About GRFP

The purpose of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is to help ensure the quality, vitality, and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. A goal of the program is to broaden participation of the full spectrum of diverse talents in STEM.. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions.

As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the GRFP has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers. The reputation of the GRFP follows recipients and often helps them become life-long leaders that contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching. Past fellows include numerous Nobel Prize winners, former U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, Google founder, Sergey Brin and Freakonomics co-author, Steven Levitt.

Fellows share in the prestige and opportunities that become available when they are selected. Fellowships provide the student with a three-year annual stipend of $37,000 along with a $16,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees (paid to the institution), as well as access to opportunities for professional development available to NSF-supported graduate students. Fellowships may only be used for an eligible graduate degree program at an academic institution accredited in, and having a campus located in, the US, its territories, possessions, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

NSF Fellows are anticipated to become knowledge experts who can contribute significantly to research, teaching, and innovations in science and engineering. These individuals are crucial to maintaining and advancing the nation’s technological infrastructure and national security as well as contributing to the economic well-being of society at large.

So that the nation can build fully upon the strength and creativity of a diverse society, the Foundation welcomes applications from all qualified individuals. Women, under-represented minorities and people with disabilities are encouraged to apply.

The fellowship is competitive, and those planning to apply should devote a sincere effort to their application. See the Applicants section for more information.

The Graduate Research Fellowship Program History

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is the country’s oldest fellowship program that directly supports graduate students in various STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. In March 1951, Alan T. Waterman, the chief scientist at the Office of Naval Research, was appointed by President Truman to become the first Director of the National Science Foundation.  Waterman defined the Foundation’s policy role as “one of advocating a research support program, improving government-university relations, and compiling reliable information on scientific research and manpower.” In 1951, Congress appropriated only $151,000 for the agency to start administrative operations. GRFP was established as the first program in the foundation’s history, to encourage individuals to pursue graduate education in science. In developing the program, graduate school was targeted as the academic level most likely to quickly produce scientists and engineers who could contribute to scientific accomplishments and innovation in the U.S.

Since 1952, NSF has funded over 70,000 Graduate Research Fellowships out of more than 500,000 applicants.  Currently, 42 Fellows have gone on to become Nobel laureates, and more than 450 have become members of the National Academy of Sciences.  In addition, the Graduate Research Fellowship Program has a high rate of doctorate degree completion, with more than 70 percent of students completing their doctorates within 11 years.

Learn more about the history of the National Science Foundation.

Photo of 1951 National Science Board

National Science Board Members, July 1951.

(left to right) First Row: Dr. John W. Davis, Dr. Sophie B. Aberle, Dr. Detlev W. Bronk, Dr. James B. Conant, Dr. Alan T. Waterman, Dr. Gerty T. Cori, The Rev. Patrick H. Yancey

Standing Row: Dr. Marston Morse, Dr. E.C. Stakman, Dr. Chester I. Barnard, Dr. Paul M. Gross, Dr. Frederick A. Middlebush, Dr. Joseph C. Morris, Dr. James A. Reyniers, Dr. O.W. Hyman, Dr. Lee A. DuBridge, Dr. Robert F. Loeb, Dr. Robert P. Barnes, Dr. George D. Humphrey, Dr. A.A. Potter, Mr. Charles Dollard.

Credit: NSF Collection