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StemQueries

NSF GRFP 2016-2017

203 posts in this topic

19 hours ago, underscore_frosty said:

Right now I'm just working on a host of small, personal projects broadly related to computational number theory and applied logic.

Have you worked with any faculty on these projects? Or are there faculty that work on similar projects in your school?

19 hours ago, underscore_frosty said:

I feel I could write a good proposal for each of the projects I've narrowed my interests down to. The problem is that of the 4 projects I have in mind, 3 of them are more personal (i.e. solving hard problems) that don't really have broad impacts outside their topic, namely algorithms and theoretical computer science. So I'm inclined to choose the project with the broadest impact according to the GRFP criteria. But I'm still undecided.

I think at this point, you really need to find a faculty advisor that you can pitch these ideas to. They will have a sense of what projects actually gets funded in your research area and should be able to narrow the list of 4 down to 1 or 2.

I personally know very minimal about your field, but in general, I think funding agencies hate the words "solving hard problems" that "don't really have broad impacts outside their topic". You need to put together a research proposal that is broken out into steps, and the funders want a least a few of the steps to be reasonable to accomplish, while the last step might be a stretch. So without knowing anything specific, I would say those 3 tough ideas need some work. But this is where a faculty advisor in your field could help you shape those 3 ideas into manageable steps that would be acceptable to NSF.

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2 minutes ago, alexhunterlang said:

Have you worked with any faculty on these projects? Or are there faculty that work on similar projects in your school?

Unfortunately, I'm coming from a comprehensive university so there is very little research that goes on (I do have research experience, but at another university at an NSF REU). That being said, there is one professor that does work in algorithms, but he is more interested in "big" data algorithms and biological algorithms. I could, as you suggested just sort of bounce ideas off of him. I also know there are math faculty here at my university interested in number theory at the very least, but I don't know any of them on a more than "hey, I took a class from you once" level.

 

10 minutes ago, alexhunterlang said:

I personally know very minimal about your field, but in general, I think funding agencies hate the words "solving hard problems" that "don't really have broad impacts outside their topic". You need to put together a research proposal that is broken out into steps, and the funders want a least a few of the steps to be reasonable to accomplish, while the last step might be a stretch. So without knowing anything specific, I would say those 3 tough ideas need some work. But this is where a faculty advisor in your field could help you shape those 3 ideas into manageable steps that would be acceptable to NSF.

I actually sort of did this last night in regards to the project I feel would have the broadest impact. I took a step back and abstracted the idea to the most basic level (the project was related to memetic algorithms, so I just abstracted this out to just memetics/memetic algorithms). From there I spent some time thinking about what problems could be solved and questions answered using this sort of broad topic (in this case, how can I apply memetics and memetic algorithms to XYZ problem). This, I feel, helped me build a concrete project (or at the very least more concrete ideas about a potential project) which I'm going to type up a draft proposal for this weekend and then forward it on to my letter writers to see what they think.

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31 minutes ago, underscore_frosty said:

(I do have research experience, but at another university at an NSF REU).

Is this one of your letter writers? If not, definitely at least try them for some help.

33 minutes ago, underscore_frosty said:

That being said, there is one professor that does work in algorithms, but he is more interested in "big" data algorithms and biological algorithms. I could, as you suggested just sort of bounce ideas off of him. I also know there are math faculty here at my university interested in number theory at the very least, but I don't know any of them on a more than "hey, I took a class from you once" level.

I think it is worth talking to them. I have a feeling they would be more than willing to help. I can tell you that at this point in my career (ie a postdoc), if someone is broadly in my research area, even if I haven't worked directly on their topic, I can usually at least give a rough judgment of feasible/unfeasible as a research proposal. So I'm guessing that your professors should be able to narrow your topics down for you.

Two other tips:

  1. See if your school has a fellowship / grant writing center
  2. Try out the NSF GRFP Experienced Person List. If you explain your situation (ie that you don't have research faculty with whom you can discuss research specifics), you might be able to get one of the experienced people in your field to help you, even though they aren't at your university.

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2 hours ago, alexhunterlang said:

Is this one of your letter writers? If not, definitely at least try them for some help.

Yup, he is one of my letter writers. The only issue is that the research project I worked on was not related to my interest area of algorithms and theory. It was related to software security. That being said though, since my advisor/PI for the project has experience writing NSF grants, I do see how it would be valuable to at least get some tips from him about the proposal.

