In 1988, the Foundation established the Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering to allow the nation's most promising professors to pursue science and engineering research early in their careers with few funding restrictions and limited paperwork requirements. Every year, the Foundation invites the presidents of 50 universities to nominate two professors each from their institutions. Nominations are reviewed by an advisory panel of distinguished scientists and engineers. The panel then selects 20 Fellows to receive individual awards of $875,000, payable over five consecutive years.
Fellows must be faculty members who are eligible to serve as principal investigators engaged in research in the natural and physical sciences or engineering and must be within the first three years of their faculty careers. Disciplines that are considered include physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, astronomy, computer science, earth science, ocean science, and all branches of engineering. Candidates engaged in research in the social sciences are not considered.
The intent of the Fellowship Program is to provide support for unusually creative researchers early in their careers; faculty members who are well established and well funded are less likely to receive the award. It is further the intent of the Foundation to emphasize support for innovative individual research that involves the Fellows, their students, and junior colleagues, rather than extensions or components of large-scale, ongoing research programs.