SPA / RLF Student Fellowship Program

Three of the 2013 Lemelson Fellows, Kelsey London Robbins, David Aftab Ansari, and Laura Horton, attended the SPA business meeting at the AAA annual meeting in Chicago, IL.
Three of the 2013 Lemelson Fellows, Kelsey London Robbins, David Aftab Ansari, and Laura Horton, attended the SPA business meeting at the AAA Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL.

Applications are now open for the 2020-2021 SPA/RLF Fellowship Program!

Fellowship Details and Application Instructions

The SPA / Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowships are designed to provide graduate students working in the field of psychological anthropology with funding to pursue exploratory research for planning their doctoral dissertation research and /or methods training to prepare for their doctoral dissertation research. Research projects supported by the funding should have the potential of advancing the field of psychological anthropology.

Normally, fellows receive their awards after their first or second year of graduate training as they begin to develop their dissertation research projects. Proposed exploratory projects are evaluated for viability and the potential of resulting in future dissertation research that will advance the field of psychological anthropology. Preference is given to applicants conducting exploratory research abroad. We expect to award six or more fellowships (depending upon funding levels) in 2020 with each fellow expected to receive between $3,000 and $6,000 depending upon need.


  • Fellowships are open to all graduate students without regard to citizenship or place of residence.
  • Applicants must be enrolled in a graduate program at the time of application and during the period of the fellowship. Applicants’ proposed research must be in the field of psychological anthropology, broadly defined, but they do not need to be students in Departments of Anthropology.
  • Applicants cannot have completed more than four years of graduate education, including all institutions that they have attended.
  • Applicants must be current members of the Society of Psychological Anthropology (SPA), a section of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) as of Sunday, March 1st, 2020. Details on joining the AAA and the SPA can be found at (Note: If the applicant is not a current member, we suggest submitting the membership application well in advance to be sure that the membership is current by the deadline.)
  • The funding cannot be used to collect data for the fellow’s master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation. This funding is explicitly for exploratory research to plan doctoral dissertation research, not for collection of data for broader projects.
  • Fellows are prohibited from accepting the Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowship in conjunction with any other summer or research funding for the same project or over the same time frame as the proposed research supported by the Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowship. The sole exception is that a fellow may accept funding for expenses, such as durable equipment, that are not covered by the Robert Lemelson Foundation fellowship.
  • All fellows are required to attend either the 2020 AAA Annual Meeting to be held in St. Louis, MO (November 18-22, 2020) or the 2021 SPA Biennial Meeting (location and dates TBA).

Permissible Uses of Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowship Funding:

Financial support can be requested to support all travel expenses, including airfare, ground transportation, and visa application fees; living expenses and housing; fieldwork expenses such as gifts for participants, translator and field assistant fees; and all other reasonable and justified expenses. Funds may not be used to pay for graduate school tuition or durable equipment, such as computers, cameras, or digital voice recorders. Budgets must include financial support up to a maximum of $600 to attend either the 2020 AAA Annual Meeting or the 2021 SPA Biennial Meeting (location and dates TBA).

Funding cannot be used to support language training in more commonly taught languages, such as Spanish, French and Arabic. Some funding can be used to support language instruction for languages where formal instruction is limited, but the focus of the project should be on pursuing exploratory research rather than strictly language instruction. Funding can be used for methods training, but the methods in question must be tied directly to the exploratory research project and it will be this project that is the focus of the selection committee’s review. Proposals for general methods or statistical training, for example, are unlikely to be funded.

We expect to fund proposals between $3,000 and $6,000. You may request a larger amount than the stated limit, but it is very unlikely that an award over $6,000 will be made.

Application components:

This application will include 5 total components, 4 to be submitted by the applicant, and 1 by their recommender.  The 4 components submitted by the applicant should all be combined within a single PDF file with your last name followed by RLF 2020, i.e. “Smith_RLF 2020.”

  • Application form: Download the fellowship application form from the SPA/Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowship tab on the SPA website, complete the form using Adobe Acrobat or Reader.
  • Project statement: In 750 – 1,000 words (excluding references), please describe the specific research activities or training that you will carry out with support from the SPA/ Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowship. Explain your research aims and activities, including any preliminary data you will collect and analyses you are considering. Please specify the ways in which this preliminary research and/or methods training has the potential to make your dissertation research more successful. Please indicate whether you have ever spent time in the field site in question. If so, please indicate the length of time and experience you have there, and how this bout of research will be different from previous visits. Your proposal should specifically address how your research program has the potential to advance the field of psychological anthropology. The statement should be single-spaced, and use a 12-point font and one-inch margins on all sides. Any references included should be narrowly focused, and should not exceed 300 words.
  • Brief curriculum vitae: In one single-spaced page, provide details on your education with dates of enrollment; any research funding, fellowships, and awards you may have received, including amounts and dates, and any academic publications and presentations you may have completed. Include details on prior employment, volunteer work, and other experience only if it is directly relevant to the proposed research. Other information, such as teaching experience, should not be included.
  • Budget and budget justification: In one single-spaced page, provide a detailed and specific budget with justification for the items and amounts included. Justification should include mention of how costs were estimated. Your budget must include support up to $600 for attendance at either the 2020 AAA meetings or the 2021 SPA Biennial meeting, and this amount can be listed as a single item in your budget.

In addition, your application must also include a letter of recommendation sent directly from your recommender:

  • Letter of recommendation: Applicants must obtain a letter written in support of their application from a faculty member familiar with their work and research aspirations. Normally, this will be the chair of the student’s graduate research advisory committee. Please provide the attached information sheet (see below) to the individual who is writing the letter. It is the applicant’s responsibility to be sure that the letter is received by the deadline. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed. Only one letter of recommendation will be accepted.

As you prepare your application materials, we encourage you to become familiar with your institution’s Institutional Review Board requirements for your research and to begin preparing your IRB protocol. Planning ahead in this way will help to ensure that, if your proposed research is funded, you will not experience delays with beginning your fieldwork.

Deadline and submission details:

Deadline for application submission: 5 pm EST on Sunday, March 1st, 2020.

Your application should consist of a single combined PDF file that contains all four components from the applicant, as described above. Please label the PDF with your last name followed by RLF 2020, i.e. “Smith_RLF 2020.”

To submit your application, please send the file as an attachment to the SPA’s Secretary, Dr. Elizabeth Carpenter-Song (, by the deadline. Applications received after this time and date will not be reviewed.

We expect to contact awardees by mid-April, and hope to contact all applicants in April. Please contact Elizabeth Carpenter-Song ( with questions or if there are any changes to your application, such a receipt of other funding.

All award and selection committees abide by the SPA’s Conflict of Interest Statement and Recusal Policy.

For information on current fellows, click here.

For information on past winners, click here.


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