Nsf Grfp Winning Essays


National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Updated with successful 2011 applications! Thank you and congrats to the new fellows.

The National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program is one of the best fellowships available for many graduate students in the Environmental Sciences. Annually awarding approximately 1,000 fellowships to graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the NSF provides three years of generous funding that is largely undirected.

A former reviewer for the NSF says, "We fund the researcher, not the research." This flexibility means that first-year grad students should not panic at the idea that you need to decide what your research topic will be by November 1st (the deadline for my program, in my year). Rather, it means that you need to come up with a plausible research project and confidently articulate it in your application by November.

A frustrating aspect of applying for the NSF for many of the grad students in my cohort in the department of Environmental Sciences, Policy, and Management was that we didn't know what a successful application looked like. UC Berkeley's graduate fellowship office has a thick binder of past successful applications that appear to date back to the mimeograph machine, but few of them deal with environmental issues, and the binder can be examined only in the fellowship office.

Here you'll find a selection of recent successful applications for the NSF from students in the Department of Environmental Sciences, Policy, and Management in the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley as well as several external schools, provided as a resource to help other students approach the application-writing process. You can also check out some of the rating sheets filled out by the three reviewers who evaluate each application.

In order to apply for the NSF, you must go through the Fast Lane site, which collects all of your documents and allows you to follow your application through the process ending in submission prior to the online deadline.

Sample Applications from (mostly) Berkeley grad students on NSFs. ALL materials are property of the original author and can not be reproduced or copied without permission.

Combining Connectivity Science and Species Viability for Protected Area Network Design

Protected Area Network Design Proposed Research
Protected Area Network Design Rating Sheet 1
Protected Area Network Design Rating Sheet 2
Protected Area Network Design Rating Sheet 3

Impact of Anthropogenic Disturbances on the Relationship Between Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Anthropogenic Disturbances Proposed Research
Anthropogenic Disturbances Previous Research Experience
Anthropogenic Disturbances Rating Sheets

Seasonal Migration Within Aseasonal Tropical Rainforests

Seasonal Migration Proposed Research
Seasonal Migration Research Experience
Seasonal Migration Personal Statement

Bee Reproductive Success

Bee Reproductive Success Research Proposal
Bee Reproductive Success Previous Research Experience
Bee Reproductive Success Personal Statement
Bee Reproductive Success Rating Sheets

Archaeology - Alliance Formation in Pueblo Tribes

Archaeology - Alliance Formation in Pueblo Tribes Research Proposal
Archaeology - Alliance Formation in Pueblo Tribes Previous Research Experience
Archaeology - Alliance Formation in Pueblo Tribes Personal Statement
Archaeology - Alliance Formation in Pueblo Tribes Rating Sheets

Below and Above-Ground Carbon Sequestration in Quaking Aspen

Carbon Sequestration Aspen Research Proposal
Carbon Sequestration Aspen Previous Research Experience
CarbonSequestration Aspen Personal Statement
CarbonSequestration Aspen Rating Sheets

Ecological Filters in Grassland Restoration

Ecological Filters Grassland Restoration Research Proposal
Ecological Filters Grassland Restoration Research Experience
Ecological Filters Grassland Restoration Ratings Sheets

Causes and Consequences of Biocompexity

Causes and Consequences of Biocompexity Research Proposal
Causes and Conseq. of Biocompexity Previous Research Experience
Causes and Consequences of Biocompexity Personal Statement

Crossover Regulation During Caenorhabditis elegans Meiosis

Crossover Regulation Research Proposal
Crossover Regulation Previous Research Experience
Crossover Regulation Personal Statement

Investigating Informal E-Waste Recycling Methods and Associated Soil Pollution

E-Waste Recycling Methods Research Proposal
E-Waste Recycling Previous Research Experience
E-Waste Recycling Personal Statement

Identification of miRNAs Involved in the Regulation of B Cell Development

Identification of miRNAs/B Cell Development Research Proposal

Analysis of Bacterial, Archaeal, and Viral Dispersal Between Distantly Separated Acid Mine Drainage Systems through Metagenomic Analysis

Analysis of Dispersal Acid Mine Drainage Systems Research Proposal
Analysis of Dispersal Acid Mine Drainage Previous Research Experience
Analysis of Dispersal Acid Mine Drainage Systems Personal Statement

Impact of Climate Change on Fire Regimes in Sub-Saharan Africa

Impacts of Climate Change on Fire Proposed Plan of Research
Impacts of Climate Change on Fire Previous Research Experience
Impacts of Climate Change on Fire Personal Statement
Impacts of Climate Change on Fire Applicant Rating 1
Impacts of Climate Change on Fire Applicant Rating 2
Impacts of Climate Change on Fire Applicant Rating 3

Human Impacts on Stream Ecosystems

Human Impacts on Stream Ecosystems Proposed Plan of Research
Human Impacts on Stream Ecosystems Previous Research Exp.
Human Impacts on Stream Ecosystems Personal Statement
Human Impacts on Stream Ecosystems Author Advice
Applicant Rating 1 Human Impacts on Stream Ecosystems
Applicant Rating 2 Human Impacts on Stream Ecosystems
Applicant Rating 3 Human Impacts on Stream Ecosystems

