Predoctoral Fellowship & Traineeship Opportunities

Writing Effective Applications
for Graduate Fellowship &
Traineeship Opportunities
Mary Jo Ondrechen
Dept. of Chemistry & Chemical Biology
Northeastern University
Boston, MA 02115
[email protected]
My background & experience
 Some general resources
 Graduate Fellowship opportunities
 My experience as a panelist
 Writing effective proposals
 Resources for application process
My experience
Theoretical & computational chemistry
(currently working on understanding
spatially extended active sites in enzymes;
functional genomics; computationally
guided drug discovery)
 Served as a panelist for:
Why fellowship?
 Prestige
 $$ - (Stipends vary)
 Also benefits your institution
Application preparation = good experience
If you don’t play, you can’t win
Some general resources
 – Internship and Fellowship opportunities:
 (AAAS):
(the musing of Philip J. Guo, a successful NSFGRFP & NDSEG applicant from Stanford)
 ACS (students → graduate → fellowships & grants)
 Faculty (particularly former panelists)
 Successful recipients
Graduate Fellowship Opportunities
 other
 Deadlines vary by field – Engineering
11/13; Chemistry 11/14
 Overall, about 1 in 6 applications was
successful in 2012 (2,000 out of 12,000)
 Odds may improve – NSF has been trying
to increase the # of awards made
 See Solicitation NSF-12-599
My experience as a panelist
Diverse panel
 Read applications in selected sub-fields
 All applications get 2x readings; top
applications get a third read
 Generate a rank-ordered list
 Top category – all are awarded fellowship
 Second category – NSF considers other
factors; some will receive fellowship
The application – some tips
Start now – get proposal and personal
statement written ahead, so that you can
give them to your references & also get
 Select sub-field carefully – this will
determine who reads your application
 Which address to use – esp. if you are
from an EPSCOR state (ME, NH,VT, …)
Three written components
Personal statement
 Previous research experience
 Research proposal
1. The Personal Statement
This is your opportunity to convey what
is special about you
 Here show can show breadth of interest
 Incorporate outreach activities – have you
worked with children? Promoted science
to the lay community?
 Convey love for science and commitment
to success / scientific career
Personal Statement – con’t
 Sense of direction in life
 What is your life’s purpose?
 Commitment to diversity – broadening
participation (by gender, race, persons
with disabilities)
 READ Program Announcement (12-599)
carefully and speak to ALL of its criteria
2. Previous research experience
Describe any scientific research activities
you have participated in, and what you
learned from this experience
• Explain the purpose of the research and
your role, including the extent to which you
worked independently and/or as part of a
• If you have no direct research experience,
describe any activities that you believe have
prepared you to undertake research
3. The Research Proposal
Must be focused
 Intro – describe why the work is
 Make sure that your passion and zeal for
the subject come through
 Make sure that your in-depth knowledge
of this topic comes through
 Describe what you have already done
 Don’t copy your adviser’s grant proposal
Review criteria are:
Be very certain that both are addressed in
your application!
Intellectual Merit
For example, panelists may consider the following
with respect to the Intellectual Merit
 Strength of the academic record
 Proposed plan of research
 Description of previous research experience or
 References
 Appropriateness of the choice of institution
relative to the proposed plan for graduate
education and research.
Broader Impacts
For example, panelists may consider the following
with respect to the Broader Impacts Criterion:
 Personal, professional, and educational
 Future plans and prior accomplishments in the
integration of research and education
 Potential to reach diverse audiences
 Potential to benefit society.
Science Mathematics And Research
for Transformation (SMART) Defense
Scholarship for Service Program
Deadline: 5:00 pm EST, Dec. 14, 2012
 US Citizens only
 Note: Post-tenure service obligation as a
civilian employee of the DoD
 Years of service obligation = years of
SMART – my panel experiences
Panel selects most qualified applicants;
DoD facilities select the awardees from
that set
 Personal statement must reflect interest
in performing defense research
 Summer internship obligation at a DoD
 Best if your adviser has a contact at a
DoD research facility
DoD Research Facilities - examples
Natick Soldier Research, Development and
Engineering Center (NSRDEC), Natick Labs, MA
Engineer Research and Development Center Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab
(ERDC-CRREL), Hanover, NH (Army)
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNS), Kittery, ME
Naval Undersea Warfare Center - Division
Newport (NUWC NPT), Newport, RI
See announcement for nationwide list
NDSEG (opens 9/1/2012)
Deadline – 5:00 pm EST, Dec. 14, 2012
 US Citizens only
 Note: NO post-tenure service obligation
 Success rate varies with field
 Very prestigious & pays well
NDSEG – my panel experience
Panelists provide a list of the top-ranked
 DoD decides on its priorities each year
 These priorities are not known to the
panelists at the time of the review
 Many excellent applicants are not selected
 Chances of an award are greater if your
application is in a priority area
NIH Predoctoral (F31)
Multiple programs and deadlines dates
 Next deadline date: Dec 8, 2012
 Prof. Hanson (Chemistry) has served as a
 Check the individual Institutes, e.g.
