StemQueries

NSF GRFP 2016-2017

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Will this continue to be the forum for the 2016-2017 cycle?

Also, are any STEM Ed applicants interested in starting a virtual writing group? We could meet every other week or so to exchange drafts or provide feedback/encouragement. I had a difficult time finding example essays for STEM Ed proposals last year so I would love to set up a group early so we can all help each other. 

Hope everyone is getting a lot of writing done this summer or simply enjoying a break from the chaos of undergraduates being on campus!

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12 hours ago, StemQueries said:

Will this continue to be the forum for the 2016-2017 cycle?

Typically, someone will start a new forum when the 2016-2017 NSF GRFP Solicitation is up. With the new eligibility as well as the past emphasis on explicitly saying what is your BI and IM, I bet the new solicitation will have more changes than last year.

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The solicitation for 2017-2019 was released July 20. Did someone start a group? http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2016/nsf16588/nsf16588.htm?WT.mc_id=USNSF_25&WT.mc_ev=click 

Grad students who applied last year can re-apply; new grad students have only one opportunity to apply. Decision time - apply this year or next?

Edited by Robin G. Walker

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NSF Systems are finally back in order, so I am reading through the Solicitation. Other than the eligibility change for graduate students:

  1. Applications with only two letters (i.e., one fewer than the desired three letters) will be reviewed unless the applicant withdraws the submitted application by November 15 of the application year. Applications with fewer than two letters will be returned without review.
  • To be considered for review, applications should include three reference letters from non-family members; however, applications with only two letters will be reviewed unless the applicant withdraws the submitted application by November 15 of the application year (see instructions below). Applications with fewer than two letters will be returned without review.

Wow! In the past, there have been applications returned when a reviewer "forgot" to submit a letter, but now two is acceptable. If I were applying, I would make sure to still have three.

Also, I know some applicants last year were freaking out about:

  • Therefore, applicants must include separate statements on Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts in their written statements in order to provide reviewers with the information necessary to evaluate the application with respect to both Criteria as detailed below. It is recommended that applicants include headings for Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts in their statements.

Make sure you have headers!

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The application is now open for this year. 

If anyone is applying in political science, feel free to contact me; I won last year as an undergrad. There is truly a dearth of information out there for applications in most of the social sciences. 

Edited by PizzaCat93

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I just found out that I'm able to apply again! I thought I wouldn't be eligible since I have an M.A. and I applied last year, but after reading the new guidelines and contacting the NSF, I am eligible to apply one more time! Woo-hoo! Good luck, everyone :)

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Does the proposal have to be something you actually plan on studying, or can it be related to a past summer experience that you no longer intend on pursuing (e.g. proposal focuses on one subject of bio and is related to a previous experience but a novel idea, but I intend on going into a different bio field)?

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1 hour ago, Kaede said:

Does the proposal have to be something you actually plan on studying, or can it be related to a past summer experience that you no longer intend on pursuing (e.g. proposal focuses on one subject of bio and is related to a previous experience but a novel idea, but I intend on going into a different bio field)?

It is intended to represent what you plan on studying, but many students end up doing something slightly or even completely different once they are in Graduate School. Is there a reason you wouldn't want to write about that?

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3 hours ago, sierra918 said:

It is intended to represent what you plan on studying, but many students end up doing something slightly or even completely different once they are in Graduate School. Is there a reason you wouldn't want to write about that?

Well the project I'd like to write about is in a quiet field (only 2 labs in the world work on this) and I came up with a pretty novel idea for it. I already started writing the proposal for my old lab and I figured it'd be great to have this double for the NSF GRFP, and my old PI agreed. But because it is seldom studied, it would tie me down to that lab and I'd really like to direct my studies to a different field (like physiology or neuroscience).

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22 hours ago, Kaede said:

Well the project I'd like to write about is in a quiet field (only 2 labs in the world work on this) and I came up with a pretty novel idea for it. I already started writing the proposal for my old lab and I figured it'd be great to have this double for the NSF GRFP, and my old PI agreed. But because it is seldom studied, it would tie me down to that lab and I'd really like to direct my studies to a different field (like physiology or neuroscience).

