Delivering the Goods

MU Fellowships Office workshop helps NSF-GRFP candidates tell their stories

Julie Nguyen sits in her laboratory at the University of Missouri.
Julie Nguyen, a double major in music and chemical engineering, is a 2019 Goldwater Scholarship recipient who won first place in an Ignite Talk competition for her speech on tribology and bio-lubricants. She was also a member of the engineering honor society, Tau Beta Pi. Photo by Michael Cali

Awards are nothing new to Julie Nguyen. Among the spring 2020 graduate’s many honors: a Goldwater Scholarship, a Mary T. Carlson Scholarship for Women in Chemical Engineering, an MU Award for Academic Distinction and the Melvin Platt Music Scholarship Award for Scholastic Achievement in the MU School of Music.

2021 NSF GRF Applicant Workshop Series

The MU Fellowships Office presents a four-part workshop that carefully walks applicants through each component of the grant application and provides group and individual writing support. By the end of the program, participants will have a complete draft of the application.

Participants must commit to attending all four parts of the program, which will be held on Zoom.

• Thursday, July 9 (1–2:30 p.m. CT): NSF GRF Application Components & Broader Impacts
• Thursday, July 16 (1–2 p.m. CT): Moderated Peer Review of Personal Statement
• Wednesday, July 22 (1–2 p.m. CT): Moderated Peer Review of Research Statement
• July 30-August 6 (Time TBD): Application Feedback Meeting with NSF GRF Advisor

Space is limited and is open, on an application basis, to students eligible to apply for the GRFP in fall 2020.

To apply, students must submit this brief application and have a research adviser submit this brief recommendation form. Applications are due Tuesday, July 7 by 11:59 p.m. CT.

For more information, please email fellowships@missouri.edu.

Nguyen’s latest academic attainment — the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF-GRFP) — will take her to the University of Colorado Boulder, where she will work toward a graduate degree in the shadow of the Flatiron Mountains. And although Nguyen’s accomplishments are her own, she credits the MU Fellowships Office for amplifying her accolades.

“The staff in the Fellowships Office provided useful timelines for finishing essays and editing drafts,” says Nguyen, a chemical engineering major from Chesterfield, Missouri. “But more important, the staff became my friends who helped me understand what I want to use my education for. That kind of personal reflection is at the heart of what four-year universities promise to give students.”

The NSF-GRFP supports outstanding graduate students in STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. This year, in an effort to assist more Mizzou students throughout the process, the MU Fellowships Office is presenting a workshop for qualified applicants. Hosted entirely on Zoom, the four-part program carefully walks applicants through each component of the grant application and provides group and individual writing support. By the end of the program, participants will have a complete draft of the application.

“By participating in the workshop, candidates put time on their side, positioning themselves to refine their application materials rather than hurrying the writing process,” says Rachel Newman, interim director of the MU Fellowships Office. “We especially encourage candidates for this award to begin working on the research proposal component of this application in the summer months, as the NSF looks for innovative proposals that advance knowledge in the field.”

Sam Kopfinger poses for a photo on the porch of the University of Missouri's Jesse Hall.
U.S. Marine Corps Reserve veteran Sam Kopfinger poses on the porch of Jesse Hall.

Sam Kopfinger’s field of preference is lithium ion batteries, a subject he never would have investigated if he hadn’t transferred from community college to the University of Missouri. A U.S. Marine Corps Reserve veteran and chemical engineering major from Wentzville, Missouri, Kopfinger didn’t realize the level of research that takes place at a tier one university — until he arrived at Mizzou.

“I’ve always been interested in renewable energy technology, and I see a need for more electro chemical systems in the future,” says Kopfinger, an NSF-GRFP recipient headed to the University of Chicago. “I maintained a 3.7 GPA at Mizzou and got involved in the Mizzou Hydrogen Car Club and a political club. The Fellowships Office really helped me put my best foot forward.”

The benefits of applying for premier fellowships, grants and scholarships through the MU Fellowships Office aren’t limited to the potential academic award. Mizzou students such as Nguyen and Kopfinger consistently acknowledge “the process,” lauding its life-affirming and résumé-strengthening benefits.

“This workshop series will help participants stay on an ideal pace when it comes to writing and revising their application in collaboration with faculty advisors in their field,” Newman says. “Also, undergraduate seniors who work on writing this application in the summer and early fall are at a competitive advantage for writing strong graduate school admission essays.”

Also receiving the NSF-GRFP was Luke Guerdan, a December 2019 graduate in computer science and psychology.