Visiting Water Scholars Program

NOTE: Visiting Water Scholar applications are not being accepted in 2023. However, we encourage interested researchers to work with their Penn State contacts to identify a faculty host at the University in anticipation of the 2024 application cycle.

The Penn State Water Council is pleased to offer opportunities for outstanding Visiting Water Scholars who are interested in exploring new lines of research and innovative project-based initiatives with Penn State faculty and graduate students. Visiting Water Scholars can be faculty from other academic institutions, industry professionals, or employees of governmental and non-governmental organizations. Visiting Water Scholars are welcomed to stay for up to a year. While support from a home institution, grant or other source is expected, application funding requests will be considered for up to $30,000 to help support research, project initiatives, or offset local housing, transportation, or incidental expenses.  Visiting Scholars are not university employees.

The deadline for applications is below.

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Thematic Areas

Opportunities exist to collaborate with any of the hundreds of Penn State colleagues working within or across a spectrum of water-related initiatives in natural and social sciences, engineering, and arts and the humanities addressing one or more of the following thematic areas:

Protecting Public Health and the Environment

Advancing understanding of human and ecological health and ecosystem services, supporting vibrant and sustainable economies, and developing solutions to address both enduring water quality problems and contaminants of emerging concern.

Advancing Resilient Communities on a Dynamic Earth

Strengthening understanding and modeling of fundamental Earth processes across scales, including shifts in all aspects of the hydrosphere and related social and ecological implications, and developing and demonstrating innovations that enhance resilience through actionable climate solutions.

Driving Innovation and Technology

Developing and deploying next-generation tools, techniques, materials, and processes; advancing data-driven solutions; and actively using the University as a living lab in the service of meeting the world’s most pressing water challenges.

Guiding Social Action, Policy, and Corporate Transformation

Strengthening public governance, water ethics, and environmental justice, enhancing water security at individual to national scales, improving private sector performance, and integrating the arts and humanities for improved awareness, understanding, and culturally appropriate solutions.


Visiting Water Scholars are expected to engage in interdisciplinary activities that advance one or more of the Water Consortium focus areas above. Activities may include, but not be limited to:

  • Conducting and publishing interdisciplinary water-related research with Penn State Water Faculty;
  • Providing guest lectures, seminars, informal graduate courses, and presentations on critical water topics across the university system;
  • Engaging in community-building, public service and education, and/or public and corporate policy advising that center around the Water Scholar’s expertise; 
  • Helping to strengthen institutional partnerships, such as between Penn State and the Water Scholar’s home institution.  Efforts may be broadly inclusive of domestic and international institutions in academia, civil society, and the public and private sectors.


The following are the minimum eligibility criteria for a Visiting Water Scholar, which are in accordance with University Policy AC01 – Visiting Scholars and the Visiting Scholars Procedures:

  • Must be visiting from, and affiliated with, an outside (U.S. or foreign) university, institution, or business.
  • Possess an advanced degree and demonstrated expertise and experience in researching and/or helping to address a critical water-related challenge(s).
  • Must be hosted by a Penn State faculty member (Individual Host) and have an identified host department representative (Administrative Host), to include a jointly written letter of invitation from the Individual and Administrative Hosts.
  • Are generally envisioned for extended stays, such as a semester, full academic year up, or up to 12 months, although stays as short as 14 days may be considered.
  • Once selected as a Visiting Water Scholar, work with their Individual and Administrative Hosts to complete other requirements as defined in Penn State University’s policy on Penn State University’s policy on Visiting Scholars, potentially to include:
    • Undergoing a successful background check (University Policy HR99 – Background Check Process).  A background check must be completed prior to granting such Visiting Scholars access to university facilities.
    • Completing the Significant Financial Interest Disclosure Form in the event the Visiting Scholar will be responsible for university research during the visit.
    • If the proposed Visiting Water Scholar is intending to arrive on a J-1 visa sponsored by the university, additional criteria must be met. Please consult with Global Programs to learn more about the minimum requirements for a J-1 visa.  If the international Visiting Water Scholar is not requiring Visa support from the university, then they must submit an International Visiting Scholar Export Review Request Form available at the University Export Compliance website at least thirty (30) days prior to arrival at university facilities.
    • As a condition of the visit, Visiting Scholars may be required to obtain personal health insurance.  Request for exceptions to the minimum eligibility criteria must be made in writing and submitted to the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs for approval.
    • Regardless of the duration or purpose of the visit, in order to comply with federal export control laws and regulations, and to comply with University Policy AD89, all proposed international Visiting Scholars are subject to an export review prior to arrival.


Visiting Water Scholars are not university employees, but are eligible for the following:

  • Access to University facilities and resources (e.g., libraries, laboratories, etc.), as deemed appropriate by the Faculty Host and in accordance with University policies. The Faculty Host is responsible for informing the Visiting Water Scholar prior to arrival about the approved access to University facilities and resources.
  • Office space, if deemed appropriate by the Faculty Host. The Faculty Host is responsible for issuing the appropriate office or laboratory key(s) and should be cognizant of the need to be cautious about issuing such access and must consider export control, conflict of interest, and other factors. Upon the completion of the Visiting Scholar’s term at the University, the Faculty Host must collect all keys issued to the Visiting Scholar.
  • Penn State email address, paid for by the Faculty Host and available only to those Visiting Scholars whose visits to the University are fourteen (14) consecutive days or more, the primary purpose of which is to enable Visiting Scholars to send and receive electronic University correspondence. Upon completion of the Visiting Scholar’s term at the University, the University will disable the Penn State email address and all Penn State IT access assigned to the Visiting Scholar.
  • University Identification Card (ID card), paid for by the Faculty Host, will be issued, via Identity Management Services in the Office of Information Security, to all Visiting Scholars whose visit to the University is at least thirty (30) calendar days. The primary purpose of the ID card is to enable Visiting Scholars to use University publicly accessible facilities, such as the Library. Upon completion of the Visiting Scholar’s term at the University, the Faculty Host or their designee must collect the University ID card from the Visiting Scholar. Please see University Policy HR102 (Separation and Transfer Protocol) for further information generally regarding the return of University property.

Application Process

Application packages will be accepted between June 1 and August 15 each year, with selections made by September 30th. It is anticipated that Visiting Water Scholar stays will begin between January and August of the following year. Application packages are to include the following:

  1. Vision Statement from the candidate (½ page)
    Application should include a candidate’s statement broadly articulating their passions/career goals and how this opportunity aligns with and supports those goals.
  2. Proposal (2 pages)
    • Purpose
    • Work to be Accomplished
    • Schedule of Major Steps of Proposed Work
    • Projected Results/Expected Outcomes
      Short and long-term benefits/outcomes/impacts
  3. Budget Justification (½ page)
  4. Appendices:
    • A joint Letter of Support from the Penn State Individual Host (Faculty) and Administrative Host (department representative)
    • Letter of Support from the Visiting Scholar’s supervisor at their home institution
    • Full curriculum vitae

Apply via InfoReady