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News Release 12-224

NSF Marks 60th Anniversary of Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Event at NSF headquarters recognizes current and former Graduate Research Fellows, including winners of a video competition

student and researcher in lab

The Graduate Research Fellowship Program has been in operation almost as long as NSF itself.

December 5, 2012

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu was among the speakers at a celebration of the 60th anniversary of NSF's Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) today. GRFP is NSF's flagship program for graduate students in the science and engineering fields within NSF's mission. It has been in operation almost as long as NSF itself, making an investment in students with demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering.

The investments have paid off well: Among more than 200 Nobel laureates who have had NSF support since 1950, 40 were selected as Graduate Research Fellows, including Secretary Chu in the 1970s. Graduate Research Fellows are well-represented among government leaders, business executives, writers, and members of the National Academy of Sciences. Examples include John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology; Marcia McNutt, director of the United States Geological Survey; Lawrence Summers, former director of the U.S. National Economic Council; Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google; Robert Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago and a member of the National Science Board; and Steven Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics. Currently, about 12,000 students apply annually for Graduate Research Fellowships; 2,000 receive awards, which they take to U.S. graduate institutions of their choice.

"Today's Graduate Research Fellows will be tomorrow's leading scientists and engineers," said NSF Director Subra Suresh. "They will be called upon to embrace the opportunities and challenges of a new era in science, marked by growing interdisciplinary and cross-border scientific challenges and opportunities. NSF has had a long and distinguished history of identifying leaders and pioneers in science and engineering through the Graduate Research Fellowship Program."

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the program, Suresh also announced the launch of Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW), a coordinated NSF effort to accelerate international research collaboration by providing new and expanded opportunities for NSF Graduate Research Fellows.

The event also included awarding prizes to winners of a video contest that challenged active Graduate Research Fellows to create 90-second videos showing how their research could help shape the future. Judges included former Fellows, NSF staff and members of the media. There was also a People's Choice Award where 1,975 people voted on their top video. Winners received cash prizes and had their videos shown during the celebration. Winners were:

First prize - Eric Keen, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

Whales in Fjords: Fin whale habitat use & vocalizations in a developing coastal corridor

Second prize and People's Choice Award - Candy Hwang, Department of Chemistry, University of Southern California

The Secrets of Nitrogenase

Third prize - Erica Staaterman, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami

Sonic Reef

As the GRFP moves into its seventh decade, a new round of Fellows will be announced in the spring of 2013.


Media Contacts
Maria C. Zacharias, NSF, (703) 292-8454, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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