John Moyes Lessells Travel Scholarships

Funding area: International, Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM)

Are you interested in carrying out some of your studies outside the UK?

Do you like the idea of collaborating with fellow engineers across the globe?

RSE John Moyes Lessells Scholarships support Scotland-based honours graduates in engineering who wish to study abroad. All branches of engineering are eligible for consideration, including computer and software engineering.

These Scholarships arise from a bequest from the late Professor John Moyes Lessells, an eminent mechanical engineer who emigrated to the United States of America in 1920. The first award was made in 1985, and since that time over 100 scholarships have been awarded, to allow young engineers based in Scotland to travel and collaborate with their fellow engineers across the globe.

The Awards Committee would particularly welcome applications for scholars seeking to study in Asia, Africa or South America.


Fund deadline

March 5, 2020 5:00 pm

Fund value

Scholarship value is up to £1,250 per month, pro-rata.

Fund duration

Between 2-6 months

Additional Information

Professor John M Lessells was a mechanical engineer who was born in Dumferline on February 5 1888 and who died in 1961. Between the period of 1895 and 1915, he attended Queen Anne School, Lauder Technical School, Heriot-Watt College, and studied for a B.S. in Engineering, University of Glasgow. After graduating, he became an Inspector of aircraft material at the British War Office, and after WWI he worked as a spl. Engineer until 1920 when he emigrated to the USA and took up a job as a Manager in the Mechanical Division at the Westinghouse Electrical & Manufacturing Company.

He worked for Westinghouse up until 1931, and during that time was closely involved in the building of the 200-inch telescope at Mount Palomar, located in North San Diego County, California, which was one of the largest telescopes in the world for 45 years. Lessells became a naturalised US Citizen in 1930, and set up his own business, Lessells & Associates. In addition to owning the company, from 1937, Lessells became Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1925 he co-authored ‘Applied Elasticity’, with Stephen Timoshenko, and in 1954 went on to write ‘Strength and Resistance of Metals’.

It was his wish to give young engineers the opportunity to widen their knowledge and experience, and he wrote a bequest through the Royal Society of Edinburgh, to enable them to travel to other parts of the world, and to bring their knowledge back to Scotland.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Applicants must have graduated with an Honours or higher degree in Engineering ‎from a Scottish Higher Education Institution and/or be currently pursuing PhD research in ‎engineering at a Scottish HEI
  • The Scholarships are also open to individuals who are pursuing their postdoctoral research and/or are already in employment (please note applicants who have already obtained a permanent academic position will not normally be considered) however, funding cannot be used to cover the applicant’s stipend. In the event of equal quality and limited funds, preference will be given to postgraduates working towards their higher degree (e.g. PhD)
  • All branches of engineering are eligible for consideration, including computer and software ‎engineering
  • Candidates must devote his/her full to a research or an education course or such combination as may be approved by the Society
  • The Scholarships cannot be used to extend a PhD research
  • Candidates who hold other awards are not excluded from applying however they are required to check the terms & conditions of both to ensure the awards can be held concurrently.
  • Only one application per applicant will be considered per year. Once an individual has received a scholarship, they will no longer be eligible to make another application in subsequent years.

Eligible visits MUST:

  • Be more than two months duration to allow time for the Scholar to adjust to a new setting and to successfully carry out a programme of work. Visits of less than two months will only rarely be considered if the applicant can demonstrate how such a short visit would be useful and productive
  • Commence after having received confirmation that the application has been successful. This includes travel to the proposed location
  • Commence within 12 months of the award date with the successful applicant having travelled to their proposed place of study within this time
  • Be closely related to the applicant’s PhD or post-doc research

Visits NOT eligible:

  • Travel and subsistence to attend conferences are not covered. Conference travel will only be supported if there are additional reasons to travel which will advance the candidate’s career or if the conference visit supplements a larger research project abroad.
  • Activities overseas as part of a first degree.
  • Activities associated with an MEng.

Visits which MAY be eligible:

  • Visits to more than one institution or country (and planned breaks between visits) may be permitted and additional travel costs may be funded. Candidates should clearly state in the application the reasons for choosing to visit more than one institution and how the visits complement each other.
  • Visits involving data collection, testing, fieldwork and knowledge exchange related to the applicant’s PhD or postdoctoral research and/or professional development will be considered.

Click HERE for full Terms and Conditions for the Scholarship

The JM Lessells Committee is composed of Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Members of the Young Academy of Scotland with specialist expertise in the study and practice of Engineering.

