With 35 students receiving the National Science Foundation Fellowship this year, UT was ranked No. 12 in the country for the highest number of recipients.
The research-based grant, which is awarded to both undergraduate and graduate students in engineering, science, technology and mathematics, provides a $34,000 annual stipend for three years.
For many of the awarded students, this kind of funding is something that could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, especially in a growing professional field that gets less money every year, according to Bruno Rego, fellowship winner and biomedical engineering graduate student.
“Showing that the NSF has faith in you and your work can carry a lot of weight when you apply for other fellowships or even research grants,” Rego said. “For students getting their doctorates now, we have no idea how shallow the funding pool will be after we graduate, so having a history of being able to ‘get money’ is becoming that much more crucial when trying to land a post-doc and eventually a faculty position.”
The fellowship is also helpful to students who want to pursue major projects in school and in the future, said Wiley Jennings, fellowship winner and civil engineering graduate student. Wiley said he plans to use the grant to reduce water-associated disease in the U.S. and Cambodia.
“The interesting thing about this science and engineering fellowship is that [the NSF] is really interested in funding people who show a strong history of commitment to science- and engineering-related social issues,” Jennings said.
One problem that many students face when going through graduate school is being able to fund research work as well as tuition at the same time, said Michelle Dose, fellowship winner and chemical engineering graduate student.
“It will allow me to continue with my project and branch out into areas that interest me the most, rather than being somewhat constrained by the requirements of being funded purely by an industrial sponsor,” Dose said. “The pay increase will be very helpful with covering living expenses and having a bit more fun outside of research and classes.”
According to Rego, the University’s ranking for the grant is not surprising, considering the amount of engineering talent at UT.
“I think when the NSF gets applications from UT, and they see how we speak about our work, they see the ambition we have,” Rego said.