Yesterday at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, I had the pleasure of attending a panel discussion on professional fellowship programs sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The AAAS Congressional Science and Engineering Fellows Program provides support for scientists and engineers to spend a year on Capitol Hill working in Congressional offices. The fellowship program is a cooperative effort of approximately 30 national scientific and engineering societies that has operated for more than 35 years. Some of the duties of Congressional Fellows include crafting legislation, background research, speechwriting, meeting with constituents and lobbyists, and organizing hearings.  Also featured was the AAAS Mass Media Fellowship, which annually provides a graduate or undergraduate student in science or engineering the opportunity to spend 10 weeks working in a newsroom. Mass Media Fellows have worked as reporters, editors, researchers and production assistants at such media outlets as National Public Radio (NPR), the Los Angeles Times, Voice of America and Scientific American.

Two Congressional Science Fellows on the panel, Kevin Reed and Erica Bickford, discussed what inspired them to apply and transition from academic research to policy work in Washington, DC. “I started my Ph.D. knowing I wanted to work in policy when I finished. I read about this fellowship when I was an undergraduate,” said Reed, who completed his Ph.D. in Atmospheric and Space Science at the University of Michigan in January 2012. Bickford was less focused on a policy career as a student, but presented a very strong application for the fellowship. “There was a policy component to my dissertation research on the impacts of air quality on transportation,” said Bickford, who recently completed her Ph.D. in Environment and Resources at the University of Wisconsin.

When asked how to best prepare for a Congressional Science Fellowship, Reed recommended participating in opportunities like the American Meteorological Society’s (AMS) Summer Policy Colloquium, a ten-day immersion course in atmospheric policy. Bickford recommended that aspiring fellows stay abreast of current events and science-related legislation. “The fellowship requires a quick learning curve,” said Bickford. “As a fellow, you are considered as having expertise in all areas of science, and therefore you will be asked to weigh in on scientific topics you may know little about.”

The two other panelists, Jessica Morrison and Dee Rossiter, discussed their experience as AAAS Mass Media Fellows. Morrison, a Ph.D. student in Civil & Environmental Engineering at the University of Notre Dame, spent her fellowship this past summer at The Chicago Tribune, where she reported on health science and policy. “I applied for the fellowship because I found I was much more excited about communicating science than working in a lab,” said Morrison. While a student, she began writing, blogging and utilizing social media, something she recommends to other aspiring fellows interested in science journalism.

When Rossiter heard about the Mass Media Fellowship, she felt it was a perfect opportunity to pursue her two passions, science and communications, and strove to develop a competitive resume and application for the fellowship. As a 2011 Fellow, Rossiter worked for Voice Of America, a U.S. State Department media organization that provides news in 43 languages to countries outside the U.S. After earning her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she studied cloud microphysics, Rossiter landed a job as Program Director of the AAAS Mass Media Program.

One member of the audience asked for the panelists’ honest opinions on working with a Congress in constant deadlock. Reed assured us that despite the political unknowns, policy work is very rewarding. “What you don’t see every day in the news is that there are a lot of smart people doing good work behind the scenes.” However, policy work is very different than academic research. “As a Ph.D. student, you’ve worked for five, six, maybe seven years toward a specific goal of completing one project. In policy work, while you may have a common goal, nothing is set is stone, and you have to be prepared for that,” said Reed.

© Victoria Johnson 2012, all rights reserved.

Tracey Wellington, GEM Fellow and 2006 East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes Fellow in Japan

Tracey Wellington is another example of a ProFellow. An accomplished graduate student in engineering, she now has several fellowships under her belt, including a National Science Foundation East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes (EAPSI) grant that allowed her to conduct research in Japan in 2006. The EAPSI grants provide U.S. graduate students in science and engineering first-hand research experiences in Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore or Taiwan. These research experiences give students an introduction to the science, science policy, and scientific infrastructure of the respective location as well as an orientation to the society, culture and language. One of the primary goals of the EASPI is to help students initiate scientific relationships that will better enable future collaboration with foreign counterparts. We asked Tracey about her experience applying and the benefits to conducting research abroad.