Before I actually put my letter writers down on the application, like I said, I'm going to at the very least send out a rough draft of my proposal to them. I'll also check out that GRFP Experienced Person list.

 

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On 8/31/2016 at 8:23 AM, breadwinner said:

I don't have any advice for discussing how you've changed and become more serious but I am facing a similar issue. I have not had significant personal struggles directly related to science (except for moderate imposter syndrome, which seems ubiquitous) so I don't have a truly personal centerpiece story on which to hang my personal statement. My approach so far is to make my personal statement mostly about why my desired career is particularly appealing to me (it's in academia but not a professorship) and about my burning passion for science outreach (slightly exaggerated, but I do have a lot to show in this department) and then linking these two ideas. Not sure if this is the right move to make but this would be my suggestion at the moment.

I ended up speaking about a very clear moment in research when I realized that I wasn't doing exactly what I envisioned.  I wanted a more broad and applied field, but found myself stuck in a position that didn't provide that.  Instead, I struck out across country and gambled on myself and my abilities.  I had taken some lumps in undergrad, but they helped me toughen up and get serious.  I just keep knocking on doors and when one finally opened, I plowed ahead.  I tried to emphasize that even though I'm not the superstar, I'm tough, tenacious, resourceful, and determined to get what I want.

Hopefully that gives you something to work with or an angle to play.  I'll see what the feedback is regarding that and maybe it will completely change in drafts 3-5.

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On 9/1/2016 at 4:33 PM, Butterfly_effect said:

What does everyone think about Broader Impacts/Intellectual merit headings in the research statement? I previously had a broader impacts section, but I'm stumped about trying to shoehorn the intellectual merits in as well or just let the introduction/background also stand for intellectual merits. Thoughts?

I think you should definitely have separate IM and BI headings in both statements for two reasons. First, as was pointed out previously, the solicitation "recommends" it. Second, I think some reviewers use these headings to determine where they should pay extra close attention. At least one of my reviewers just regurgitated (almost verbatim) what I had written in my IM/BI sections in his/her reviews. I would recommend using these sections to convey the most important pieces of information that you can about you/your proposal that fulfills the IM/BI criteria.

For the research statement in particular, I was more general in the Introduction and very specific in the IM section. After all, how can you be specific about IM in the Introduction when the reviewer doesn't yet know what you're proposing to do?

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2 hours ago, sqxz said:

I think you should definitely have separate IM and BI headings in both statements for two reasons. First, as was pointed out previously, the solicitation "recommends" it. Second, I think some reviewers use these headings to determine where they should pay extra close attention. At least one of my reviewers just regurgitated (almost verbatim) what I had written in my IM/BI sections in his/her reviews. I would recommend using these sections to convey the most important pieces of information that you can about you/your proposal that fulfills the IM/BI criteria.

For the research statement in particular, I was more general in the Introduction and very specific in the IM section. After all, how can you be specific about IM in the Introduction when the reviewer doesn't yet know what you're proposing to do?

This. Also, use language to describe your BI and IM that mirrors the solicitation. NSF has guidelines on what it considers BI and IM- look up the phrasing, and make yours match. 

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Hey everyone, I am looking for some advice on my Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement for my NSF application. I am currently a senior undergrad and have been serving in the Army National Guard. I would like to express my military experience but I am finding it difficult to write about my service as a vehicle mechanic in a way that exemplifies my intellectual merit and broader impacts. 

Has anyone experienced a similar situation or could provide any sort of tips/advice?

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Hi All,

I would like some advice regarding the viability of a first/second year application, considering that I will only be able to apply once.  A bit about myself:

Undergrad GPA: 3.38 | 3 years research experience | NO publications | Already accepted to grad school | Already have plan for a project

I'll be taking classes my entire first year, but might have time to collect some preliminary data for my project (in atmospheric chemistry) too.  My program has pretty high standards, so I expect my graduate GPA to be much better than my undergrad GPA.  I've already started writing the papers for a GRFP application this year, but my adviser just suggested that I might have a better chance if I waited to apply next year.  

My questions:

1) I've read that a first year application is more likely to get accepted than a second year, but haven't seen the numbers to prove it.  Opinions?

2) Given that I have great references from my undergrad lab who I've known for 3 years, and whose opinions of me are fresh, would it be possibly detrimental to wait a year and use new references with less to write about?

Thank you for your help!

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Even for a first year application, you'll want at least one reference from your current school, ideally two. 

