NSF Sources of Support for Undergraduate and Graduate Student Education


By Jim Kurose, Assistant Director (AD) of NSF for CISE and Erwin Gianchandani, Deputy AD of NSF for CISE

Dear Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Community,

As many of you know, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has a long history of investing in education and workforce development across all areas of science and engineering, including CISE areas. For example, you may recall that last fall we highlighted one such opportunity – the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) – which recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing full-time, research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions.  You responded to that message (thank you!), resulting in a surge in the number of applicants in CISE areas to the GRFP – and a commensurate increase in the number of GRFP awards in CISE topics.

So we’d like to again remind you to highlight GRFP opportunities to your students, and also emphasize several other programs that may have been historically overlooked by the CISE community but are available to help grow the pipeline of graduate students. Indeed, despite increasing enrollment at the undergraduate level in CISE disciplines, many universities are also facing a declining rate of participation in graduate-level programs, across U.S.- and foreign-born students. This decline comes at a time when research in CISE areas is critically important to national priorities and U.S. economic competitiveness – a time when there is an urgent need to develop, nurture, and sustain a trained workforce in CISE areas to ensure U.S. leadership in the 21st-century digital economy.

The following programs range from those that target individual students at undergraduate and graduate levels to those that address pedagogical methods at an institutional level. Each program has an annual deadline at roughly the same time each year and provides funding for students’ research. We encourage you to take advantage of these significant sources of support. (For a  more comprehensive listing of programs supporting undergraduate and graduate students, see here and here, respectively).

Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Sites: Deadline Aug. 28, 2019

Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) in Engineering and Computer Science: Deadline Sept. 18, 2019

Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP): Deadline Oct. 22, 2019

National Research Traineeships (NRT): Deadline Dec. 6, 2019

  • REU Sites support active participation in science, engineering, and education research by undergraduate students, including those from groups underrepresented in computing – underrepresented minorities, women, and persons with disabilities – as well as U.S. veterans. Sites can be based in a single discipline or academic department or may offer interdisciplinary or multi-department research opportunities with a coherent intellectual theme – which relates to the nature of CISE research today. CISE has funded 98 active REU Sites, and we are looking to grow the number of undergraduates who can benefit from this program. REU Sites awards are typically $80,000 to $130,000 per year for durations of three years. More information can be found here.
  • RET Sites in Engineering and Computer Science supports the participation of K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in-service and pre-service teachers and/or full-time community college faculty in authentic summer research experiences with university engineering and computer science faculty researchers. The research projects and experiences revolve around focused research areas related to engineering and/or computer science that provide a common cohort experience to the participating educators. The K-12 STEM teachers and/or full-time community college faculty also translate their research experiences and new scientific knowledge into their classroom activities and curricula. The university team includes faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and industrial advisors – and involvement of graduate students in support of academic-year classroom activities is particularly encouraged. RET Sites awards are typically up to $600,000 over three years. More information can be found here.
  • GRFP recognizes and fully funds outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported areas who are pursing full-time, research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. Last year, GRFP awards were offered to 2,000 of the more than 12,000 applicants. GRFP recipients have greater freedom in choosing research topics, additional time to focus on conducting research, greater choice of research advisors, and the prestige of a fellowship guaranteed for a period of their graduate school experience. Additional information on the program may be found athttps://www.nsf.gov/grfp and http://www.nsfgrfp.org. Let your students know of this opportunity to apply.
  • The NRT program is a successor of the long-running NSF Integrated Graduate Traineeship (IGERT) program, and encourages the development of bold, new, potentially transformative, and scalable models for STEM graduate training that ensure that graduate students develop the skills, knowledge, and competencies needed to pursue a range of STEM careers. For this upcoming year, the priority areas for NRT are NSF’s 10 Big Ideas, including Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR), The Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (FW-HTF), and The Quantum Leap: Leading the Next Quantum Revolution (QL), all of which have substantial CISE research components. NRT awards are up to $3 million over five years and can be used to support tens of graduate students. More information can be found here.

We hope you will take the time to familiarize yourself with the above funding opportunities and the associated benefits for you as well as your undergraduate seniors and first-year graduate students. Working together, we can help nurture and grow the next generation of CISE researchers and educators.

Jim and Erwin

Jim Kurose, Assistant Director (AD) of NSF for CISE
Erwin Gianchandani, Deputy AD of NSF for CISE