student and faculty


Graduate Fellowships

Image of 3 people looking at stars
If your passion is space,
Wash U is your place. 

Fellowships from the McDonnell Center provide a generous stipend to incoming graduate students in the departments of Physics or Earth and Planetary Sciences. These three-year fellowships are offered to outstanding students expressing a special interest in astromaterials, astrophysics, or other space sciences. The fellowships provide a nine-month academic year stipend plus tuition remission. Renewals for a second and third year are contingent upon satisfactory progress and continued involvement in the space sciences. An additional stipend is provided for two summers of support for research.

McDonnell Center Graduate Fellowships

These fellowships may be offered to any highly qualified student from around the world.

McDonnell Astronaut Fellowships

Three special awards, established in memory of the astronauts who lost their lives in preparation for our first lunar landing, are offered to exceptional students who are also U.S. citizens:

  • The Roger B. Chaffee Fellowship
  • The Virgil I. Grissom Fellowship
  • The Edward H. White II Fellowship

McDonnell Center Named Fellowships

  • The Larry A. Haskin Fellowship - This fellowship was established in memory of Professor Larry A. Haskin, respected teacher, researcher, and former chairman of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis.
  • The Ernst K. Zinner Fellowship - This fellowship was established in memory of Professor Ernst K. Zinner for his contributions to the field of Cosmochemistry.  Professor Zinner had a dual appointment in the Departments of Physics and Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Graduate students interested in the space sciences should apply to one of the following departments:

Postdoctoral Fellowship Opening

Application Deadline

January 17, 2023

Washington University in St. Louis invites applicants to conduct independent research as a postdoctoral fellow of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences (MCSS) in the broad field of space sciences.  We welcome applicants with interests in Astromaterials, Cosmochemistry, or Meteoritics; Experimental, theoretical, or observational Astrophysics; Planetary Science; Particle and Nuclear Physics, Cosmology and Gravitation; and Earth as a Planet. In their application materials, the candidate should describe their research interests and list potential collaborators from among the faculty fellows of the MCSS. The initial annual salary is $66,000 with additional funds available for research expenses and travel support.

Candidates must have a PhD or be a May 2023 degree candidate specializing in one of the fields listed above and have a record of excellent scholarship. Ideal candidates will have demonstrated expertise in relevant observational, lab-based, theoretical, and computational methodologies.

The initial appointment will be for a one-year period, renewable for a second year. Washington University in St. Louis is committed to the principles and practices of equal employment opportunity and especially encourages applications by those underrepresented in their academic fields. It is the University’s policy to recruit, hire, train, and promote persons in all job titles without regard to race, color, age, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, protected veteran status, disability, or genetic information.

Applications should include a curriculum vitae and a 2-page statement of interest or research proposal, and the names and contact information for three professional references. Applicants are responsible for contacting referees. Referees will need to have their letters uploaded to the link provided by the application site. Applications and letters are due January 17, 2023 and should be submitted (along with reference letters) through Interfolio  Questions related to the search or application process may be directed to Jan Foster at


McDonnell Center Named Postdoctoral Fellowship

The Robert M. Walker Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Experimental Space Sciences - This fellowship was established in memory of Professor Robert M. Walker, the founding director of the McDonnell Center.  Walker was a pioneering physicist who shaped research in the space sciences worldwide.  

Student Highlight

Kelsey Prissel

Kelsey running a piston cylinder experiment at 760ºC and 1.5 GPa pressure in the WashU experimental geochemistry lab.

Kelsey Prissel (née Williams), successfully defended her PhD on April 17, 2020 in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.  Her research efforts included performing laboratory experiments to investigate the geochemistry of planetary interiors resulting in her thesis entitled, "Experimental Constraints on Igneous Iron Isotopic Fractionation and Diffusion."  Kelsey writes:

In my first year at WashU, I worked with my advisor, Professor Mike Krawczynski, to build our experimental geochemistry laboratory. We have apparatuses in our lab that can reach temperatures as high as 2500ºF and pressures over 35,000 times the pressure of the Earth’s atmosphere. One of the most exciting things about being an experimentalist is having the ability to control the conditions (temperature, pressure, oxygen fugacity) of the samples we synthesize, allowing us to study the geochemistry and petrology of rocks from any planetary body.  

While at WashU, I have experimentally investigated high-temperature iron isotopic fractionation between minerals and the melts from which they crystallize. With this project, we hope to improve the present understanding of basalt petrogenesis on the Moon. I have also conducted experiments to determine the diffusivity of cations in the iron-titanium oxide mineral ilmenite. This project will ultimately help us quantify the timescales of volcanic processes.

The resources in the McDonnell Center for Space Sciences, including the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, have made an essential contribution to my graduate experience. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with Professors Bruce Fegley and Katharina Lodders on an Astrophysical Journal publication about the chemistry of steam atmospheres on rocky exoplanets. I also have been fortunate to study an Apollo lunar sample (!) with Professor Brad Jolliff. In my third and fourth years as a graduate student, I have enjoyed increasing my involvement at WashU, both in our department and with the Teaching Center, as well as within the scientific community and in public outreach. This past year, I have been working to publish my research projects and have begun new projects that we can address with experimental data. I am extremely grateful for the support from the McDonnell Center for Space Sciences, which has allowed me to pursue all of my passions as a graduate student at WashU.

I'm blown away by the idea that the chemistry of small crystals can help us understand larger planetary systems. I decided to go to grad school at WashU because I wanted to hone my “forensic” skills and learn how to decipher those chemical signals and could have access to a full suite of analytical instruments and incredible experimental facilities. I work with Mike Krawczynski on a project that involves detailed petrography using optical microscopy and WashU’s electron microprobe. I couldn’t have made a better choice in graduate school; I feel extraordinarily lucky to attend WashU and to be a McDonnell Center Fellow.

―Andrea GoltzMcDonnell Center for the Space Sciences Graduate Fellow