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The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Funding Opportunities for CEE Graduate Students. Graduate Affairs Committee Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Tennessee Technological University. What is the NSF?. National Science Foundation.

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The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

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The nsf graduate research fellowship program l.jpg

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Funding Opportunities for

CEE Graduate Students

Graduate Affairs Committee

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Tennessee Technological University

What is the nsf l.jpg

What is the NSF?

National Science Foundation

Independent Federal Agency created by Congress in 1950

Mission – “ promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…"

Annual budget of over 5.5 Billion US Dollars. 20% of all federal research in colleges and universities sponsored by NSF


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But Why care about an NSF Fellowship?


  • Highly Competitive – 10% Probability of Success

  • Career Enhancement – NSF has a well-founded reputation

  • Research Independence (It’s Your Money!)

  • Healthy Stipend – $30,000 per year (Including Summer!)

  • Covers Tuition – Upto $10,500 per year

  • Frees up CEE Funds for use on other students

  • No application fee!

  • Even if you fail – the whole process helps with your thesis work

  • Resubmissions allowed

  • Honorable Mention

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I know what you are thinking….

Question 1: Are Tech Students up for it?

Question 2: How am I going to prepare the application package when it all looks so complicated and difficult?

Answer 1:ABSOLUTELY YES! – John Richardson, ChE student – Class of 2003, TTU NSF Graduate Fellowship Winner

Answer 2: That’s why the CEE faculty is here to help. Plus Your major Advisor or the Graduate Affairs Committee

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Outline of Seminar

  • Applying to the NSF Graduate Fellowship Program – Rules, Regulations, Eligibility requirements

  • Tips on Preparing the Application Package

  • Sharing CEE Graduate Affairs Committee’s experience on reviewing NSF graduate proposals (Dr. Badoe and Dr. Hossain)

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  • Citizenship:U.S. citizen or national or permanent resident alien status

  • Fields:For graduate study in STEM fields supported by NSF

  • Degree Requirements:Completion of no more than 12 months full time graduate study.

  • This means you can apply at 3 times : (1) senior year of college, (2) before or during 1st year of graduate school, (3) beginning of 2nd year of graduate school (if < 12 months of full time study)

    You can apply more than once.

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Who should ‘especially’ apply?

  • If you are female or a minority

    • Once the general-pool fellow candidates are chosen, another screening for women and minorities occurs.

    • Those who make this cut came close in the general-pool but fell short of top rankings.

    • Several additional students are chosen for fellowships in this cut.

    • Everyone! NSF adjusts its review based on your academic level

      Note – Computer Science Directorate has additional funding for women for GRFP

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Application Deadlines

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General Tips

  • Start Your Application Early – 2-3 months ahead

  • Inform your Advisor of your intent to apply (for book keeping)

  • Almost Everything is done ONLINE

  • Goto Fastlane:

  • Open an account in Fastlane

  • Start filling in the material required gradually in a step by step manner in consultation with your Advisor

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Your Application Package

  • THREE Essays – Online submission 2 pages each

    (1) Proposed Plan of Research – what do you plan to do?

    (2) Personal/Professional Statement – what made you want to pursue this career path and how do you see yourself helping society in future?

    (3) Previous Research Experience – how prepared are you?

  • THREE Letters of Reference- ONLINE submission

  • Official GRE scores – Direct ETS reporting

  • Official Transcripts – Direct reporting by institution

Mail-in Deadline: December 31, 2006

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What does it take to win?

  • A great research idea AND

  • Your OWN ideas – Not your advisor

  • Well-expressed

  • essays

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You can’t win

if you don’t enter!

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How can you develop a great research idea?

  • Your advisor – active mentorship

  • Your own research and thinking

  • Reading journals in your field

  • Talking to others/experts in your field

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How to write well-expressed essays?

  • Your advisor can always help (if you start early)

  • Practice and allow plenty of time

  • Read: Gopen and Swan 1990. “The Science of Scientific Writing.” American Scientist, 78, 550-558.

  • Read: Herbert Michaelson 1990, How to write and publish Engineering Papers and Reports, 3rd Edition.

