GPS Fellowship Coaching Program helps grad students win NSF fellowships

Graduate Research Fellowships granted to 32 Rice-affiliated students for 2023; another 6 awarded honorable mention.

NSF GRFP logo on a gray background.

The National Science Foundation has awarded 32 Graduate Research Fellowships to Rice-affiliated students.

Nineteen are current or incoming graduate students. Nine are current Rice undergraduates, and seven are Rice undergraduate alumni (three of whom are also current Rice graduate students) An additional six Rice-affiliated students received an Honorable Mention.

NSF GRFP is a five-year fellowship that provides three years of financial support for students early in their graduate careers in science, technology, math and engineering. Fellows are provided three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period, including a $37,000 annual stipend and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution.

“While we celebrate with those who have won the NSF or received an honorable mention, we want to recognize that the hardest part of this process can often be hitting the ‘submit’ button,” said Seiichi Matsuda, dean of graduate and postdoctoral studies (GPS). “We want to recognize all of the students who completed the application and put in significant effort and hard work throughout the process.”

At Rice, the GPS office provides a fellowship coaching program, run by Vanessa Espinoza Ph.D. ‘22, which helps grad students approach fellowship applications for awards like the NSF GRFP.

Espinoza, a postdoctoral associate in GPS, found an eager group of coaches and applicants to work with in the fall.

“Seeing that enthusiasm from students was really exciting,” she said. “The time they put into the writing workshops and with their coaches is reflected in the outcome.”

Students are able to request a fellowship coach at any point during the year. Tia Gray, a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering, requested to work with a GPS coach after getting feedback from colleagues in her department.

“I was encouraged by everyone who had applied previously, and after my first meeting with my coach, Carly Graverson, I knew it would be my ticket to success. I feel very excited, grateful and hopeful.”

Gray said the process of working with Graverson was collaborative and insightful.

“Carly really helped me understand the common theme in all of the activities I’m involved in, and that theme centered on mentorship and helping students explore their passion for science. I dug into those experiences and it helped me organize my career goals.”

“Everyone has a story,” said Graverson. “How I approach coaching is to help students tie together and apply a common theme of why the NSF will help you achieve a specific goal.”

“The process of writing the proposal is valuable regardless of the outcome,” she added. “It’s a good way of reflecting on where you want to go, and it also helps you lay out a research plan, because you’re compelled to lay out your goals and hypotheses.”

Graverson plans to continue coaching in the fall, and noted she enjoys coaching for many reasons, but one is that it’s good practice for herself to write these proposals.

“Fellowships are always worth pursuing, even if you don’t feel confident you will win. The only reason not to pursue a fellowship is if you’re not eligible.”

NSF Fellows:

Current Graduate students:

Clark Wendell Hamor - Life Sciences - Biochemistry

Eugene Chung - Engineering - Bioengineering

Matthew Lee - Engineering - Bioengineering

Eric Jordan Gomez - Chemistry - Macromolecular, Supramolecular, and Nanochemistry

Amanda Potts - Life Sciences - Evolutionary Biology

Sadie N Brasel - Engineering - Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Anderson Roy Phillips - Engineering - Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Autumn Bruncz - Engineering - Optical Engineering

Spencer Williams - Engineering - Mechanical Engineering

Karyssa Courey - Psychology - Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Kevin Michael McCoy - Mathematical Sciences - Statistics

Diego Gonzalez - Engineering - Biomedical Engineering

Tia Gray - Engineering - Materials Engineering

Incoming graduate students:

Katie Dannette Leonard - Engineering - Chemical Engineering

Emma Raisley - Engineering - Biomedical Engineering

Gillian Audia - Engineering - Bioengineering

Renallan C Neckles - Engineering - Environmental Engineering

Aislinn C Smith - Mathematical Sciences - Topology

Damon Renel Spencer - Mathematical Sciences - Applied Mathematics

Current Undergraduates:

Cameron Diao - Comp/IS/Eng - Machine Learning

Colter Decker Engineering - Mechanical Engineering

Hazel Disney-McKeethen - Life Sciences - Microbial Biology

Brandon Nicholas Khek - Physics and Astronomy - Theoretical Physics

Matan Alon Lieber-Kotz - Engineering - Chemical Engineering

Ruoyu Qian - Chemistry - Chemical Catalysis

Zachary Thomas Rewolinski - Mathematical Sciences - Statistics

Vi Vo - Engineering - Mechanical Engineering

Benjamin Walls - Engineering - Chemical Engineering

Undergraduate Alumni:

Tia Gray - Engineering - Materials Engineering (current Rice PhD student)

Diego Gonzalez - Engineering - Biomedical Engineering (current Rice PhD student)

Maya Levitan - Engineering - Biomedical Engineering

Anderson Roy Phillips - Engineering - Electrical and Electronic Engineering (current Rice PhD student)

Dru Myerscough - Life Sciences - Structural Biology

Adrian Yao - Materials Research - Electrochemical energy storage

Jinjiang Zhang - Psychology - Cognitive Neuroscience

NSF Honorable Mentions:

Current Graduate Students:

Fariha Noor Ahmad - Engineering - Bioengineering

Lorenzo Castelli - Engineering - Mechanical Engineering

Keren Reichler - Social Sciences - Cultural Anthropology

Malyn Selinidis - Life Sciences - Microbial Biology

Incoming Graduate Students:

Lily Metsker - Life Sciences - Microbial Biology


Alexander Xiong - Engineering - Artificial Intelligence