Support for preparing graduate fellowship proposals

Preparing a graduate fellowship proposal (NSF GRFP, NIH, etc.) isn't something you have to do alone.


See below for opportunities to connect with mentors, join peer review groups, find events series and info sessions, and identify online resources.

Opportunities

  • Meet with a GRFP Mentor

    Work with a mentor in the early stages of thinking through and planning your application


    UVA Engineering graduate student preparing NSF GRFP applications can request a meeting with a GRFP mentor to talk through early ideas for their applications, conceptualize the overall story and message of their application, work on content development, idea grouping and outlining and more. Note that detailed discussion of drafts of materials is better done in the GRFP Peer Review Group or in one-on-one GWL consultations.

    Request an Appointment
  • Finding Funding

     

  • UVA Courses on Proposal Writing

    STS 555 - Communicating Research to External Audiences: covers broader impacts & intellectual merits sections of NSF proposals

    CELL 8450: Effective Science Writing for Grants & Fellowships - Reccommended by UVA engineering grad students; concepts can be transferred to other types of funding proposals as well.

  • Resources & Guides

    General Proposal Writing

    Winning Grants Step by Step: The Complete Workbook for Planning, Developing and Writing Successful Proposals access the ebook online free with your UVA login

    Grant Proposals (or Give me the money!) UNC Writing Center resource on grant writing

    Research Development Resources from UVA Engineering a list of additional resources for writing, finding funding etc.

    How to Write a Winning Proposal & Get those Grants from UVA's Center for Teaching Excellence

    Style and Ethics of Communication in Science and Engineering (ebook/pdf, free access through UVA library) Chapter 4

    The Ten Habits of Highly Unsuccessful Research Bid Writers A post highlighting things to look out for and avoid doing when writing a grant proposal

    Dos and Don'ts of Successful Grant Writing IU GradGrants Center

    The Most Common Errors Made in Research Proposals and Applications IU GradGrants Center

    Purdue Owl Grant Writing pages

    Sample grants, proposals, dissertations, and theses - Nigel Caplan

     

    NSF

    NSF Graduate Research Fellowship blog post with lots of tips, outline, examples, links, etc. (Alex Lang's website)

    Intro to the NSF GRFP(& DoD) Fellowship(s) ppt slides from Prof. Scully's (UVA Engineering) 2018 intro to the NSF GRFP presentation

    Advice to Applicants of the NSF's GRFP (Mallory P. Ladd) - updated post including an overview, a broad suggested workplan, and examples

    The Grant Application Writer’s Workbook -NSF 2018 version of the book (not available in library) but some chapters are available online for free.

    NSFGRFP.org administered by ASEE- site with lots of information, resource people contact info and more.

    Guide to NSF GRFP Reference Letters- PDF compiled by Katie Pelland for the UVA Engineering Graduate Writing Lab

    MIT CommKits - NSF fellowship personal statements & research proposals: specific links biological engineeringelectrical engineering/computer science and chemical engineering (all are quite similar)

    also- see resources directly from the funding agency

     

    NIH

    The Grant Application Writer's Workbook - NIH 2018 version of the book (not available in library) but some chapters are available online for free.

    NIH Grants Glossary & Acronymns List 

    Style and Ethics of Communication in Science and Engineering (ebook/pdf, free access through UVA library) Section 4.4; authors from biomedical sciences & engineering background

    Tips for Great Grant Writing 2009 from extramural news compiled by UVA School of Medicine

  • Reference Letters for the NSF GRFP

    also available as a printable pdf.

    Whom should you ask to write letters for you?

     
    People who know you! And can address your intellectual merit, broader impacts, or both!

    You want letter writers who know more about you than your grade in his/her course.

    “You are better off with a good letter from an unknown professor who knows you well than a mediocre letter from a Nobel Prize winner who met you once at a seminar” 

    (DJ Strouse - http://djstrouse.com/guide-to-applying-to-us-science-phd-programs-and-fellowships)

     

    Two reference letters are required, but application reviewers will read up to three letters. 