NCI (Cancer) NIDA (Drug Abuse)
NIAAA (Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism)
NINDS (Neurological Disorders & Stroke)
not all Institutes participate
Hertz Foundation
Deadline Nov 2, 2012
 Very prestigious
 Very rigorous & difficult interview process
 Provides numerous valuable connections
– a lifetime network of influential people
 U.S. citizens or permanent residents only
 Five years of support (can be combined
with e.g. NSF-GRFP or NDSEG)
Preparing for Hertz interviews
Two rounds of rigorous interviews
 If you are selected for Hertz interview,
talk with someone who has been through
them previously
 Best to practice – have knowledgeable
person fire questions at you
Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships
for New Americans
Deadline: November 9, 2012
 Eligibility (see announcement)
◦ foreign-born naturalized U.S. citizens
◦ green card holders
◦ U.S.-born children of foreign-born parents
(both parents must be foreign-born & at least
one parent must be a naturalized US citizen)
Last year – 30 awards across all fields
Other opportunities
Search for opportunities that may be
specific to you – for instance:
Environment-related research
Agriculture-related research
Alternative-energy-related research
Research in computation
Chemistry (ACS Analytical & Organic)
Underrepresented minorities (e.g. GEM – , Ford Foundation)
Other opportunities
East Asia – Pacific Summer Institutes
(funds research experiences in Australia,
China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand,
Singapore or Taiwan)
Application Process Resources
Get the support of your adviser (or
future adviser)
 Identify potential references
 Ask for feedback on your proposal and
personal statement
 Talk to fellow students
 Talk to faculty resource person
General grant writing tips
Always read the call for proposals
 Make sure that you cover EVERYTHING
that the RFP asks for
 Write your essays and research proposals
ahead of time
 Ask for feedback from an experienced
Grant writing tips
Write to the intelligent generalist
 Remember that the reader (panelist) may
not be in your exact area. Do not assume
that the reader knows about your system.
 In the research proposal, make sure that
your points are clear.
 If you wrote the research proposal
yourself, make sure that your references
say so in their letter.
More tips
In the personal statement, convey what is
special about you
◦ Show direction and purpose in life
◦ How did you get interested in science?
◦ Why did you choose this path?
OK to use humor, but be sure that you
come off as mature and serious about
science and your future
Tips on the research proposal
Be sure to cover:
◦ What is the problem and why is it important?
◦ What is the purpose – what needs to be
◦ What will you do – methods, approach
◦ What do you expect to learn?
◦ What are the potential impacts of your
Show that you know the literature and
cite references
Special tips for the NSF
Specifically label intellectual merit and
broader impacts
 Intellectual merit – What is the impact on
the field? Why is this work conceptually
important? Transformative potential?
 Broader impacts – Impact to society;
Involvement of diverse groups; integration
of science and education; building
General preparation
Research experience
 Publish! Fellowship applicants with
publications have a higher success rate
 Cultivate future references – talk with
faculty about your ambitions
 NSF prep – Do some type of outreach
 A plus for: Internship, international,
military service, community outreach
Some general resources
 – Internship and Fellowship opportunities:
 (AAAS):
(the musing of Philip J. Guo, a successful NSFGRFP & NDSEG applicant from Stanford)
 ACS (students → graduate → fellowships & grants)
 Faculty (particularly former panelists)
 Successful recipients
When in doubt – Apply!
Valuable experience
 Proposal writing
 Promoting yourself
 Do not feel bad if you are declined
 Success is possible
Start Writing Today!
Good Luck!

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