1. Why did you decide to apply for the EAPSI summer fellowship to Japan?

I was a first year graduate student and have always looked for the opportunity to incorporate an international component in my studies. When I saw the email about the fellowship I thought it would be an exciting opportunity because I would be able to serve as my own Principal Investigator and also have the challenge of conducting research in a country and language that I wasn’t familiar with.

2. What do you think made your application stand out?

I must admit I was surprised and elated when I was accepted since I was a first year graduate student who had just completed my Bachelor of Science and I was not far along in my research program. I believe what helped my application stand out is the fact that I had conducted research as an undergrad in a number of different areas (astronomy, high energy physics and science education) and found an opportunity in Japan that would allow me to utilize equipment that weren’t accessible to me in the US. Through my advisor I was able to find a host at the Institute for Solid State Physics at the University of Tokyo and I was able to conduct a number of experiments that I was later able to present at national and international conferences.

3. What are the professional benefits of conducting research abroad?

There is important and exciting research going on everyday around the world and if we don’t step out of our immediate surroundings we will never know the full extent of the advancements that are happening in our field. I learn so much from my colleagues overseas; some make great discoveries using state of the art resources and some with very little. In the end they all contribute to the advancement of knowledge in our respective fields.

Tracey Wellington is currently a 2012 GEM Fellow sponsored by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). She was awarded the Energy Science and Engineering Fellowship through the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education (CIRE) to complete a PhD in Energy Science and Engineering beginning Fall 2012. CIRE is a joint center between the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and ORNL. Tracey has a BS in Mathematical Physics from Randolph College and an MS in Materials Science and Engineering from Texas A&M University where she was awarded a National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT). 

© Victoria Johnson 2012, all rights reserved.

We just wanted to give a big shout out to all of the 2012 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship winners. This post is a roundup of recent articles we’ve collected from around the web. If you have an article and do not see it here, please feel free to add a link in the comments. Congrats everyone!

Alexandra Bentz, Appalachian State University

Alexandra Bentz (photo credit: Appalachian State University)

Appalachian State University

Have passion, seize opportunities and solve challenges, graduates told

Alexandra Bentz, received a $30,000 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to pursue a Ph.D. Read more.



L to R: Erik Stout, Brian Perea, Michael Kenney,  John Ingraham

From left to right: Erik Stout, Brian Perea, Michael Kenney, John Ingraham. (photo credit: Chakris Kussalanant)

Arizona State University

4 juniors win top national awards as up-and-coming scientists

Four remarkable ASU juniors who already are doing sophisticated research and presenting their work to national audiences have won Goldwater Scholarships, the nation’s premier awards for undergraduates studying science, math and engineering. Read more.



Bianca Williams, Auburn University 2012 NSF Graduate Fellowship Recipient

Bianca Williams (photo credit: Auburn University)

Auburn University

Two Auburn University seniors awarded National Science Foundation graduate research fellowships

Auburn University students Bianca Williams, a senior in chemical engineering, and Devin Kalafut, a senior in mechanical engineering, have been awarded National Science Foundation graduate fellowships. Read more.


Baylor University

(photo credit: Baylor University)

Baylor University

Baylor Doctoral Student Awarded National Science Foundation Fellowship

Zack Valdez, doctoral candidate in The Institute of Ecological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (TIE3S) at Baylor University, has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate research fellowship in the geosciences. Read more.


Caroline Smith, Boston College

Caroline Smith (photo credit: Veenema Lab)

Boston College

BC grad student wins NSF graduate fellowship

Caroline Smith, graduate student in Alexa Veenema’s lab, has been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for her research on the neural mechanisms regulating social novelty-seeking. Read more.



Elyas Bakhtiari, Boston University

Elyas Bakhtiari (photo credit: Boston University)

Boston University

PhD candidate Bakhtiari awarded NSF Fellowship

Sociology Ph.D Candidate Elyas Bakhtiari was awarded one of  three  graduate student fellowships under the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellows Program. Read more.