Game Ranching in Botswana

Game Ranching in Botswana Proposed Plan of Research
Game Ranching in Botswana Previous Research Experience
Game Ranching in Botswana Personal Statement

Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Traditional Ecological Knowledge Proposed Plan of Research
Traditional Ecological Knowledge Previous Research Experience
Traditional Ecological Knowledge Supporting Essay 1
Traditional Ecological Knowledge Supporting Essay 2
Traditional Ecological Knowledge Author Advice

Inter-Regime Conflict Resolution

Inter-Regime Conflict Resolution Proposed Plan of Research
Inter-Regime Conflict Resolution Previous Research Experience
Inter-Regime Conflict Resolution Author Advice

Ecological Effectiveness of Conservation Easements

Ecological Effectiveness of Easements Proposed Plan of Research

Nitrogen Deposition Effects on Denitrification in Humid Tropical Forest Soils

Nitrogen Deposition Effects Proposed Plan of Research
Nitrogen Deposition Previous Research Experience
Nitrogen Personal Statement

Writing Resources

GRFP Statement Planning Guides

Checklist Use a checklist to plan your time and complete your GRFP application by the submission deadline.

Worksheets:

  • Writer's Block? This list of writing prompts is applicable to the Personal, Relevant Background & Future Goals statements. The list is not inclusive by any means!
  • Describing Previous Research Experiences This worksheet will help you reflect on your previous research experiences.
  • Worksheet for the Graduate Research Statement. This handout may help you identify a possible research topic and an appropriate approach. Discuss your topic with your mentor before you commence writing.
  • Planning a Broader Impact Activity. This handout can help you identify broader impact activities aimed at "desired societal outcomes."Tip: Your BI potential will look stronger if you can build upon your current BI activities. If you proposed a new BI activity, make sure it is innovative!

Outlines for Statement Outlines (These are merely examples and are unofficial).

Formatting Suggestions

  • Graduate Research Plan Statement. Numerous applicants have asked how to organize the research statement. Your best bets are to (a) ask your mentor what panelists from your discipline might expect and (b) adopt section headings from articles in discipline-specific journals. Here is one possible format example.

Unofficial Rubric. This revised rubric is designed to help you reflect on (a) the content of your essays, (b) how well your application packet reflects your abilities, and (c) your writing mechanics.

GRFP Essay Examples* & Advice from GRFP Fellows

*Important: The GRFP instructions have changed entirely. If you elect to review essay examples from previous years, please keep this in mind. DO NOT model your statements after previous year's essays.

Alex Lang, PhD. NFS Fellowship. A 2010 Fellow Alex Lang is currently pursuing a PhD on physics at Boston University. His site includes numerous essay examples from several disciplines, some with reviewer feedback.

Mallory P Ladd, PhD Think like a Postdoc. is a 2014 GRFP Recipient. Her blog contains GRFP advice and statement examples.

Rachel C. Smith, PhD. National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Dr. Smith received the GRFP Award in 2007. Her page includes successful GRFP essays, many with the reviewers' comment.

Jennifer Wang, PhD. NSF Graduate Fellowship Advice. Dr. Wang received the GRFP Honorable Mention in 2007 and the GRFP Award in 2008. Her page links to other GRFP resources and advice from other award and honorable mention recipients.

Jan Allen, PhD. Graduate Mentor is an Associate Dean at Cornell. Her site contains information on a a variety of fellowships, including the NSF GRFP.

More on Broader Impacts

National Alliance for Broader Impacts. Join the free national ListServe and learn what others are doing for their BI efforts. Find collaborators! In fact, your institution may already be a NABI member.

Broader Impacts Guidelines . This page is primarily for grant proposers and reviewers, but the content can help GRFP applicants better understand the BI criterion.

GRFP 60th Anniversary Video Contest Winners. Here are three terrific examples of how Fellows have used technology to teach the public about their research endeavors.

COSEE Broader Impact Wizard Introduction (You Tube). While this video is aimed at faculty, it offers an excellent take on what "broader impacts" means. GRFP applicants should watch to 4:51 minutes. Learn how these faculty members collaborate with others to address the Broader Impacts review criterion.

Broader Impacts Showcase (2005). Findings from the Showcase offer ideas on how others have broaden impacts. GRFP applicants can adapt these ideas (or expand on them) for proposed future broader impact activities.

NSFGRF.org: Review Criteria. The GRFP Operations Center manages this resource site for Fellowship applicants, awardees and reviewers.


Resource Persons & Social Network Discussions

Your best bet for finding GRFP advice is to talk with your faculty mentor(s), GRFP Fellows and GRFP Resource Persons. Social networks are another option. However, like any other GRFP advice you may find on the web, read critically, consult your mentor and only use suggestions that make sense to you.

Social network discussions
Advice from Fellows

Having this award on your record shows that you are capable of thinking beyond the average student and are able to do great research.

Melonie Williams

'07 Fellow, Psychology

Vanderbilt University

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