    The submission system allows up to five reference letters, and you assign a priority ranking to each reference. If more than three letters are submitted, the three with highest rankings will be reviewed. 

    Good idea to ask at least four people to be references in case someone does not submit on time

    (Your references will not know the priority ranking you assign them nor if his/her letter is not reviewed.)

     

     Try to gather a diverse set of letter writers, so each can address a different positive aspect of you

     For example, Current research advisor 

                 Someone else familiar with how you perform research (e.g. previous research advisor)

                 Someone who can address your broader impacts (e.g. volunteering supervisor, mentor)

    (Frequently done: Two letters focused on intellectual merit and one focused on broader impacts)

                

    What should you provide to your letter writers?

     

    • Both personal statement and research statement
      • You’ll likely be asking your letter writers long before your statements are submission ready. That’s okay! 
      • Send a draft to start, so they will know what you’re writing, and then send your final version later on.
    • CV/Résumé
    • Your goals/plans/aspirations for the future
    • NSF definitions of intellectual merit and broader impacts
      • Application reviewers evaluate your application based on these two criteria
      • Your letter writers should specifically address your intellectual merit andbroader impacts.
    • Guidance about what to write
      • What should they focus on? (More on this below)
      • Most letter writers will be very busy, so this helps them write a better letter for you. 
      • With your guidance, each of your letter writers can discuss different strengths of yours, so each letter offers new information to application reviewers.
    • Link to letter submission (https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/grfp/ReferenceLetter.do?method=letter)
    • Offer to meet in person!
      • (Many will not take you up on this, but you should ask and let him/her decide.) 

     

    When should you ask your letter writers?

     
    Ask at least 1-2 months before the deadline (preferably 2-2½ months)

                Reference letter deadline for 2018 is Friday, November 2 at 5pm (Eastern Time)

     
    General timeline for email reminders:

             1-2 weeks before the deadline

              5 days, 3 days, and then the day before the deadline 

     (Ask each letter writer about his/her preferences on reminders. They can vary substantially!)

     
    Before sending reminders, check to see if letters have been submitted 

    (on Fastlane under “Check Application Package Status”)

     

    What should your letter writers focus on? 

     
    All writers should address your intellectual merit and broader impacts
    and provide answers to these types of questions: 
    • What makes you stand out from other great graduate students? 
    • What have you accomplished as a researcher?
    • Why are you interested in graduate studies and how are you prepared to excel in graduate work?
    • What unique (future) contributions can you make to your field and to society in general?
    • How effectively do you communicate (e.g. written, oral or poster presentations)?
    • How well do you work with peers and supervisors? 
    • Do you have the potential to become a leader in your field or as a member of the scientific community?
     
    Current or former research advisors should write specifically about your research-related strengths,

     e.g. scientific potential, independence, creativity, perseverance, thoroughness, experimental skills

     
    Your current advisor should also discuss the originality of your research proposal 
     
    Typically, applicants demonstrate intellectual merit but lack broader impacts

     

    Notes from previous reviewers—

     
    Strong letters address: 
    • the applicant’s intellect; work ethic; creativity; self-motivation; transferable skills; potential as a future researcher; 
    • commitment to successful, impactful research 
    • specific achievements or contributions that demonstrate the applicant’s intellectual merit and broader impacts 
    • significance of the proposed research
    • how the applicant’s background or research brings diverse perspectives to STEM

     

     Weak letters tend to 
    •  be short, vague, and not give enough specific detail about the applicant
    •  lack excitement and duplicate information found on transcript
    •  address grades only and give no indication of knowing the student beyond coursework

     

    Remember to thank your letter writers and let them know the outcome of your application! 

     

    Additional Resources— 

    UVA Engineering Graduate Writing Lab Events and Online Resources A wealth of information and resources about NSF GRFP, other fellowships, and improving your writing skills

    http://www.malloryladd.com/nsf-grfp-advice.html Up-to-date, helpful advice about all aspects of NSF GRFP from a successful applicant (2013) | Reference Letter advice in two places: ⅓ & ⅔ way down page 

    http://www.clairemckaybowen.com/fellowships.html  Good advice covering all parts of NSF GRFP from a successful applicant (2015) | Reference Letter advice ⅔ way down the page 

    https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2017/nsf17123/nsf17123.pdf FAQs for GRFP Applicants (from National Science Foundation) | Reference letter FAQs start on page 15 (Question 56)

    http://www.phy.davidson.edu/NSF_GRF/NSFGRFfinal.html Written by previous NSF GRFP reviewers; Hasn’t been updated since 2002 and targeted to physics applicants, but the reference report advice (near bottom of the page) still holds true!

