Sam Macdonald and Cleve Young, graduate students in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, were awarded graduate research fellowships from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Spring 2023.
The Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) supports students in their graduate education by both paying for school and providing an annual stipend. The purpose of the NSF GRFP is to ensure the quality, vitality, and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. GRFP seeks to broaden participation in science and engineering of underrepresented groups, including women, minorities, persons with disabilities, and veterans. GRFP is a five-year fellowship period with three years of financial support.
Macdonald, originally from Austin, Texas, is a third-year graduate student, focusing on mathematics education and prison education. Advised by Dr. Yvonne Lai and Dr. Jim Lewis for his GRFP application, Macdonald said he has most enjoyed Dr. Eloísa Grifo’s homology (Math 915) course and Dr. Susan Hermiller’s theory of groups (Math 911) course.
A big source of inspiration for Macdonald was his undergraduate advisor, Dr. Erin McNicholas of Willamette University.
“She was the first math professor I had in undergrad, and I wouldn’t have switched over to math from poli-sci and psych if she hadn’t worked so hard to make the classroom accessible and friendly,” Macdonald said.
Young, from Decatur, Nebraska, is a first-year graduate student who also attended UNL as an undergraduate in mathematics. “Having undergrad instructors such as Justin Nguyen and Kevin Gonzales helped propel me toward the graduate program,” Young said. “Dr. Gonzales and I would often talk during office hours about anything and everything. He was always understanding of my position as a single father and very encouraging. In graduate school, my favorite course has been on number theory.”
As a STEM CONNECT Scholar, Young was first introduced to the GRFP by Lewis, who has since been a constant presence in Young’s academic journey. Lewis also introduced Young to his future undergraduate thesis advisor, Lai, who has been another source of encouragement and inspiration.
Both Macdonald and Young advise that future GRFP applicants should identify multiple letter writers and advisors to help with their research plan and to have people who are well-versed in NSF applications read the documents before submission.
"Read as many successful—and even unsuccessful—applications as you can get your hands on and the respective comments received from them,” Young added.
– Greta Prochnow | Mathematics