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Purdue Graduate School News

April 29, 2021

18 Purdue students awarded NSF Fellowship

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced its 2021 Graduate Research Fellowship Program selections for Fellow candidate and Honorable Mention. Thirteen Purdue University graduate students and five undergraduate students were awarded fellowships, and 15 Purdue students received Honorable Mention.

NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recognizes and supports individuals early in their graduate training in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

The prestige of winning an NSF fellowship has grown as a function of applications to awards. While the number of NSF applicants across the country grows each year, the number of awards remains relatively stable.

This year, while approximately 14,000 students applied for an NSF Fellowship, NSF awarded only 2,074 fellowships, for an overall success rate of 14%. Purdue’s success rate was substantially higher than the national average. Of all the Purdue applicants, approximately 20% were awarded the fellowship and 17% were awarded honorable mention. Overall, 37% of Purdue's NSF applicants received either the fellowship or honorable mention in 2021.

Dr. Lisa Nielsen, grant writer and postdoc office director in The Graduate School, says that one factor accounting for the higher than average success rate for Purdue students is likely that a majority of Purdue's awardees and honorable mentions received writing coaching and/or attended NSF Fellowship Workshops from the Graduate School’s Fellowship Office.

The Fellowship Office Grantsmanship Team, housed in Young Hall and available virtually, serves applicants of external grants and fellowships. Nielsen helps applicants learn about government, industry, and foundation fellowship and grant opportunities; teaches grant writing skills; offers webinars, workshops, and online resources; and conducts one-on-one consultations. Two current NSF Fellows work as Fellowship Writing Coaches and help with writing consultations and give feedback on drafts.

In the past year, the Fellowship Office tripled the number of writing consultations for all fellowship applications, including NSF. Along with the rise in consultations has been a steady rise in NSF Fellows from Purdue. In 2018, 13 Purdue students were awarded NSF Fellowships; in 2020 there were 20 Purdue NSF Fellows.

NSF Fellowship workshops for this year's applicants will be begin in May. Several workshops will be offered throughout the summer and early fall. For schedule and registration, see under Summer --> Grantsmanship.

Source: Lisa Nielsen,

Writer: Korina Wilbert,

Related: The Graduate School’s Fellowship Office guides students and postdocs through funding process

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