Applying in the second year makes good references from those people more likely. 

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Hello! I am very grateful for this topic thread. I have been getting pretty serious about my application for the GFRP and am looking for some advice on the personal and relevant background section.

A bit about my predicament: I did a lot of exploring in my undergraduate career, moving from an interest in counseling psych through law and clinical psych to human factors and human-computer interaction. My current essay pretty deeply describes the research experiences I have had, and the rather unfortunate time I had as a career counselor at the school's counseling center, which is sensitive. I was effectively fired from that job after I couldn't appear open enough in my interactions with clients, couldn't get myself out of bed to be on time for 8am shifts after working at a paying job late into the night before, and tried to help a friend who wasn't eligible for our services. There is a host of personal adversity issues which led to all of this, which I mention. I try to not focus much on that, since I don't want to seem like I am trying to displace blame. I failed. I wasn't accustomed to failing, but I faced it directly here. I changed and went on to have 3 very good and long-term research experiences, but I abandoned a field I was already questioning. I am a little worried about including this, but I think it is an important part of who I am. I have a good relationship with the prof who coordinated the experience, and he will be writing a letter. 

In addition to that sticky situation, I have come to the realization that I have very little actual detail about my "broader impacts." I am currently speaking about all of my research experiences, but I am now wondering if I should drop one of them (or at least condense) in favor of detail about how I have given back to my community. These detailings of my research experience essentially serve as the stepping stones in my path to my current interests, so I don't want to cut too much of that from my essay.

I have been finding a lot of good resources around the web, but I wanted a little help getting insight on my nuanced situation.

Thank you in advance!

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Quick question for context : If us entering 1st years wait until 2nd year to apply (having never applied before), how best to avoid "stagnating" over the next year with courses etc. and little, but maybe some, potential for research contributions? I suppose it would be a great time to develop a solid BI/Outreach. But as an incoming student, I feel I could be competitive with a good "trajectory" -- since I have a couple previous papers / and worked for two months during the summer here / have gotten into some broader impacts already. But I'm struggling to decide about applying having not applied before. I have a nice Personal Statement and a very rough draft of the Research Statement that is somewhat coming along, but I'm running into difficulties fleshing out my project details and so I'm not very confident in it.

All of this is probably made moot by the fact my PI advised I should just apply next year. So, to have a competitive 2nd year application -- do we really need significant research progress (i.e. have a paper submitted) ?

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Hi all, 

I was wondering if anyone had insight as to the reference format on the research statement. It says that we should use the citation format of scientific journals, which is all well and good, but I was wondering if it is possible to cite sources in a continuous format. So rather than listing sources line by line, condensing them into a paragraph like:

(1) J. Doe, The applications of blah blah ... (2) K. Rispy, Advent of agriculture,... (3) F. Ransom, blah blah....

Currently, this method is saving me a TON of space in my statement, but I also don't feel like getting invalidated. Thoughts?

Thanks!

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7 minutes ago, boneflower said:

Hi all, 

I was wondering if anyone had insight as to the reference format on the research statement. It says that we should use the citation format of scientific journals, which is all well and good, but I was wondering if it is possible to cite sources in a continuous format. So rather than listing sources line by line, condensing them into a paragraph like:

(1) J. Doe, The applications of blah blah ... (2) K. Rispy, Advent of agriculture,... (3) F. Ransom, blah blah....

Currently, this method is saving me a TON of space in my statement, but I also don't feel like getting invalidated. Thoughts?

Thanks!

A lot of people, myself included, have done this in their proposals. It shouldn't be a problem.

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Just now, sqxz said:

A lot of people, myself included, have done this in their proposals. It shouldn't be a problem.

Wonderful! Thank you for your quick reply!

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23 hours ago, boneflower said:

Hi all, 

I was wondering if anyone had insight as to the reference format on the research statement. It says that we should use the citation format of scientific journals, which is all well and good, but I was wondering if it is possible to cite sources in a continuous format. So rather than listing sources line by line, condensing them into a paragraph like:

(1) J. Doe, The applications of blah blah ... (2) K. Rispy, Advent of agriculture,... (3) F. Ransom, blah blah....

Currently, this method is saving me a TON of space in my statement, but I also don't feel like getting invalidated. Thoughts?

Thanks!

