Encounter with a familiar stranger at the park (NSF GRF Impersonation)

As I took my daily stroll in the park, enjoying the crisp air, the chirping birds, the sunlight reflect off the leaves, I saw a young person sitting on the bench in the park reading through a stack of profiles. He put the profiles aside and took a break to take in the scenery. I thought to myself “Why not enjoy some company? I’ll sit down and shoot the breeze for a bit”.

After some chit chat, it turns it his name was Nesef Gref. Yes his name was quite unusual, but it helped to spark up further conversation. I asked him “So, what do you do for a living?”. His candid reply was “I spend my days reading about graduate students and what they do.” And I thought sarcastically to myself, “Oh ok, that’s not…strange at all”.

But, he was a kind young man, and I thought to put aside that awkwardness and continue to chit chat. After opening up I quickly realized that he was indeed quite friendly and ambitious! And so as he said, he was looking for ambitious graduate students as well, graduate students who are excited about what they are doing, who have a vision and a passion, and are able to successfully complete graduate degree programs in various disciplines.

It turns out that I myself was a starting PhD student, and I thought “Oh man, I haven’t even taken my first class! There’s no way I could be fit for this.” But the kind young man instantly corrected me saying “Actually, you would be perfect for this! We are looking for students who are in their early stages of their graduate study.”

As we continued to talk I learned that what he is interested in most are students who can articulate specific details about their goals rather than mere generic and vague ambitions. Nesef is looking for graduate students who have innovative and clear ideas, and have a concretely defined topic with a limited scope. Furthermore, he mentioned his interest in those who seek cross-disciplinary work, rather than working within one’s own discipline.

Nesef and I had quite an enjoyable conversation that morning sitting on the park bench. He shared a lot with me of his work. What stuck with me the most is how he emphasized that the most successful graduate students are able to find a new way forward in a problem where the field is stuck by developing either a 1) new model 2) new analytical technique or 3) new conceptualization.

About Robert Battikha

PhD BME Fall 2015
This entry was posted in Doctoral Funding Mentoring Program and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Encounter with a familiar stranger at the park (NSF GRF Impersonation)

  1. I think you are right on! You must not only show that you have a vision and a passion for what you do, but you also need to be very articulate and specific in clearly stating your research goals on an application. Considering that so many people are applying, you might just get overlooked if you aren’t able to do so.

  2. Gina Pope says:

    I really enjoyed your approach to this blog post! It seems as if you understand what NSF is looking for in a grant recipient, and have dissected their desires by personifying it as a man in the park.

  3. Ashley Hollingshead says:

    I hope that you do meet “Nesef Gref” one day and receive this fellowship! Sounds like an amazing opportunity for any graduate student.

  4. Samantha Lee says:

    Great post and comments everyone. You can demonstrate the nature and scope of the problem by providing concise but comprehensive literature review/background information with appropriate citations. When addressing the Intellectual Merit and Broader Impact, restate the significance of the problem and describe the potential outcome of your research. Describe in what ways the research will benefit others (who and how).

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