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Evaluation of Applications by NSF Review Panel

  • Intellectual Merit

  • Broader Impacts

    These are the criteria that you must address as you complete the three essays of the Application.

    Note – Listing the proper ‘primary field’ is important – dictates the panel that reviews

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Intellectual Merit?

  • Demonstrated intellectual ability

    (2) Demonstrate ability to:

    • Plan and conduct research

    • Work as a member of a team and independently

    • Interpret & communicate research findings

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Broader Impacts?

Ask yourself ‘So what?’

Articulate Contributions that could:

  • Integrate research & education at all levels, infuse learning with excitement of discovery

  • Encourage diversity

  • Enhance scientific & technical understanding

  • Benefit society

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GeneralWriting Successful Proposals

The number 1 rule!

Make the job of reading your proposal

as easy and pleasant as possible

for the reviewers.

This Not This

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The number 2 rule:

Show your passion!

Make it infectious like chickenpox!

Now, more rules….

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  • Start early – you’ll need to revise a few times

    There is no rule that you must wait until the week before a proposal is due to begin work on it.

    No LATE SUBMISSIONS (This is not a Homework Problem)

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  • Follow all instructions exactly.

    If something is ambiguous, email [email protected]

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5. Grammar counts!

  • No misspellings

  • Proper sentences

  • Proper grammar

  • Correct punctuation

  • TTU has editorial support

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6.Your writing style counts

Direct sentences are best.


The research to be undertaken will…..

It is proposed to….


I will conduct research that…..

My research will prove that….

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  • Avoid technical jargon when possible.

  • Avoid phrases like: It is obvious. It is apparent. As previously stated.

  • Avoid long sentences.

  • Use references to support your proposal if you can.

  • Don’t promise something you cannot deliver.

  • Check to see if there are internal ambiguities (are you contradicting yourself?)

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  • Use reviewer’s comments to your benefit (if you’ve submitted before).

  • Be yourself & show who you are in your writing.

  • Don’t be shy about selling yourself (but don’t be arrogant either).

  • Don’t give up. Tech students never give up! You will improve your proposal and your skills each time.

  • Be truthful and make sure your essays are your own artwork.

    You can’t win if you don’t enter!

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  • Does what you have written make sense?

  • Ask your advisor and others to read it. Do they understand it?

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Essay-1 Personal Statement

  • Purpose of this essay:

    “To establish that you can become a knowledge expert and a leader who can contribute significantly to research, education and innovations in science and engineering.”

  • This should be a personal statement that lets the reviewer get to know you.

  • Show your passion, concern and creativity in full steam

  • Don’t plagiarize!

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Essay-2Previous Research Experience

Describe any previous scientific research activities in which you participated

  • Purpose of past research

  • Your specific role in the research; did you work independently or as part of a team?

  • What you learned from your research (how to plan & conduct, work independently or as part of a team, learn interpret & communicate results)

  • If none, describe activities that prepared you to undertake research

  • List any publications or presentations

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Essay-3Proposed Plan of Research

  • Clear, concise, original

  • Present a complete plan for a research project

  • This is all about what specifically you propose to do. Not a general method.

  • Must demonstrate your understanding of research design and methodology

  • Must explain the relationship to prior research, if any

  • Stress anticipated results.

  • Must describe how you propose to address Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts.

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Letters of Reference

Choose Faculty members or industry representatives who can vouch for your research experience

Remind them of Deadline

Provide all referees with your:

  • Proposed Plan of Study or Research Form

  • Previous Research Experience Form

  • Course Report Form

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Our Experience as Reviewers

Dr. Badoe has regularly served as panel member for Civil Engineering (the last 3 years)

Dr. Hossain has served as panel member for Geosciences (since last year)

Informal Discussion

  • Sharing the mindset of the panel and a reviewer

  • Sharing the finer details of selection

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The CEE Vision

One day in near future….

More and more CEE students (undergrads and grads) will feel inspired to apply

Winning NSF Graduate Fellowship by CEE Graduate Students will be regular every year



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  • NSF and ASEE – Nicole La Maistre

    (Email: [email protected])

  • Dr. Daniel Badoe – Member of Graduate Affairs Committee, CEE

  • Graduate Affairs Committee, CEE

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