Samuel McCandlish, Brandeis University

Samuel McCandlish (photo credit: Brandeis University)

Brandeis University

Six scientists secure fellowships

Samuel McCandlish ’12 (Physics) , a current student who did research with Michael Hagan and Aparna Baskaran, resulting in a paper “Spontaneous segregation of self-propelled particles with different motilities” in Soft Matter(as a junior). Read more.



City University of New York (CUNY)

(photo credit: City University of New York)

City University of New York (CUNY)

Record 16 CUNY students win NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

A record 16 CUNY students — 15 of whom earned undergraduate degrees at the University — have won National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships for work toward their master’s or doctoral degrees. Read more.


Rice University

(photo credit: Rice University)

Rice University

20 NSF fellowships awarded to Rice students for graduate study

The six Rice seniors and 14 Rice graduate students chosen as NSF graduate research fellows will receive support for three years of graduate study leading to research-based master’s or doctoral degrees in the fields of science and engineering relevant to the NSF’s mission. Read more.


Jennifer Sepulveda, University of Arizona

Jennifer Sepulveda (photo credit: University of Arizona)

University of Arizona

Students Awarded NSF Graduate Fellowships

Five students who participated in federally funded graduate education preparatory programs for low-income, first-generation or underrepresented students at the University of Arizona have earned National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships. Read more.


Elizabeth (Lizzy) Mahoney, doctoral student in chemical engineering

Elizabeth (Lizzy) Mahoney (photo credit: University of Delaware)

University of Delaware

Ten win prestigious graduate fellowships from National Science Foundation

Ten University of Delaware students and recent alumni have received National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Program Fellowships. Numerous Nobel Prize winners are among past recipients of the prestigious award. Read more.


University of Hawaii at Hilo

(photo credit: University of Hawaii at Hilo)

University of Hawaii at Hilo

UH Hilo students earn Graduate Fellowships

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has presented Graduate Student Fellowship Awards to a pair of University of Hawai?i at Hilo students enrolled in the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science (TCBES) master’s degree program. Read more.


University of Houston 2012 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Winners

Left to Right: Cameron Williams, Audrey Cheong, Darren Seibert and Thomas Markovich (photo credit: University of Houston)

University of Houston

5 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships awarded to UH students, alumna

From cognitive neuroscience to theoretical physics, this year’s National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellows from the University of Houston (UH) have their sights set on careers in fields ranging from medicine to energy. Read more.


Adam J Dixon, University of Virginia

Adam J Dixon (photo credit:

University of Virginia

Ten U.Va. Graduate Students Earn NSF fellowships

This year’s fellowship winners will be conducting graduate work, in biomedical engineering, developmental psychology and social psychology. Four of them, all in biomedical engineering, earned their bachelor’s degrees from U.Va. Read more.


Part of what makes finding fellowships so difficult is that as fellowship seekers, we’re often too deep in the weeds. By this I mean, we’ve dedicated our academic study and careers to a specific discipline, and as a result, only look for fellowships in that discipline. This approach is fine if there are a slew of fellowships available to you, but what do you do if there isn’t? The answer isn’t to give up, it’s to broaden your horizons.

There are many fellowships that accept applications from a variety of disciplines, and give you the flexibility to propose projects that enable you to work on exactly what you want to work on. The problem is that they’re often classified under disciplines that are different from yours. Public policy fellowships are a great example of this.

Public policy fellowships typically seek candidates from a wide array of disciplines, and for good reason. Nearly every discipline, in some way, shape or form, has an impact on domestic or foreign policy. Fellowships such as the Asmus Policy Entrepreneurs Fellowship and Ian Axford (New Zealand) Fellowship in Public Policy accept applications from many disciplines, so long as the projects proposed have the potential to influence public policy. To see for yourself, check out the diverse backgrounds and projects of the Ian Axford Fellows by clicking here. Vicki’s project is there!

