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NSF GRFP 2010 Applicant Workshop 21 August 2009. Genevieve K. Walden Department of Biology, SFSU National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow 2009. SFSU Mathematics Dept. Workshop . Summary of advice Basic introduction to get started on application

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nsf grfp 2010 applicant workshop 21 august 2009

NSF GRFP 2010Applicant Workshop21 August 2009

Genevieve K. Walden

Department of Biology, SFSU

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow 2009

sfsu mathematics dept workshop
SFSU Mathematics Dept. Workshop
  • Summary of advice
  • Basic introduction to get started on application
  • Resources to augment and support your efforts
  • Point of view from 2009 applicant and Fellow.
  • Good luck!
why apply

Why apply?



Applying to the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program is demanding and rewarding. Take deep breaths.

Advice and resources are readily available, some contradictory. Use what works for you.

Ask questions!

where to go
Where to go
  • Websites are updated, use most recent version!
  • When in doubt, call help center.
  • Ask your advisor.
  • NSF GRFP liaison at SFSU.
  • NSF GRFP solicitation.
  • Graduate student cohort.
online resources these are nsf sites

Online Resources - These are NSF sites.



NSF GRF Program page


Transformative research


NSF unofficial program page - great place for announcements, links to Fellows in your subfield



Online Resources - These are external sites, and I cannot vouch for content. Searching the web in your subfield may be helpful.

University of Missouri Graduate School website

- many great, great practice documents can be accessed here:


Ecology blog with multiple essays from Fellows:


Tomorrow’s Professor “How to win a fellowship”


Additional advice from a Fellow’s blog




The NSF doesn’t joke about deadlines. Ever. Never ever.

Different Fields of Study have different due dates for every year. Make sure you are looking at the relevant solicitation for your year cycle.

Set up a schedule for yourself to write, revise and edit.

Submit early to FastLane.



Ask for recommendations early.

Please be kind in requesting recommendations – include your CV, drafts of all essays, the solicitation for the NSF GRFP, cover letter and clear instructions on how to access FastLane.

Recommendations are submitted online. You will be able to send reminders and see when recommendations have been submitted. Your advisor should be one of your letters of recommendation.

Write a thank you letter.

transcripts score reports

Transcripts & Score Reports

Order transcripts now. Furloughs will affect processing of transcripts this year. Order rush – it helps, even if it costs more money. Go in person, go today. Be prepared with correct addresses, payment and patience.

You don’t have to order GRE scores separately, NSF automatically will request them if you fill in that part of your application. You can also request a waiver to take the GRE in November specifically for the NSF GRFP.



Confidence in your story. SFSU is not inexpensive. Master’s Degrees from COSE are research based. Funding is competitive. You worked hard to get here and you are working hard now. Highlight these strengths.

Creative. Your research should be transformative, original and appropriate.

Complete all requirements.

Cohesive. The essays should enhance and emphasize criteria.

Clarity. Use simple, clear language to communicate your research in an organized and thoughtful manner.

how do you start writing

How Do You Start Writing?

Brainstorm. Make lists. Find a structure and repeat. Ideas may work in a different essay. Multiple drafts. Revisions. Ask for edits and suggestions - first from your advisor.

Start writing now.

I began with past research and wrote out several projects - what I did, what I learned, how it might fit into my current work. For proposed research, I discussed a pilot project and outlined goals and anticipated results. Edits helped for readability. Then I revised and revised and revised. And began asking questions within each criterion and essay prompt…

intellectual merit criterion

Intellectual Merit Criterion

Can you do what you are proposing?

Do you have the appropriate depth of experience and training to take on this research?

Do you have a proposed remedy for any glaring omissions?

Do you have an advisor that is an expert in the field you are choosing – is this a good match?

Is the institution you have chosen for study appropriate?

Do you have the resources – facilities, computing needs, permits, access to field sites, collaborators, sister institutions – that are required for this project to succeed?

Do you demonstrate leadership?

broader impact criterion

Broader Impact Criterion

Does your research benefit society?

How well do you combine research and education? NSF GK12 in Mathematics at SFSU!

How do you plan to disseminate your research to a broad audience?

Does your research broaden the participation of underrepresented groups in STEM?

What impacts will your research have for the STEM community?

transformative research

Transformative Research

Challenges conventional wisdom

Leads to unexpected insights that enable new techniques or methodologies

Redefines the boundaries of science, engineering or education

(copied from NSF website)

eligibility essay optional

Eligibility Essay (optional)

Read directions carefully. This is not trivial.

Requirements have changed since last year when I applied.

Questions about eligibility? Prepare your statement and make judicious use of available resources.

personal statement

Personal Statement

Why are you interested in this project?

How did you get here? It is not accidental - Discuss your purposeful journey with confidence and evidence.

Are you sincere?

What are your long term goals within this graduate program and after?

How will the fellowship intersect with previous and proposed research?

proposed research plan

Proposed Research Plan

This is the most important project in the world.

Do you have a goodresearch hypothesis/question?

Is this a clearly articulatedresearch plan and timeline?

Can you accomplish what you are proposing?

Do you understand current research principles & techniques in your field?

Why is this important? Why do you have to research this project here and now?

Is this original research? Really? Our project is the first…

How does your research fit into the big picture?

previous research experience

Previous Research Experience

Your whole life has been training for proposed research project.

Do you have experiences conducting research as part of a team and independently? Distinguish between undergrad/grad.

Do you understand what you did – in terms of hypothesis/question, goal, methods, conclusions?

Can you discuss importance of your previous work?

How did each project build upon the previous work – can you show continuous and sustained passion for scientific inquiry?