Applying for the nsf graduate Fellowship



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Applying for the NSF Graduate Fellowship

  • A workshop for prospective applicants
  • September 16, 2015

Workshop presenters

  • Sarah Liggett, Donald and Norma Nash McClure Alumni Professor of English and Director, CxC, Email: enligg@lsu.edu.
  • Marybeth Lima, Cliff & Nancy Spanier Alumni Professor of Biological & Agricultural Engineering and Director, CCELL, Email: mlima1@lsu.edu.

Workshop overview

  • Basic information on the Fellowship
  • How the selection process works
  • The ideal candidate for the NSF graduate Fellowship
  • How to prepare the best application

Basic information on the Fellowship

  • General information can be found at
    • http://www.nsfgrfp.org/
  • Program solicitation (request for proposal):
    • Contains all specifics on how to apply
    • http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2015/nsf15597/nsf15597.pdf

Basic information on the Fellowship

  • Fellows receive
    • Three years of support
      • $34,000 annual stipend
      • $12,000 cost-of-education allowance
      • $1,000 one time international travel allowance
      • Supercomputer access (XSEDE)
      • GROW (global research opportunities worldwide) initiative

Basic information on the Fellowship

  • Eligibility requirements
    • Applicants must be United States citizens or nationals, or permanent resident aliens of the United States
    • The term "national" designates a native resident of a commonwealth or territory of the United States, such as American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, United States Virgin Islands, or the Northern Mariana Islands. It does not refer to a citizen of another country who has applied for United States citizenship.

Eligibility

  • Individuals are typically eligible to apply:
      • During the senior year of college
      • After graduating from college and prior to entering graduate school
      • During the first year of graduate school
      • Prior to completing the first term of the second year of graduate school.
  • Applicants must have completed no more than 12 months of full-time graduate study or its equivalent as of August 1, 2015.

Eligibility: Extenuating Circumstance

  • Applicants who have completed more than twelve months of graduate study or have earned a previous graduate or professional degree are eligible only if they have had an interruption in graduate study of at least two consecutive years prior to November 1, 2015. To be eligible, applicants must have completed no additional graduate study by August 1, 2015.
  • The Fellowship will not fund MD/Ph.D. programs
  • Questions on eligibility: info@nsfgrfp.org

Basic information on the Fellowship: due dates

  • All applications must be submitted through Fastlane by 7:00 CST on the following days:
  • October 26, 2015 (Monday):
      • Biological Sciences
      • Geosciences

Basic information on the Fellowship: due dates

  • October 27, 2015 (Tuesday):
    • Computer and Information Science and Engineering
    • Engineering
    • Materials Research
  • October 29, 2015 (Thursday):
    • Psychology
    • Social Sciences
    • STEM Education and Learning

Basic information on the Fellowship: due dates

    • October 30, 2015 (Friday):
      • Chemistry
      • Mathematical Sciences
      • Physics and Astronomy
  • November 5, 2014 (Thursday)
    • Reference letters due for all fields of study

Basic information on the Fellowship

  • The application process involves
    • Registering online in FastLane (NSF’s platform for electronic submission of your application)
    • Inputting “the basics” of the application
      • Personal information
      • Education and other experience
      • Field(s) of study
      • Graduate school information
      • Academic transcripts

Basic information on the Fellowship

  • The application process involves
    • Having a minimum of three people write letters of recommendation (must be submitted on time)—you can ask up to five people to submit!
    • Writing two statements (essays):
      • Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement
      • Graduate Research Plan Statement (proposed research)

Statement requirements

  • Standard 8.5" x 11" page size
  • 12-point, Times New Roman font or Computer Modem (LaTeX) font
  • 10-point font may be used for references, footnotes, figure captions and text within figures
  • 1" margins on all sides
  • Single spaced or greater line spacing.

Statement requirements

  • 3-page limit for the Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement
  • 2-page limit for the Graduate Research Statement  
  • References, figures, and citations are included in page limits.

Statement requirements

  • Character spacing should use normal (100%) single-line space option.  Do not condense line spacing or reduce the character spacing scale.  Adherence to type size, character spacing, and page length is necessary to ensure that no applicant will have an unfair advantage, by using smaller type or line spacing to provide more text in the application.
  • Images may be included in your statements. However, they will be produced only in black and white. All images, footnotes, endnotes, and other citations are included in the page limit.

How the selection process works

  • After submission, your application will be reviewed by a panel of experts, usually professors in your field of study
    • 3 reviews
  • The panelists will review your application with respect two criteria:
    • Intellectual merit
    • Broader impacts
  • And on the following scale:
    • Excellent, very good, good, fair, poor

The following elements should be considered in the review for both criteria:

    • What is the potential for the proposed activity to
      • Advance knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields (Intellectual Merit);
      • Benefit society or advance desired societal outcomes (Broader Impacts)?
    • To what extent do the proposed activities suggest and explore creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts?

The following elements should be considered in the review for both criteria:

  • Is the plan for carrying out the proposed activities well-reasoned, well-organized, and based on a sound rationale? Does the plan incorporate a mechanism to assess success?
  • How well qualified is the individual, team, or organization to conduct the proposed activities?
  • Are there adequate resources available to the PI (either at the home organization or through collaborations) to carry out the proposed activities?