     

    Special Thanks to – 

    Archie Holmes, Pam Norris, Haibo Dong, all previous reviewers who responded to survey and provided helpful GRFP advice

     

    If you have questions, comments, updates, or additions – 

     Please let us know! 

     (This was compiled originally in September 2018 for the UVA Engineering Graduate Writing Lab by Katie Pelland (cmp5cg@virginia.edu), who is always happy to hear suggestions for improvement and expansion of this resource. ) 

     

Meet our GRFP Fellowship Writing Mentors

GRFP mentors help students in preparation of their NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) applications. Mentors may meet one-on-one with students during the planning phases of their application. They may also develop resources, help organize events, participate in panels, or lead peer review groups (PRGs).

  • Become a Fellowship Proposal Mentor

    Help graduate engineering students prepare their NSF fellowship applications


    Do you have experience with the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP)? Are you an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship recipient or honorable mention? Volunteer to support graduate engineering GRFP applicants. Opportunities include leading peer review groups, working 1-on-1, giving feedback, developing/identifying materials, giving presentations, and participating in a panel. Additional ideas for involvement and interest in offering events & support for other fellowships are also welcome.

    Sign Up
  • Katie Pelland, PhD

    Katie Pelland, PhD

    Postdoctoral Researcher, BME | GRFP Mentor


    Katie Pelland is a recent PhD graduate in Mechanical Engineering and was supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship during her graduate career. She enjoys communicating science to various audiences and helping others do the same, especially for their NSF GRFP applications! 

  • Benjamin Bowes

    PhD candidate, ESE | GRFP PRG leader, GRFP Mentor


    Ben Bowes is a GRFP mentor and 2017 NSF GRFP Honorable Mention. He's a PhD candidate in Engineering Systems and Environment with a focus on hydroinformatics and water resources engineering. 

    Research Gate
  • Bonnie Dougherty

    PhD student, BME | WriteHere! Leader, GRFP Mentor


    Bonnie Dougherty has facilitated WriteHere! sessions since their start in 2019. She is also GRFP mentor and meets one-on-one to help students plan their applications.

    Linkedin
  • Brooke McGirr

    Brooke McGirr

    PhD candidate, CHE | GRFP Mentor


    Brooke McGirr is a doctoral candidate in chemical engineering researching cell signaling in pancreatic cancer. She is interested in helping fellow engineering students to improve their scientific communication skills. As a recent recipient of the NSF-GRFP, she looks forward to helping students develop their applications as a GRFP mentor.

  • Grace C. Bingham

    Grace C. Bingham

    PhD student, BME | GRFP Mentor


    Grace Bingham is a Ph.D. student in the Biomedical Engineering Department researching microscopic methods for interrogating mechanotransduction signaling pathways. She advises students during their grant drafting and helps them to effectively communicate their ideas as a NSF GRFP mentor.

  • Bev Miller

    PhD Candidate, CHE | GRFP Mentor, GRFP PRG Leader


    Bev Miller is a doctoral candidate in the Chemical Engineering department focusing on biomaterial (polymer) design to address human health challenges. She is a GRFP mentor and 2017,2018 NSF GRFP Honorable Mention. 

    Linkedin
  • LeighAnn Larkin

    PhD Candidate, Engineering Physics | WriteHere! Leader


    LeighAnn Larkin is a doctoral candidate in the Engineering Physics Program studying Nanoscale Heat Transfer in thin film structures. LeighAnn is a facilitator of WriteHere!. 

