Robin G. Walker

NSF GRFP 2012-2013

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I am in my first year of graduate study, currently doing rotations. The research I'm doing at my first rotation is pretty cool and I think it's certainly possible that I might end up in the lab. That being said, I'm not SURE that I want to stay in this lab and certainly want to do at least one or two more rotations.

My questions:

If my current rotation PI writes one of my three letters of reference for the NSF GRFP and I'm awarded the fellowship, am I kind of obliged to stay in her lab?

I understand that there are no rules saying that I HAVE to stay -- I'm more interested in your opinions regarding if this is good form or not.

Thanks!

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Is this fellowship external? can you apply to this after undergrad ?(not currently enrolled in masters)

currently work and graduated (B.S.) planning on applying to MS+Phd programs. some schools mentions that they nominate for fellowships.....

the last essay seems geared towards people already in masters program.......

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Is this fellowship external? can you apply to this after undergrad ?(not currently enrolled in masters)

currently work and graduated (B.S.) planning on applying to MS+Phd programs. some schools mentions that they nominate for fellowships.....

the last essay seems geared towards people already in masters program.......

Yes, the NSF GRF is external and not the same as fellowships that you get nominated for by your prospective department/school. You do need three recommendation letters, but you write the essays and submit the application yourself.

And yes you can apply after undergrad without being in an MS/Phd program already. I graduated with my B.S. in Spring 2011 and applied for the GRF during the 2011-2012 cycle (at the same time I was applying to PhD programs).

Edited by Pitangus

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Does anyone know what order the essays are presented?

I am going to end up wasting a lot of wordcount if I have to explain my model twice/other stuff twice, but it I can just say "as stated in my Previous Research Essay" it would make my life less stressful.

Michael

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Not presented in a consistent order, from what I recall. Each reviewer gets the packet, not all will go through it in a linear or consistent order, from what I understand.

But I can't think of a reason you should be doubling up on your model. You discuss your past research in your "Statement of Past Research", you discuss the broader impacts of your work and your community involvement in your personal statement, and you discuss your proposed research in your research statement.

For mine, it all compartmentalized nicely so I didn't have to double up much at all. You will want to hit some of the important points more than once, but I can't think of anywhere other than your research proposal where you should have to lay out and explain your model.

If you want to PM me with more details, I might be able to help more specifically.

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I would say yes, it's bad form to get a PI who's lab you're working in to write you a letter for the fellowship, get it, and then switch labs.

Agreed, unless you've discussed the possibility of switching labs with the PI beforehand. The PI I'm doing a rotation suggested I apply and offered to write a letter and proofread my application regardless of whether I stay in his lab or not. I think it comes down to clear communication of the expectations of everyone involved.

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My questions:

If my current rotation PI writes one of my three letters of reference for the NSF GRFP and I'm awarded the fellowship, am I kind of obliged to stay in her lab?

I'll break from the others: Bullshit. This application is about you. Put together the best application with the best references you can. The whole point of this fellowship is to give YOU academic freedom, not to pad this PI's lab. Now, I'm not saying you should be underhanded and lie/cheat your way to the award, but I would strongly recommend you discuss this with the PI beforehand. Be upfront about your thoughts and reservations. If they're a true professional, they will be willing to help you regardless. And if they're not willing to help you unless they get to keep the "free" student, do you really want to work in their lab anyway?

Also: God damnit, its too early to start this again. I haven't recovered from the last cycle yet.

Edited by guttata

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sigh!

Last year I got an Honorable Mention. This summer I decided to give up on a doctorate and just be happy to finish up in June 2013 with my Master's and support my family... I've got another good project, and I think I'm a stronger applicant now... Dare I go through this process again? (rhetorical)

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sigh!

Last year I got an Honorable Mention. This summer I decided to give up on a doctorate and just be happy to finish up in June 2013 with my Master's and support my family... I've got another good project, and I think I'm a stronger applicant now... Dare I go through this process again? (rhetorical)

Yes, of course. For your resume and pocketbook. Now that you are old hand, it won't even feel like as much work. You can just take the year of funding and waive the rest, it is still useful for a masters.

Edited by Usmivka

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So, I'm concerned about this section of the application, and I was wondering if anyone had insight:

All projects involving human subjects must either (1) have approval from the organization's Institutional Review Board (IRB) before Fellowship award or (2) must affirm that the IRB or an appropriate knowledgeable authority previously designated by the organization (not the Applicant) has declared the research exempt from IRB review, in accordance with the applicable subsection, as established in section 101(B) of the Common Rule.

Do I need to seek IRB approval prior to submission? Or at all, ever? I may not even carry out the research in my proposal.

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Also: God damnit, its too early to start this again. I haven't recovered from the last cycle yet.