 

I tried that way first, but it looked pretty jumbled. I finally settled on an abbreviated reference style, seen in journals with very little space to spare. I've attached an image as an example.

image.jpeg

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Hey everyone,

I'm a second year grad student in neuroscience. I applied for the NSF GRFP last year and didn't get it and I plan to apply again this year. My question is as follows: I really like my essays from last year, and ideally I wouldn't want to change them very much, other than modifying them slightly to reflect how my graduate work has progressed over the first year (including achievements, etc.). For the research proposal essay I would still like to use the same proposal, and add a tiny bit about how I have already been working in the direction of that proposal. For last year's application, I got all  good to excellent marks from whoever reviewed my application, so based on that feedback it seems like I just need to make it a bit better in order to serve a good chance at getting the fellowship (and I think adding my 1st year achievements and research might do the job). So, my question is: will reusing the majority of my essays from last year hurt my chances in any way? Tied into this question: I imagine a new set of reviewers will be assigned to read my essay; will they have any access to my essays from last year? I imagine that if they don't have any access to my last year's application, then my plan above would work just fine.... What do you guys think? 

Thanks in advance!

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On 9/16/2016 at 7:35 PM, Shawn398 said:

Hi All,

I would like some advice regarding the viability of a first/second year application, considering that I will only be able to apply once.  A bit about myself:

Undergrad GPA: 3.38 | 3 years research experience | NO publications | Already accepted to grad school | Already have plan for a project

I'll be taking classes my entire first year, but might have time to collect some preliminary data for my project (in atmospheric chemistry) too.  My program has pretty high standards, so I expect my graduate GPA to be much better than my undergrad GPA.  I've already started writing the papers for a GRFP application this year, but my adviser just suggested that I might have a better chance if I waited to apply next year.  

My questions:

1) I've read that a first year application is more likely to get accepted than a second year, but haven't seen the numbers to prove it.  Opinions?

2) Given that I have great references from my undergrad lab who I've known for 3 years, and whose opinions of me are fresh, would it be possibly detrimental to wait a year and use new references with less to write about?

Thank you for your help!

I would wait until your second year, GPA is a limiting factor, last year I had E/E, VG/G, VG/VG, but what brought down my application was my GPA. Try to get 4.0 GPA as a graduate student. 

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23 hours ago, FastBallooningHead said:

Hey everyone,

I'm a second year grad student in neuroscience. I applied for the NSF GRFP last year and didn't get it and I plan to apply again this year. My question is as follows: I really like my essays from last year, and ideally I wouldn't want to change them very much, other than modifying them slightly to reflect how my graduate work has progressed over the first year (including achievements, etc.). For the research proposal essay I would still like to use the same proposal, and add a tiny bit about how I have already been working in the direction of that proposal. For last year's application, I got all  good to excellent marks from whoever reviewed my application, so based on that feedback it seems like I just need to make it a bit better in order to serve a good chance at getting the fellowship (and I think adding my 1st year achievements and research might do the job). So, my question is: will reusing the majority of my essays from last year hurt my chances in any way? Tied into this question: I imagine a new set of reviewers will be assigned to read my essay; will they have any access to my essays from last year? I imagine that if they don't have any access to my last year's application, then my plan above would work just fine.... What do you guys think? 

Thanks in advance!

Reviewers won't see what you wrote last year. I ended up scraping my old proposal for a different one that I had been able to get more work done on and it ended up going well. If you can show you have made progress, that will work in your favor. You can also add contingency plans in case one of your specific aims does end up working. What did you end up getting Gs on last time?

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I'm writing my proposal and having some trouble with space. I'm a second year graduate student and want to include important data, both to support my proposal and show the reviewers I'm productive. I have two figures, two and three panels of data each. The data itself takes up a small area but annotating it with text is taking up a lot of space. Can anyone confirm that the font size must be 10 for text in the figure? Also must it be Times New Roman? Usually Arial or Myriad is much better for figure text.

Edited by yolk

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On 9/30/2016 at 3:37 PM, FastBallooningHead said:

Hey everyone,

I'm a second year grad student in neuroscience. I applied for the NSF GRFP last year and didn't get it and I plan to apply again this year. My question is as follows: I really like my essays from last year, and ideally I wouldn't want to change them very much, other than modifying them slightly to reflect how my graduate work has progressed over the first year (including achievements, etc.). For the research proposal essay I would still like to use the same proposal, and add a tiny bit about how I have already been working in the direction of that proposal. For last year's application, I got all  good to excellent marks from whoever reviewed my application, so based on that feedback it seems like I just need to make it a bit better in order to serve a good chance at getting the fellowship (and I think adding my 1st year achievements and research might do the job). So, my question is: will reusing the majority of my essays from last year hurt my chances in any way? Tied into this question: I imagine a new set of reviewers will be assigned to read my essay; will they have any access to my essays from last year? I imagine that if they don't have any access to my last year's application, then my plan above would work just fine.... What do you guys think? 