    Learn More

Upcoming Events

Past Events

  • GRFP Editing Swap- GWL GRFP Series

    4pm Thurs. Oct. 10 | Brown Science & Engineering Library 133


    Bring your NSF GRFP application essay drafts to this editing swap to give and receive surface level editing feedback and notes. Attendees should bring 2 paper copies of their application essays and pen/pencil to the event. Attendees will exchange papers and given written corrections and notes on one another's drafts before having brief explanatory conversations. The event is expected to focus on late stage editing, minor corrections, formatting improvements, and targeted feedback suggestions in preparation for the midOctober deadline.

    All attendees will be expected to bring drafts and to give corrections and feedback on the drafts of others. GRFP Mentors will be on hand for questions.

    Details & Registration
  • Intro to the NSF GRFP and Grad Fellowships- GWL GRFP Series

    3pm Tues. Sept. 10 | Rodman Room (Thornton A207)


    This presentation will introduce students to the basics of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program & its application process. Additional fellowships and search, resources, and basic tips for grad fellowships relevant to early grad engineering students will also be touched on. If you are a new domestic UVA engineering graduate student in a research degree (MS/PhD), consider attending this workshop to see how you might be able to apply for this or other prestigious fellowships. Primarily for 1st & 2nd yr UVA Engineering grad students, but advanced engineering graduate students, engineering faculty and staff are welcome to attend. Grad students outside of engineering can attend if space permits.

    Details & Registration
  • NSF Workshop Series: Session 3- Complete Application Review

    organized by Keisha John, PhD | 12-5pm (10 minute appointments) Fri. Oct 12 | New Cabell Hall (various rooms)


    Discuss the review of your complete application by faculty members and current NSF Graduate Research Fellows. Each participant will be assigned a 10-minute appointment to receive verbal and written feedback on their application. Note: You need to have participated in session 2 and have sent your complete draft and a CV/resume, to keishajohn@virginia.edu by 5pm on Thursday, October 4 to attend this session. Each application is reviewed by faculty members and experienced NSF GRF recipients in preparation for this final session. 

     

    A National Science Foundation Series Workshop

    This workshop series includes three sessions intended to help eligible applicants learn about the fellowship and craft competitive applications, with individual feedback offered by experienced faculty and NSF GRFP recipients.  The goal of the series is for applicants to have a completed application by mid-October, with time before the final deadline to make additional edits (See here for the list of deadlines and eligibility information:  https://www.nsfgrfp.org/applicants/important_dates).   

    Organizer: Keisha John, PhD  | Director of Diversity Programs, Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs

    10 minute appointments between noon and 5:00pm | Oct. 12 | New Cabell Hall (various rooms)

    learn more
  • Graduate Fellowship Student Panel: NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (GRFP)

    with past award winners | 2:30-3:30pm Mon. Sept. 24 | Wilsdorf 200


    Hear from engineering graduate students who have applied for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) and won or recieved honorable mention. Learn from their experiences, get advice and ask questions. Discussion may be applicable to other fellowships as well. Questions may be submitted in advance here or asked at the panel. No registration required but attendees are asked to sign in at the event.

    2:30-3:30pm Mon. Sept. 24 | presenters: NSF Graduate Research Fellows from Engineering | Wilsdorf 200

  • Intro to the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP)

    with Professor John R. Scully | Thur., Sept. 20, 1:30pm-2:30pm | Wilsdorf 200


    Come learn about the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) and how to apply. This opportunity to increase your stipend to $34,000/year and earn a pretigious fellowship is open 1st and 2nd year engineering graduate students who are US citizens, nationals or permanent residents. 

    Wilsdorf 200, Thursday. Sept. 20, 1:30-2:30pm | presenter: Professor John R. Scully, MSE

    learn more & add to calendar
  • Dissertation Funding Workshop

    with Keisha John | 4pm Wed. Sept 19 | Robertson Hall 221


    Attend this workshop to learn about various dissertation funding opportunities and resources at UVA and externally to help you identify the best funding opportunities for your dissertation studies.   Students from all fields and at all levels are welcome and encouraged to attend.

