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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Vice Provost for Research breaks down application process for competitive National Science Fellowship stipend

College prices are rising, and it’s increasingly important for students to find financial support. The National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program is one way to help students pay for their education.

This fellowship is open to first-year domestic graduate students and seniors who are United States citizens, enrolled full-time and pursuing a research-based degree in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). 

Coleen Pugh, the vice provost for research and dean of the graduate school, is also the university representative for the NSF fellowship. She explained that applying for the fellowship can be complicated. 

“It’s a very different type of program than any other program we have on campus,” Pugh said.  “And so, unfortunately, we’ll have to experience some pains with people figuring out how to work with this award.” 

Pugh also explained that the fellowship is very important to campus, not only because it funds most of campus research, but because of their goal. 

“The National Science Foundation has three primary goals: it is to promote the progress of science, to advance national health, prosperity and welfare, and also to secure national defense,” Pugh said. 

The GRFP Fellowship boasts many benefits to Wichita State students. Over the five-year fellowship, will receive $37,000 over a three year period, with an additional $16,000 to pay institution fees. This money is designated for tuition, research expenses and materials to help students with their research-based degrees.

“The idea is that if you win this, you shouldn’t have to pay for anything,” Pugh said. 

Outside of academics, the NSF fellowship aims to provide opportunities for underrepresented people to pursue careers in STEM fields. 

“If you’re going to be developing a workforce, of course, now it’s really important to include the underrepresented,” Pugh said.

Pugh also explained the fellowship searches for people who will impact the future.

“What this program is doing is it’s trying to identify the leaders of the future, the ones who are going to be the innovators in the future,” Pugh said.

The GRFP application is very thorough, asking applicants about the extent of their familiarity with STEM but also about what they can bring to the fellowship as a person.

The personal aspects of the fellowship focus on two main categories: intellectual merit and broader impacts. The intellectual merit section refers to the applicant’s achievements.

“For intellectual merit, they’re going to make some evaluation about this based on your academic performance, your grades, the curriculum that you followed, your awards,” Pugh said. “And then of course, (they’re) going to look at your research plan, your professional experience  and then the reference letters.” 

The section on broader impacts evaluates how applicants can change the world for the better. 

“Again, they’re going to be looking at your reference letters for this, but they’ll be looking at your prior accomplishments and future plans, individual experiences you’ve had, and then of course, potential benefits to society that your activities have influenced and … your community outreach, Pugh said.

Interest in the scholarship varies yearly, but typically only a handful of both graduate students and seniors from Wichita State apply. 

The NSF-GRFP fellowship supports research degrees in a variety of fields. Past Wichita State winners of the scholarship studied biomedical engineering, aerospace engineering, and human factors psychology. 

More information about accepted STEM pathways can be found on the NSF-GRFP website

Deadlines for the NSF-GRFP fellowship take place in late October, with winners announced in early April, and the fellowship year beginning between June and September.  

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About the Contributors
Lydia Steeby
Lydia Steeby, Reporter
Lydia Steeby is a first-year reporter for The Sunflower. She's lived in Wichita her whole life and loves to be outside. A freshman, she is an undecided major exploring different career paths involving writing. Steeby also enjoys reading, playing the trumpet and making art.
Shelby DuVall
Shelby DuVall, Reporter
Shelby DuVall is a sophomore reporter, designer and photographer majoring in graphic design. This is her first year on the Sunflower staff, and at WSU. She's from Altamont, Kansas, and enjoys rollerskating and gaming. DuVall's pronouns are she/her.

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