Other examples of fellowships that cross disciplines include teaching fellowships and international affairs fellowships. For example there are several teaching fellowships for people with a background in science, engineering and math. These fellowships may be categorized under the fellowship discipline “Education”. There are also many fellowships abroad for people working in creative arts, journalism, social entrepreneurship, community development, public health, environmental conservation and public policy, among others. These may be categorized under the fellowship discipline “International Affairs”.

Applying for fellowships outside of your discipline may require familiarizing yourself with current events in a particular industry, finding relevant host institutions and carefully crafting a project proposal that meets both your desires and the objectives of the fellowship organization. This may sound challenging, especially if you have no previous background in an industry. However, don’t worry. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide that can help you through the process.

The point here is that thinking outside of the box and exploring fellowships outside of your particular focus or discipline may help you uncover some amazing opportunities that you may otherwise miss. It takes additional effort, but it’s worth it.

For those participating in our beta, you can broaden your fellowship search by selecting the “Public Service”, “Education” and “International Affairs” fellowship disciplines.

If you’re not currently participating in our beta and would like to be, click here. Happy hunting!

Alex Lang, 2010 NSF Graduate Research Fellow

Alex Lang, a graduate student at Boston University, is paying it forward. On his personal website,, Alex has collected and posted many examples of winning essays written by him and other winners of the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship, to help others prepare their applications. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program provides graduate students in science and engineering a three-year fellowship including an annual stipend of $30,000 and an additional $10K for your university. The application requires three letters of reference, a personal statement, and 2-page essays on previous research and proposed research. Alex gave us some insider tips.

1. Why did you decide to apply for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship? 

I did some physics research as an undergraduate and loved it. So, when I was applying to graduate school, I also applied for various fellowships so that I could start the research phase of graduate school as soon as possible. While I applied for several fellowships, my main goal was always the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program since it offers flexibility. An applicant needs to specify their research interests (which I was unsure of at the time), but after talking to a current graduate student, I learned that the NSF really funds a person, not a project. This came in handy for me, since my application was on Quantum Computing but now I do Biophysics research.

2. What do you think made your application stand out?

I had several different research experiences as an undergraduate. I was lucky that the research I was doing for my senior thesis was progressing well enough to have a paper submission at the time of applying. I also had a unique extracurricular activity. I had been Vice President of my hometown School Board, and one of the big issues while I was on the board was the changing of the math curriculum. That experience gave me plenty to write about in my essays.

3. What tips would you give others applying for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship?

Don’t be intimidated! The application can seem daunting since it involves three essays judged by “Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts.” Even today after applying and helping others apply, I can’t define what NSF means by those criteria. But, when I was applying, I found it really helpful to learn by example and I talked extensively with graduate students that had an NSF GRFP. I found it so helpful that it motivated me to put my essays on my website and try to collect as many other examples as I could find. So don’t be afraid to look and ask for help.

Alex Lang is a second year graduate student in Physics at Boston University and blogs on his experiences at He’s also getting married in May. Congrats Alex!

© Victoria Johnson 2012, all rights reserved.

We had four fantastic seminars at Tufts, Harvard, MIT and BU this week, and one of the most common questions I was asked is will ProFellow have fellowships for non-U.S. citizens. The resounding answer is YES. In the past year we’ve come across a large number of fellowships that international applicants are eligible for. Considering how difficult it is to find these opportunities, we are working on a way to make it easy for ProFellow users to find them in our database when we launch this summer. In the meantime, here is just a small selection of fellowships and tips for international applicants.

You may have your heart set on a certain university for your graduate studies, but be flexible in your choices. Some universities offer full graduate fellowships to their students in certain disciplines and some are specific to international applicants. Yale University offers 20-25 annual Gruber Science Fellowships for students of any nationality pursuing a PhD in biomedical and biological sciences or in astronomy and astrophysics. Also the Harvard Kennedy School of Government provided us information on two fellowships, the Luksic Fellowships for Croatian students, and the Kokkalis Degree Program Fellowship for natives of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey.

