of the gene, Schwartz deconstructs many often-told stories that were meant to reflect glory on the participants and finds that the “official” version of discovery often hides a far more complex and illuminating narrative. The discovery of the structure of DNA and the more recent advances in genome science represent the culmination of one hundred years of concentrated inquiry into the nature of the gene. Schwartz’s multifaceted training as a mathematician, geneticist, and writer enables him to provide a remarkably lucid account of the development of the central ideas about heredity, and at the same time bring to life the brilliant and often eccentric individuals who shaped these ideas.

In the spirit of the late Stephen Jay Gould, this book offers a thoroughly engaging story about one of the oldest and most controversial fields of scientific inquiry. It offers readers the background they need to understand the latest findings in genetics and those still to come in the search for the genetic basis of complex diseases and traits.

2006-2007 Robert Olby
University of Pittsburgh
Department of History and Philosophy of Science

Francis Crick: Hunter of Life's Secrets Book CoverFrancis Crick: Hunter of Life's Secrets (2009), Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. (book)

This engrossing biography by one of molecular biology's foremost scholars reveals the remarkable evolution of Francis Crick's scientific career and the shaping of his personality. From unpromising beginnings, he became a vital contributor to a remarkably creative period in science. Olby chronicles Crick's life from his early studies in biophysics, to the discovery of the structure of DNA, to his later work in neuroscience and the nature of consciousness. This account is woven together with insights into his personal life gained through access to Crick's papers, family, and friends. Robert Olby's book is a richly detailed portrait of one of the great scientists of our time.

Review from Human Genetics:

Crick could have wished for no more suitable biographer than science historian Robert Olby, who knew him for almost 40 years and who has had full access to family members and documents...Olby gives a vivid account both of Crick's work over a period of 60 years, and of his life, and there is much in this book that will prove to be unfamiliar, perhaps especially to geneticists...For exploring and documenting all these and other aspects of Crick's life in a readable, sensitive and not uncritical manner, readers from all backgrounds have much to thank Robert Olby for. His story will help to confirm Francis Crick as one of the key people responsible for the transformation of our understanding of life and its processes.



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