Broader impacts

  • Broader impacts may be accomplished
    • through the research itself
    • through the activities that are directly related to specific research projects
    • through activities that are supported by, but are complementary to, the project.
    • NSF values the advancement of scientific knowledge and activities that contribute to achieving societally relevant outcomes.

Such outcomes include, but are not limited to:

  • full participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM);
  • improved STEM education and educator development at any level
  • increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology
  • improved well-being of individuals in society

Such outcomes include, but are not limited to:

  • development of a diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce
  • increased partnerships between academia, industry, and others
  • improved national security
  • increased economic competitiveness of the US
  • and enhanced infrastructure for research and education.

To evaluate the intellectual merit criterion, panelists will consider:

    • The potential of the applicant to advance knowledge based on a holistic analysis of the complete application, including
      • The personal, relevant background, future goals statement
      • Graduate research plan statement
      • Strength of the academic record
      • Publication/presentations
      • References
    • Panelists will not consider the GRE score!

To evaluate the broader impacts criterion, panelists will consider:

  • The potential of the applicant for future broader impacts as indicated by
    • Personal experiences
    • Professional experiences
    • Educational experiences
    • Future plans

How the selection process works

  • After review, applicants are placed in groups indicating their likelihood of being funded
  • NSF makes final award selections
  • Awards are announced in the spring (usually early April)

The ideal candidate for the NSF graduate Fellowship

  • I have taught 22 NSF graduate fellows from LSU
    • Undergraduate GPAs ranged from 3.1 to 4.0
    • Most completed undergraduate research
    • All had some form of extracurricular activity
    • All worked very hard on their applications
      • At least 6 drafts of each essay was common
    • About half the students were funded the second or third time they applied (use the reviewer comments to improve your next application)

The ideal candidate for the NSF graduate Fellowship

  • Is a Renaissance scholar
  • Has fully addressed intellectual merit and broader impacts criteria in their application
  • Is a reflective practitioner or scholar
    • Everyone applying has good grades and excellent personal character; you must set yourself apart from the other applicants
      • 2000 awards; last year, 16,500 applicants!

On being a reflective practitioner

  • We tend to focus on the what (concrete experience)
  • Go beyond “the what” in both your statements
  • Answer: What, so what, now what?
    • What: “I did research on…”
    • So what: “Through my experience, I learned…”
    • Now what: “My philosophy is…”; “Based on these experiences, my next step is…”

Reflective practitioner, research

  • What: The objectives of this research are
  • So what:
    • The anticipated results of this study relate to my hypothesis in the following ways:
    • In the proposed project, I anticipate problems with xxx. If I encounter these problems, I will do y and z.
  • Now what: The implication of this study is…

How to prepare the best application (in my opinion)

  • Start NOW
  • Choose your recommendation letter writers carefully
    • Provide a full resume, copies of your essays, etc.
    • Make sure that the reference knows you well enough to write a strong recommendation
    • Make sure that they submit before the deadline!

Help your references help you

  • Give them this link: http://www.nsfgrfp.org/reference_writers/requirements
    • 2 –page limit
    • On letterhead and signed
    • Explain nature of the relationship to the applicant
    • Address the NSF Merit Review Criteria of Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts of candidate
    • Assess applicant's potential for contributing to a globally-engaged United States STEM workforce
    • Evaluate applicant's academic potential and prior research experiences
    • Evaluate applicant's proposed research

How to prepare the best application (in my opinion)

  • The graduate research essay (proposed research) is the most important: focus on intellectual merit
  • You are trying to prove that you know how to do research!
    • This statement should be on a research project that you come up with yourself (make clear in essay)
    • You will provide introduction/background information, a testable hypothesis, materials and methods for testing your hypothesis, and expected research results (plus any references you cite)

How to prepare the best application (in my opinion)

  • The most common mistake in the proposed research essay:
    • Skipping over or glossing over expected results
    • In research, results are the name of the game, so make sure that you focus on this portion of the essay
    • My advice: be a reflective practitioner! Can you take your expected results a step further?
      • How do the expected results tie back to your objectives or hypothesis?
      • Research seldom works the way we planned; in which part of your study do you think results will be the most difficult to obtain? Why? How might you overcome this difficulty?
      • What is the overall implication of your expected results?

Personal, Relevant Background & Future Goals Statement

Gather your “data”

  • Before starting the essay, write out answers to these questions:
    • Why are you fascinated by your research area?
    • What examples of leadership skills and unique characteristics do you bring to your chosen field?
    • What personal and individual strengths make you a qualified applicant?
    • How will receiving the fellowship contribute to your career goals?

Gather your data

  • What are all of your applicable (research) experiences?
    • For each experience, what were the key questions, methodology, findings, and conclusions?
    • Did you work in a team and/or independently? How did you assist in the analysis of results?
    • What did you learn about the research process?
    • What did you learn about yourself?
    • How did your activities address the Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts criteria?