    Presenter: Keisha John | Director of Diversity Programs, Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs

  • Writing an Effective NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program Proposal (Webinar)

    3:30-5:30pm, Thurs. Sept. 13 | Online, register by Sept. 11


    This national workshop includes two recorded videos and a live interactive webinar. After registering, participants are given access to a video introduction to the GRFP to watch prior to the Sept. 13th webinar. After the webinar led by past award winners, participants are provided with a video on addressing broader impacts. Register by Sept. 11th through CIRTL.

    more info
  • NSF Workshop Series: Session 2- Draft Writing Workshop

    with Keisha John, PhD | 4pm Thur. Sept 13 | Robertson Hall 221 (McIntire School)


    Attend this session to learn everything you need to know to draft a full application. Over the course of the meeting, we will go over each section of the application in detail (the information form, the personal statement, and the proposal), and will provide tips for how to make each section resonate with reviewers. We will focus on strategies for persuading reviewers to fund your proposal through your stated broader impacts, intellectual merits, and the personal statement. Although the application does not explicitly ask for a CV or resume, the session will also help you think strategically about how to incorporate information from these documents into your proposal. 

    Following session 2, prospective applicants should draft their applications and send the complete draft and a CV/resume, to keishajohn@virginia.edu by 5pm on Thursday, October 4.  Each application will then be reviewed by faculty members and experienced NSF GRF recipients in preparation for the final session. 

     

    A National Science Foundation Series Workshop

    This workshop series includes three sessions intended to help eligible applicants learn about the fellowship and craft competitive applications, with individual feedback offered by experienced faculty and NSF GRFP recipients.  The goal of the series is for applicants to have a completed application by mid-October, with time before the final deadline to make additional edits (See here for the list of deadlines and eligibility information:  https://www.nsfgrfp.org/applicants/important_dates).   

    Presenter: Keisha John, PhD | Director of Diversity Programs, Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs

    4:00-5:00pm | Sept. 13 | Robertson Hall 221 (McIntire School)

    learn more
  • Funding Discovery Tools (Library Workshop)

    with Ricky Patterson | 2pm Thurs. Sept 13 | Brown 133 (Engineering Library)


    Funding discovery databases help researchers identify opportunities from public and private funders. UVA now has access to two discovery tools licensed by the Vice Provost of Research, Pivot and GrantForward. These tools allow faculty, students and staff to search for funding and set up email search alerts based on a researcher’s area of interest. After the workshop, the attendees will learn how to create an account, search the databases, share funding opportunities with others, as well as save search strategies for email alerts regarding new opportunities. All students, faculty and staff at the University have access and the ability to create personal accounts. Please bring a laptop for use for this hands-on workshop.

    Presenter: Ricky Patterson | Engineering Library

    Info & Registration
  • Diversity Awards

    with Keisha John | 4pm Tues. Sept 11 | Robertson Hall 221


    Do you know there are many opportunities specifically for underrepresented students from the federal government as well as societies and foundations to apply for external funding for your research, or to attend conferences? This workshop will feature awards specifically for ethnic minority graduate students. We will highlight the Ford Foundation, APA, and AAUW, awards among many others that will support your professional, predoctoral, dissertation and work beyond.

    Presenter: Keisha John | Director of Diversity Programs, Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs

    4:00-5:00pm | Sept. 11 | Robertson Hall 221

  • NSF Workshop Series: Session 1- Introduction

    with Keisha John, PhD | 4pm Wed. Sept 5 | Robertson Hall 221 (McIntire School)


    This session will include an overview of the fellowship as well as an informational panel with current UVA NSF GRF recipients. 

    An National Science Foundation Series Workshop

    This workshop series includes three sessions intended to help eligible applicants learn about the fellowship and craft competitive applications, with individual feedback offered by experienced faculty and NSF GRFP recipients.  The goal of the series is for applicants to have a completed application by mid-October, with time before the final deadline to make additional edits (See here for the list of deadlines and eligibility information:  https://www.nsfgrfp.org/applicants/important_dates).   

    Presenter: Keisha John, PhD | Director of Diversity Programs, Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs

    4:00-5:00pm | Sept. 5 | Robertson Hall 221 (McIntire School)

    learn more