There are also a number of foundation fellowships for international applicants for either graduate study or research.  The International Student Research Fellowships sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute provide up to $43,000 to talented science and engineering students during their third, fourth, and fifth year of graduate school. The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Research Awards offers funding to Canadians, permanent residents of Canada, and citizens of developing countries for research carried out in one or more developing countries. The AAUW International Fellowships are awarded for full-time study or research to women who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Also, the Robert S. McNamara Fellowships Program provides support to young researchers working in academic and research institutions from eligible countries preparing a doctoral thesis.

There are also a number of professional fellowships for international applicants. The Community Solutions Program is a 4 month professional fellowship that allows Fellows to work in a U.S. nonprofit organization on topics such as transparency, conflict resolution, and women’s issues. Also the Acumen Fund Global Fellows Program is a social entrepreneurship fellowship for applicants of any nationality with 3-7 years work experience.

There are many more! Follow us on Facebook and sign-up for our beta for the latest news and announcements.

In preparation for my upcoming seminar at MIT, I’ve gone back through my posts on science and engineering fellowships. Here’s a review of some of the best we’ve found.

  • The Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowship is a competitive and prestigious fellowship for exceptionally talented doctoral students in the applied physical, biological and engineering sciences.
  • The Amelia Earhart Fellowship is a $10,000 award for women of any nationality pursuing a doctoral degree in the field of aerospace-related sciences and aerospace-related engineering.
  • The Hydro Fellowship Program is awarded to mechanical and electrical engineering graduate students in their final year of study who are interested in conducting research related to the improvement of conventional hydropower.
  • The  KPCB Engineering Fellows Program is a paid summer fellowship for entrepreneurial engineering students at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Yale University offers 20-25 annual Gruber Science Fellowships for students of any nationality pursuing a PhD in biomedical and biological sciences or in astronomy and astrophysics.
  • The L’Oreal USA Fellowships for Women in Science is a competitive fellowship program that provides five awards of up to $60,000 to women postdoctoral researchers who are pursuing careers in the life and physical/material sciences, as well as mathematics, engineering and computer science.
  • Code for America is a highly competitive professional fellowship program that recuits talented web developers, designers, and entrepreneurs to work on innovative tech projects in city government agencies across the U.S., including Philadelphia, Seattle, Washington, DC and Boston.
  • The Google Policy Fellowship is a paid summer fellowship for undergraduate, graduate, and law students to spend 10 weeks in Washington, DC, San Francisco, Toronto or Ottawa, Canada at public interest organizations working on public policy in broadband access, content regulation, copyright and trademark reform, consumer privacy, and open government.
  • The DHS Emerging Leaders in Cybersecurity is a paid professional fellowship program for computer science graduates; fellows complete rotational assignments at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, DC.

We hope to see you at our Spring 2012 University Tour in Boston! Read here for details.

The devastating earthquake that ruptured in Haiti in January 2010 is far off the media radar, yet Haiti still has a long road to recovery. Many hope to rebuild Haiti so that it can one day provide better education, infrastructure and health services for its citizens than ever before.

Some extraordinary people took the opportunity to make a real difference in Haiti through a fellowship. Jay Grahm won an AAAS Science & Technology Fellowship and went to Haiti to help build hand washing stations and provide other sanitation needs for growing camps full of displaced people.

This year Anand Habib, a senior from Houston, Texas studying biology at Stanford, won a Medical Missionaries Post-Baccalaureate Fellowship to spend a year serving at the St. Joseph Clinic in Thomassique, Haiti. Anand plans to become an infectious disease doctor.

There are also Haitians who have used fellowships to train abroad and bring skills and expertise back to Haiti. Pierre Fouché, a Fulbright Fellow from Haiti, studied at the University of Buffalo to learn more about building earthquake-proof structures.  He went back to Haiti to train other engineers and architects working in the rebuilding effort.

Cynthia Robinson, director of the AAAS S&T Fellowships, said the efforts of those working in Haiti “are indicative of the skills that Fellows can offer by applying their knowledge in real-world situations to address challenges and bring about positive change.”