Analyze, interpret your “data”

  • It’s not enough for a statement to relate personal information about your background or future goals. You need to interpret what the facts says about you. If you’re having trouble, consider these traits called “Habits of Mind.”* How does your narrative reflect one or more of them? Your readers are likely to recognize them as key intellectual and practical characteristics of a successful researcher.
  • Persistence Openness
  • Curiosity Responsibility
  • Ability to collaborate Flexibility
  • Responsible risk taking Engagement
  • Problem-solving abilities Metacognition
  • Ability to draw connections Creativity
  • *From “Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing,” a publication of NCTE and WPA.

How to prepare the best application (in my opinion)

  • Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement
    • Share your personal character and experiences in the context of your passion to do research
    • Don’t just talk about what you have done--be a reflective practitioner
        • Philosophy?
        • Impact on science, the public, society, culture?
    • If you have not completed a formal undergraduate research experience, you must frame your prior work in terms of discovery; prove that you know how to do research through your experiences

How to prepare the best application (in my opinion)

  • For both essays
    • Don’t just draw the dots with your words, connect them also (nuance is a lost art)
      • The intellectual merit of this proposed research is…
      • The broader impacts of this research are…
    • Don’t overdo it—but at the same time, you want your reviewers to think that you can change the world

Connecting the dots

  • My career path was inspired through my personal experiences with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). I became involved with MDA at the age of eight when I was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) Disease. CMT is a neuromuscular disease that affects the peripheral nerves and causes muscle weakness and atrophy, tightness in muscles and joints, and some loss in sensation of the feet and hands. Through the generosity of others’ time and monetary gifts, I was able to attend summer camp for one week every year. I remember my first year at camp, and realizing how lucky I was as I got to know other campers. I had a lot of pain and wore leg braces, but I was not in a wheelchair. My goal is to design and create assistive medical devices, particularly orthotics and prosthetics, that will allow those with physical limitations to lead a life free of confinement and ultimately result in children being active participants in activities instead of watching from the sidelines.

Connecting the dots

  • My career path was inspired through my personal experiences with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). I became involved with MDA at the age of eight when I was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) Disease. CMT is a neuromuscular disease that affects the peripheral nerves and causes muscle weakness and atrophy, tightness in muscles and joints, and some loss in sensation of the feet and hands. Through the generosity of others’ time and monetary gifts, I was able to attend summer camp for one week every year. I remember my first year at camp, and realizing how lucky I was as I got to know other campers. I had a lot of pain and wore leg braces, but I was not in a wheelchair. Camp made me more aware of what I could do, but also more aware of what some of my peers could not. This knowledge fired my career goal: to design and create assistive medical devices, particularly orthotics and prosthetics, that will allow those with physical limitations to lead a life free of confinement and ultimately result in children being active participants in activities instead of watching from the sidelines.

How to prepare the best application

  • Enlist the assistance of a mentor(s) who will critique your essays
    • Your research mentor and/or one of your references
    • Honors Students: Dr. Drew Arms
    • LA-STEM students: Dr. Isiah Warner or Ms. Melissa Crawford
    • Joe Givens, McNairs Scholars
    • Science students: Dr. Becky Carmichael, Studio 151 in Coates
  • Self-critique as if you were a reviewer; also give to a friend to review

How to prepare the best application

  • Use all the space allotted to you for each essay
    • Fitting your essays into two or three pages should be agonizing
    • Multiple drafts are recommended
  • Co-authorship on a refereed journal article is a real “feather in your cap”

Writing Resources

  • Guide to Proposal Writing from the NSF
  • General writing advice, see especially writing for the sciences
  • Advice on writing personal statements--Purdue OWL

How to prepare the best application

    • Get guidance from successful applications: Google “example nsf graduate fellowship” and see what comes up!
      • University of Cincinnati site
      • University of Illinois site
        • Don’t forget that example applications might have 3 essays (old format)—the format you are doing has two essays (personal statement essay and previous experience essay are now combined)
    • The Fellowship is worth about $28,000 per page of essay that you write! Put in that kind of effort!
    • If you have already applied, address the comments from NSF proposal reviewers

Next steps

  • Thursday, October 8, 5:00 – 6:00 pm, Room 143 Coates Hall. Graduate Research Fellows panel. You will hear from LSU graduate students who have received the NSF Graduate Fellowship. They will tell you about their experiences during the application process, will provide advice, and will answer questions you have.

Next steps

  • Thursday, October 15, 5:00 – 6:30 pm, Room 143 Coates Hall. Evaluation of your fellowship applications by LSU faculty and your peers. You will bring 3 copies of the draft of your application for critique; you will also critique others’ drafts.
  • You will sign up for this workshop online (we will email you a link around October 6)

GOOD LUCK!!

  • Get started now!

Directory: academicaffairs -> ccell -> files
files -> My advice for those applying is to have as many people as possible read your essays. I had numerous professors from both my undergraduate and graduate programs read them and they all provided unique and great feedback
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academicaffairs -> High Stakes Writing Assignment Guidelines What can I find here?
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files -> Applying for the nsf graduate Fellowship

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