Hahaha I feel that, guttata. New deadlines are up. November 19th for me! Here we go again, round 2 hah

arrowtotheknee, I would GUESS that, if you win the award and carry out the research as designed in your proposal, you could contact the IRB then. I'm not sure though, sorry!

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arrowtotheknee, I would GUESS that, if you win the award and carry out the research as designed in your proposal, you could contact the IRB then. I'm not sure though, sorry!

Thanks for the reply. That would be by guess, too. Upon cursory glance of the web application, I don't see any place to upload or otherwise note IRB approval, so...

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Hey everyone. I have a question about the research proposal essay. The prompt asks for the essay to be given in a particular format:

Format: Introduction and problem statement, hypothesis, methods to test hypothesis, anticipated results or findings, expected significance and broader impacts, and a short list of important literature citations.

Is this strict or more of a guideline? In looking over past essays posted online, many have particular sections titled: title, keyword, hypothesis, introduction, etc... As I am writing it now, though, I am including all of these elements but it is not in this strict format, and I have no section titles. I should also mention that I work in theoretical computer science, so my project proposal is not an experiment.

I appreciate any thoughts on this!

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From what I've seen (and how I wrote my proposal last year), it's a guideline. It's probably best not to stray too far from the intended format, though, and breaking up certainly makes it easier for the people evaluating your work. One point to consider: Estimates for how long reviewers have with your application put it at about 20 minutes for all of your materials, and that's being generous. Bolded sections can only help make the important details stand out, and as each of these sections are likely the start of a new paragraph anyway, you're not really wasting any space by including a bolded word in addition to or in place of an indentation. My bolded sections (still under review at this point) are an unmarked introduction, study species, Aims(Purpose), Hypotheses, Study sites, Methods, and most importantly, Broader Impacts.

In case no one's pounded it into yet, Broader Impacts is so, so critical. I've eschewed a plain Results (or Predictions, or what have you) section in favor of discussing the potential outcomes in terms of what certain results could mean for my field and related consequences like conservation, all under Broader Impacts.

Keep looking at as many funded proposals as you can. You'll start to see common themes. Two good sites I've been using (though they might be slightly less helpful for your field) are http://www.alexhunterlang.com/nsf-fellowship and http://rachelcsmith.com/academics/nsf.htm

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I agree with guttata. Section headings are important, along with judicious use of bolding, underlining etc. I don't think every proposal needs to contain the exact same sections, but each should have some sectioning. No one likes to read a big block of uniform text, especially when they have a limited time to do so.

I also think it's harder for reviewers to miss important aspects of your proposal if you have appropriate headings.

That said, I would recommend a section for Broader Impacts also. My proposal last year had a section called "Significance" that described the importance of my study, including a subsection for scientific merit and another for broader impacts.

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Are you guys talking about a broader impacts section in just the proposal or all essays? Seems like it would be overkill trying to do that for each one...

I had a labeled "Significance" section for my proposal and for each research experience/job described in my previous research essay.

I didn't have any titled sections in my personal essay because I figured a narrative approach would be ok for that one, but I did still have a small paragraph near the end dedicated to general broader impacts (basically the outreach goals for my career, not the specific plans for my proposal project).

I think it helps to have broader impacts (past, present, or future) in each essay if you can manage it. I chose to include labeled sections for two of my essays because I wanted to really spell everything out for the reviewers and make it easy for them to remember stuff from my essays. One of my reviewers wrote that s/he liked how I identified and explained the significance (both personal and BIs) of each of my experiences in my previous research essay, so I guess it worked in that case.

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I included a short section on broader impacts in each essay. I think this is really important. I had one reviewer who clearly wasn't reading things based on their comments, so hammering home your point is sometimes necessary. The other two reviewers (I had three since the one was crapping out) were particularly happy with my broader impacts and how it fit in with the proposal. I also specifically pointed out outreach and broader impacts related to each of my research activities (I did that section more like a focused CV). Regardless of format, I don't think I could have made a strong a case without integrating it the way I did, and this seemed to be a deciding factor in the award.

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I specifically included a section on broader impacts just at the end of my research proposal- single paragraph, highlighting in short form all of the exact broader impacts of my work.

I also included a distinct timeline for the project, with what would be done in each phase.

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I specifically included a section on broader impacts just at the end of my research proposal- single paragraph, highlighting in short form all of the exact broader impacts of my work.

I also included a distinct timeline for the project, with what would be done in each phase.

I did exactly the same, and two reviewers specifically commented on the realistic timeline.

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Also worth noting that it's important to put in what you will do in each phase if it *doesn't* work. Otherwise, you've stacked up a timeline, and if your first experiments don't work out, they want to see that you have other options and ideas.

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