Thanks in advance!

I think the real question is: do you really just need to do slightly better? If you got E/E, E/E, VG/E and an honorable mention, then fine. Maybe a slight improvement would be all you need, but it doesn't sound like this is the case for you. Going from your first to your second year, you should ideally have a ton more stuff to cram into you personal statement. With only ~3 months of grad school under my belt, my first year personal statement necessarily focused heavily on my undergraduate research experiences and had to be dramatically retooled to incorporate all the stuff I had done in the past 12 months. And I had a 12 month better understanding of my research project as well as preliminary results that had to be reflected in my research statement. Additionally, you should be scrutinizing your reviewers' comments for any hint of what they saw as weaknesses and make sure to address these matters in an obvious way in your essays to ensure that your new reviewers do not have any excuse to give you the same feedback. To your second main question, reviewers will not have access to last year's application. Even if they did, they would not have the time to go through it and try to look for the differences between your applications.

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5 hours ago, yolk said:

I'm writing my proposal and having some trouble with space. I'm a second year graduate student and want to include important data, both to support my proposal and show the reviewers I'm productive. I have two figures, two and three panels of data each. The data itself takes up a small area but annotating it with text is taking up a lot of space. Can anyone confirm that the font size must be 10 for text in the figure? Also must it be Times New Roman? Usually Arial or Myriad is much better for figure text.

My reading of last year's solicitation suggested that all text within the figure must be 10pt Times New Roman, but I seem to recall the wording was a bit vague/soft. Nevertheless, I made damn sure that the text in my figure was 10pt Times New Roman because I did not want to take the risk of being disqualified on a technicality. You'll have to read the wording in the solicitation for yourself and decide if you're willing to take the risk, or you could send an email to the NSF GRFP folks to get a clarification on the exact rules.

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On 10/2/2016 at 8:52 AM, yolk said:

I'm writing my proposal and having some trouble with space. I'm a second year graduate student and want to include important data, both to support my proposal and show the reviewers I'm productive. I have two figures, two and three panels of data each. The data itself takes up a small area but annotating it with text is taking up a lot of space. Can anyone confirm that the font size must be 10 for text in the figure? Also must it be Times New Roman? Usually Arial or Myriad is much better for figure text.

I was awarded last year. My figure legend had Times New Roman, size 10 font. In the actual figure, I used Arial and I sized the figure so that it was about size 10 font. However, if I had not been awarded and had to do it over, I would have used Times New Roman. It's not worth the risk in my opinion.

Can you replace any of your figures with a sentence in the text? I originally had two figures, but someone told me it looked too crowded. I removed one figure and as a result the proposal was easier to read since I had separate headings with spaces between paragraphs. Hope this helps! :)

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3 hours ago, chaparral said:

I was awarded last year. My figure legend had Times New Roman, size 10 font. In the actual figure, I used Arial and I sized the figure so that it was about size 10 font. However, if I had not been awarded and had to do it over, I would have used Times New Roman. It's not worth the risk in my opinion.

Can you replace any of your figures with a sentence in the text? I originally had two figures, but someone told me it looked too crowded. I removed one figure and as a result the proposal was easier to read since I had separate headings with spaces between paragraphs. Hope this helps! :)

Easily, and in fact I had until I showed my PI lol! Apparently "showing data > saying data". That's fine for a twelve page proposal but this two page proposal is a different beast.. As it looks now the proposal is a tight squeeze, but it fits. Overall I tend to agree with both you and sqxz, it's not worth the risk! I'll keep it Times size 10 font.

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On 9/1/2016 at 2:33 PM, Butterfly_effect said:
 

What does everyone think about Broader Impacts/Intellectual merit headings in the research statement? I previously had a broader impacts section, but I'm stumped about trying to shoehorn the intellectual merits in as well or just let the introduction/background also stand for intellectual merits. Thoughts?

 

I think I'm writing something like "The intellectual merits of this project arise...' which is within the sentence/paragraph of where I talk about background and my hypothesis, instead of making a heading specifically for it like I do with Broader Impacts.

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