The committee scores applications on the following criteria:

The engineering context of the application
Existing or new collaboration (new is preferred); personal initiative of scholar in making it happen
Coherent proposed visit of sufficient length
Timing and context of visit in relation to personal development
Strong endorsement from host
Benefits of collaboration to prospective scholar; to home organisation and to host organisation

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to attend an interview at the RSE. This year the interviews will be held on 22nd April 2020.

From previous scholarship recipients

Travel and accommodation

Please remember, not to book any travel or accommodation until you have accepted your award.

Once you have accepted your scholarship it’s recommended that you start your accommodation search, unless your host institution has confirmed that they will provide you housing.

It’s worth noting that private landlords often expect payment for whole calendar months, so if you arrive or leave halfway through a month you will still have to pay for the full month.


You need to have Travel Insurance to cover such eventualities as personal injury, loss of possessions or visit cancellation before you leave on you visit. This is an RSE requirement. It is also recommended, that you have Health Insurance in place before any travel, especially if your visiting a country outside of Europe.


It’s recommended you arrive a few days before starting your project, so you can familiarise yourself with your new surroundings prior to commencing your research.

Language Barriers

If you are not fluent in the language of the country you are visiting, then problems may arise in communicating with your host group. As it may take longer to gain facilities i.e. booking and using equipment.

Therefore, it’s recommended when you are planning your visit to schedule in a little extra time, so if delays occur due to communication issues it won’t affect your planned research outcomes.

Visits to Australia

It is important to note the status of staff members at Australian University – the duration of the project applied for may influence the (student) discounts and/or health insurance(s) available to you, especially if the project lasts for 3 months or longer.

Make the most of your visit.

Remember, a particular set of experiments or the development of a specific model are indeed valuable objectives, they do not represent the only possible outcomes of the experience.

Networking and collaborating with people around will greatly benefit your academic career and provide you with a variety of fresh perspectives and opportunities. Look to see if you can attend any conferences, seminars, workshops or summer schools relevant to your research being held either in your host city, or elsewhere within the country.

In addition, join in with social gatherings, join local clubs, perhaps even live with local people who will be able to show you around and discuss the history and culture of the area. Take in as much as you can from the culture and explore the country in your free time!

Who is the scholarship aimed at?

The Scholarships are open to individuals who are pursuing their PhD or postdoctoral research and/or are already in employment, but wish to pursue a research project to further their Engineering career.

Please note, if you already obtained a permanent academic position, then you are not normally considered eligible for this scholarship.

Am I eligible to apply?

To be eligible for the scholarship, you must have Graduated with Honours or Higher Degree in Engineering from a Scottish Higher Education institution, or currently be pursuing PhD research in Engineering at a Scottish HEI.

All branches of Engineering, including computer and software engineering are considered.

I am based at an institution outside of Scotland. Can I apply?

Applicants must have graduated with an Honours or higher degree in Engineering ‎from a Scottish Higher Education Institution and/or be currently pursuing PhD research in ‎engineering at a Scottish HEI.

I am a PhD student when would be the best time for me to apply?

It’s recommended that you apply for this scholarship after being halfway through your project. Therefore, you have already established the basis of your research and have a few ongoing ideas and this will make your visit much more beneficial.

In addition, you are encouraged to make early stage preparation ahead of the visit, so the collaborations can be more successful to maximise efficiency.

What’s the ideal visit length?

The scholarship visit length are normally between 2-6 months. However, it’s advised that your visits be at least 3 to 4 months. From previous awardees’ experience, the most fruitful research period started after 2 months.

Do I need references?

Yes. This is an important part of the application and without them your application will not be past to the committee. To avoid a last minute rush, please ensure that your two references have been received by the RSE Awards Team well in advance of the application deadline.

Can I apply for additional funding from other sources?

Yes. Candidates who hold other funding awards are not excluded from applying. You may be able to apply for additional funding support for your visits from either your home and/or host institutions, as well as other funding bodies

However, you do need to check the terms & conditions of the other awards to see if they can be held concurrently with the Lessells scholarship.

What will the Scholarship fund?

  • International travel (economy or equivalent)
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visa (if applicable)
  • Accommodation
  • Subsistence

How will the scholarship be paid?

If you are successful, you will receive 90% of your award before you travel and the final 10% will be paid to you after your visit once you have given a presentation to the Committee.

Click HERE for full Terms and Conditions of the scholarship

This award is now open.

To apply, please register for an account. The Application form and guidelines can then be downloaded from the “Apply For Funding” area once logged in.

Before submitting your application, please ensure that you have read the Scholarship’s Terms and Conditions and Application Guidance.

If you have any questions about the award, please contact