Welcome to the Giant Angstrom blog. Not every topic makes it into our seminars so when we think of a topic that could use some written explanation you’ll find it here.
There are many ways to stand out because many proposals are so bad. Just addressing the sponsors’ priorities, undertaking activities with a proven record of success, and presenting a reasonable budget for a sensible work plan will put you ahead of most competitors. To really stand out, focus on the difference between winning and almost winning. Ask yourself, “what’s the difference between a proposal that’s brilliant and one that’s merely excellent?” The answer will differ from sponsor to sponsor and even for different programs from the same sponsor. This sort of due diligence takes time and effort. Focus on two [...]
You can apply once for an NSF Graduate Research Fellowships as a rising senior or before entering a graduate program. You can also apply once during the first term of your graduate studies or at the start of your second year of study. This raises the question, “When should I apply?” The answer is easy for grad students entering their second year who haven't applied before: apply again NOW! And it's easy for rising seniors -- apply now because you'll get another bite after you're admitted. It's more complicated for first-year grad students. That’s because everyone is reviewed in cohorts: rising [...]
Someone recently asked this question on Quora: " I have noticed a trend in grammar where what was once regarded as singular, now is expressed in the plural. Is my perception correct and, if so, do I simply acquiesce?" If you do acquiesce, you have some cover. The International Writing Centers Association recently adopted a policy of allowing plural pronouns to replace the clunky “he or she” and “his or hers.” This acknowledges how people actually speak and also reflects the increasing recognition of non-binary gender identities. Political conservatives would probably endorse the former reason, political liberals the latter. Anyone [...]
The GRFP fellowship application requires three letters of recommendation, two essays, and university transcripts. So which of these is the most important? Trick question. There is no “most important component.” Applications are reviewed holistically. This means that the reviewers are supposed to look at the entire application as a whole. Based on that holistic impression, they’ll decide whether you qualify or not.
START BY TELLING THEM WHAT THEY'RE GOING TO GET, NOT WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO DO. A great proposal addresses the reviewer’s need. A great title highlights your solution to that need. Emphasize the results, not the activities.Here's a good technique for writing a great title: Make a list of words in your proposal that are important. Focus on those that convey the novelty of your idea. Brainstorm as many titles as you can -- write down everything that seems reasonable. (Hint: combine the words from #1 in different ways) You have 255 characters – don’t use acronyms just to cram more words in! [...]
Why don’t superstars always win? All the GRFP advice I’ve found is pretty straightforward: (1) compile the information that demonstrates you’re already awesome; (2) outline a clear career plan that shows you’ll continue being awesome; and (3) demonstrate a commitment to service which extends your awesomeness. Done. But you still didn’t win. Granted, there is always someone better out there. But this is isn’t a head-to-head competition in which you lose to a particular person. It’s a competition for the hearts and minds of reviewers, and they can always add one person to the winners list [...]