Oh ok, I understand now. The NSF does not tie you down to your proposal topic, so I don't see why you couldn't do that as long as you write it as though you intend to pursue that project.

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On 8/6/2016 at 6:48 PM, Kaede said:

Well the project I'd like to write about is in a quiet field (only 2 labs in the world work on this) and I came up with a pretty novel idea for it. I already started writing the proposal for my old lab and I figured it'd be great to have this double for the NSF GRFP, and my old PI agreed. But because it is seldom studied, it would tie me down to that lab and I'd really like to direct my studies to a different field (like physiology or neuroscience).

Are you planning to choose your Proposed Graduate Institution (proposed/current grad program) and Field of Study (primary field + subfield) based on your current research? The NSF doesn't hold you to your proposal project, but you should note these elements of the NSF Merit Review Criteria (presented in the NSF GRFP solicitation):

"4. How well qualified is the individual, team, or organization to conduct the proposed activities?

5. Are there adequate resources available to the PI (either at the home organization or through collaborations) to carry out the proposed activities?"

Ideally then your proposal should mention how your proposed program/institution is a good fit for your proposed research. If there is an obvious mismatch between your proposal and the proposed program or field of study, then that could weaken your application. It's true that the NSF GRFP is about funding the student rather than the project, but the proposal is still important for demonstrating an applicant's ability to propose a thoughtful project that is significant but also feasible given the applicant's background and the proposed program's resources. 

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6 hours ago, Pitangus said:

Are you planning to choose your Proposed Graduate Institution (proposed/current grad program) and Field of Study (primary field + subfield) based on your current research? The NSF doesn't hold you to your proposal project, but you should note these elements of the NSF Merit Review Criteria (presented in the NSF GRFP solicitation):

"4. How well qualified is the individual, team, or organization to conduct the proposed activities?

5. Are there adequate resources available to the PI (either at the home organization or through collaborations) to carry out the proposed activities?"

Ideally then your proposal should mention how your proposed program/institution is a good fit for your proposed research. If there is an obvious mismatch between your proposal and the proposed program or field of study, then that could weaken your application. It's true that the NSF GRFP is about funding the student rather than the project, but the proposal is still important for demonstrating an applicant's ability to propose a thoughtful project that is significant but also feasible given the applicant's background and the proposed program's resources. 

I'll likely apply to the institution and department that I did my research in, but it's not exactly one of my top choices. However I'll be listing it as a potential institution for the application.

Edited by Kaede

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3 hours ago, Kaede said:

I'll likely apply to the institution and department that I did my research in, but it's not exactly one of my top choices. However I'll be listing it as a potential institution for the application.

You can only choose one institution when you apply.

 

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I'm thinking about graduate school, not sure.

But if I got an NSF GRFP, then I would definitely go, because it would be great.

Is there any way to apply for the NSF GRFP, then find out if you get it, then apply to schools the NEXT admissions cycle?

So apply for NSF GRFP in October 2017, hear back from NSF in like March 2017 (???), apply to graduate school in December 2017, begin school with fellowship in Fall, 2018 and use the funding beginning at that time?

Or do I have to put in applications before I know whether I have this funding?

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22 minutes ago, natimarie said:

I'm thinking about graduate school, not sure.

But if I got an NSF GRFP, then I would definitely go, because it would be great.

Is there any way to apply for the NSF GRFP, then find out if you get it, then apply to schools the NEXT admissions cycle?

So apply for NSF GRFP in October 2017, hear back from NSF in like March 2017 (???), apply to graduate school in December 2017, begin school with fellowship in Fall, 2018 and use the funding beginning at that time?

Or do I have to put in applications before I know whether I have this funding?

You have to be enrolled in a graduate program in 2017 in order to accept an NSF GRF in 2017, so you should apply to both during the same admissions cycle. The NSF only allows deferrals in rare cases of military or medical complications. 

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29 minutes ago, Pitangus said:

You have to be enrolled in a graduate program in 2017 in order to accept an NSF GRF in 2017, so you should apply to both during the same admissions cycle. The NSF only allows deferrals in rare cases of military or medical complications. 

Thanks very much!

