Never a slouch in achievement; UC Davis graduate students had another successful year collecting National Science Foundation fellowships, even by their own high standards.
Eighteen of the 950 NSF awards nationwide landed on the UC Davis campus, the second greatest total ever, said Deborah McCook, external fellowship advisor in the Office of Graduate Studies.
“We‘re fortunate and really proud of our grad students because they‘re great,“ said Edward Casswell-Chen, associate dean of graduate programs. “They are the best of the best and we‘re very excited about their success.“
The award offers three years of support – $30,000 in stipend money and $10,500 in cost of education per year – for a total of $121,500 per student. Multiplied by the 18 recipients, UCD will attain almost $2.2 million dollars in research money.
The population biology graduate program was the big winner, as the home of six of the 18 of the recipients. The ecology program and animal behavior both had three winners; while biomedical engineering had two, and neuroscience, international agriculture, psychology and microbiology each had one.
McCook said the success comes as a justification of the graduate student talent at UC Davis.
“We‘re very strong in both ecology and population biology – many of the science programs we‘re rated very high in nationally, so obviously we‘re drawing top caliber students to the programs to begin with, who therefore are more successful at these types of applications,“ she said.
Casswell-Chen said population biology‘s research is more important now than ever, due to environmental threats to endangered species worldwide.
“That type of work is popular and important research that has to be done, and we‘re one of the outstanding places to do this work,“ he said. “They do everything from population genetics and enology to phylogenetics, in terms of the evolutionary relationships among organisms.“
McCook said her office made it a priority to take steps this year to do a few extra outreach programs and informational sessions advising students to apply.
“We had a really strong team effort across campus this year to make students aware of the program and to provide additional insight about what it takes to construct a successful application,“ Casswell-Chen said.
There are three times in a prospective NSF fellow‘s academic career when he or she can apply for the program.
“One is to apply your senior year – but you have to be a real star student and be sure of what you want to do, in addition to having a sterling application,“ said Andre Bastos, a UCD graduate student studying neuroscience who is in his first year as an NSF fellow.
Applying your first year in graduate school, as Bastos did, is ideal, and enables the applicant to write either a broad or specific application, he said.
The third option is to apply in the second year of graduate school, once the preliminary course work is finished, in which case an application should be “very particular,“ Bastos said.
Bastos is researching the capacity for attention, and his fellowship will support him while he spends three years in an attention laboratory. There he will be studying how filtering happens in the brain through both non-invasive and invasive methodologies on student and animal models.
“I‘ll be doing monitored psychological tests where we try to control for distracting things, and experimentally manipulate what people are attending to and seeing if we can track that in the brain,“ he said.
His main goal is to help people with ADHD, and to be able to evaluate which medicines are better and understand what the neural deficits are that lessen the ability to attend and filter.
The next information meeting for the program is June 4, from 3:15 to 5 p.m. in Memorial Union 2. McCook strongly recommended that anyone at all interested attend to understand what the program is about and what makes it so successful
“These info sessions help students get basic information, but in addition there are some unique mentoring programs within certain programs – population biology, for example,“ she said. “Providing mentoring along with the facts really opens up that relationship to students outside the program, which is wonderful.“
More information can be found at gradstudies.ucdavis.edu/index.cfm.
MIKE DORSEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.