Panel gives prospective NSF GRFP applicants advice

Blue, green, and white GRFP logo. The letters "GRFP" are the focus of the logo. Written smaller, underneath "GRFP" are the words "NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program."

Current NSF research fellows, their advisors, former panel members, and prospective applicants gathered September 23 to share and learn about the NSF GRFP (Graduate Research Fellowship Program).

The mission of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is twofold:

  • Support individuals who have demonstrated the potential to be high achieving scientists and engineers early in their careers (college seniors, and first and early second year graduate students)
  • Broaden participation in science and engineering of underrepresented groups, including women, minorities, persons with disabilities, and veterans.

The GRFP is unique in that awards are portable between accredited U.S. institutions and allow for project and advisor flexibility.  Current fellows and advisors concurred that in addition to an applicant’s project, the applicant’s history, background, experience, and demonstrated desire and ability to conduct research are also important.

Awards are made for five years, supplying three years of fellowship support ($32,000 stipend per year + $12,000 educational allowance per year).  With funding rates at 17%, it is important that applicants “stand out” among their peers.  Applicants are encouraged to:

  • Demonstrate a history of research and outreach experience
  • Show how their background and outreach activities will contribute to the broader impacts review criteria
  • Select references who can write strong letters attesting to the applicant’s ability to conduct research and who can address the applicant’s unique background for creating broader impacts and/or broadening participation within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) disciplines

Said current psychology Fellow Taylor Tuscherer, “Showing is better than telling.  It’s not enough to say you are enthusiastic about research; you must demonstrate that enthusiasm by talking about your research and outreach experiences.  For example, rather than say that you are ‘passionate about research,’ discuss the number of labs you have worked in, the techniques and machinery you are familiar with, and list the number of projects you have worked on over the years.”

Potential applicants should read and re-read the current program guidelines (NSF 14-590).  The guidelines outline the program,award information, eligibility requirements, submission instructions, and the review criteria.  In addition, FAQs are available on the GRFP homepage.

Panelists encouraged students to:

  • Begin writing early
  • Have someone read a draft of their application prior to submission
  • Contact their references early
  • Write a clear hypothesis and objectives
  • Use headers to outline the two review criteria of intellectual merit and broader impacts

Program deadlines for the 2015-16 competition are as follows:

  • Engineering; Computer & Information Science and Engineering; Materials Research: October 29, 3014
  • Mathematical Sciences; Chemistry; Physics and Astronomy: October 30, 2014
  • Social Sciences; Psychology; STEM Education and Learning: November 3, 2014
  • Life Sciences; Geosciences: November 4, 2014
  • All letters of reference: November 6, 2014

Applicants must register with NSF FastLane and apply via the GRFP module.  For assistance with your application, please contact Tricia Callahan (529-1795).

Learn more about graduate-related funding by following @MiamiOH_OARS and @MiamiUGradSch on Twitter.

Written by Tricia Callahan, Director of Proposal Development, Office for the Advancement of Research & Scholarship, Miami University.

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