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Good luck everyone on the NSF GRFP applications! I have a few miscellaneous thoughts...

1. I want to make sure that first year grad students didn't miss this...

On 7/22/2016 at 8:10 AM, Robin G. Walker said:

Grad students who applied last year can re-apply; new grad students have only one opportunity to apply. Decision time - apply this year or next?

I don't envy anyone having to make the choice of whether to apply your first or second year. I hope all undergrads reading this use this as extra motivation to apply now!

2. While the gradcafe is of course awesome, also take advantage of the experienced resource list.

3. I just updated my collection of examples of successful applications to everything I know about, and I also updated my advice to the newest solicitation.

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I just had a few thoughts I wanted to throw out and, hopefully, get some feedback on:

I'm feeling confident about my research proposal.  I've run the proposal by a few post-docs in my lab and their responses have been very positive.  One even suggested it was a full-fledged grant application, which probably made my heart jump a bit too much.  Either way, I feel like with the example essays I've found and the ideas I have, I have got a solid IM and BI association with a relevant and important topic.

 

My big struggle is the personal essay.  I know I'm not the most competitive candidate and I am having a hard time reconciling what the GRFP says they do and what actually gets rewarded.  They claim to fund "people, not projects" which, while good, I feel like it might not play to my strengths as an applicant.  A lot of the essays I've read come from outstanding applicants and I feel like I really have a mountain to climb compared to them.  How should I play up this larger personal essay without making it a sob-story?  I'm not interested in throwing a pity party, but I want to be honest about what I struggled with and show that I'm not the same person anymore.  I should note that I am a M.S. student in my first year, so this is the only shot I'll have at this award.  If anyone has experience with this or advice, I would be very grateful for their help. 

 

Here are the items I feel hold be back and some that can help me if I can link them together:

Negatives:  horrific uGPA (2.0), only 4 years in research, no peer review publications, "low" graduate GPA (3.2)

 

Positives:  acting lab manager in my current lab (1 year), 2 years of field experience, 2 years research experience in my lab, 2 non-peer review publications, 4 posters (two first author, 2 contributing), 2 conferences attended, professional society committee involvement, guest lecture in several graduate classes, community involvement through extension/ field day outreach, mentor for undergrads/ upcoming scientists, promoting STEM diversity (most undergrads have been minority students and female), and renewed passion for science and community involvement (reflected in my current research and success).

Edited by imacick6

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On 8/25/2016 at 6:08 AM, imacick6 said:

My big struggle is the personal essay.  I know I'm not the most competitive candidate and I am having a hard time reconciling what the GRFP says they do and what actually gets rewarded.  They claim to fund "people, not projects" which, while good, I feel like it might not play to my strengths as an applicant.  A lot of the essays I've read come from outstanding applicants and I feel like I really have a mountain to climb compared to them.  How should I play up this larger personal essay without making it a sob-story?  I'm not interested in throwing a pity party, but I want to be honest about what I struggled with and show that I'm not the same person anymore. 

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.

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So, I'm going to be applying for the 2017 GRFP with my primary field of study being Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering. I'm hitting a roadblock though regarding choosing a research topic for the proposal portion. I briefly skimmed over Alex Lang's website and he suggested picking a topic related to what you are currently researching if you're an undergraduate. The problem is that I'm not currently researching anything. Right now I'm just working on a host of small, personal projects broadly related to computational number theory and applied logic.
I have done undergraduate research in the past related to software security, but I'm not particularly interested in that topic right now as I can't really think of a good project related to software security.

I guess the problem arises from the fact that I have broad interests in my field. If it sounds interesting and I investigate it a little bit, usually just to a superficial understanding, then I usually end up becoming more interested in the topic and delve deeper into it. That being said, I have narrowed my interests down somewhat to more specific topics/potential projects. 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. Also, for the one project that would have broad impacts, it's actually more interdisciplinary than strictly related to computer science (in fact it would bring in aspects of computational mathematics, computational psychology, and social psychology) which makes me still a little indecisive about it.

What say you folks? Should I go with the project the broadest impacts that's somewhat interdisciplinary, or should I reevaluate my projects and determine which would best fit me?

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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?

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