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National Science Foundation (NSF) Fellowships

National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program

The NSF fellowship provides living stipend plus fees/tuition for students in engineering or the natural or social sciences.

The Coordinating Official (CO) for the Caltech NSF GRFP program is Professor Douglas C. Rees, who can be contacted through the Graduate Studies Office.  Please see the NSF GFRP Administrative Guide or the NSF Frequently Asked Questions resource before contacting the CO, many of your questions can be answered by reading the guide.   Fellows are responsible for administering their own fellowship status, submitting reports, etc. through the NSF Fastlane Website.  Fellows should include the following acknowledgement on all publications derived from work done while they were fellowship recipients: "This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant No. DGE‐1144469." 

Federally-funded fellowships such as the NSF GRFP, NDSEG, DOE CSGF have special restrictions on the use of their awards. Most importantly, rules for NSF have significantly changed in the last few years. Please take note of the following restrictions on NSF GRFP awards.

  • Students may work as teaching assistants while on tenure and be compensated - see the information below
  • Students may not receive any other Individual Federal Fellowship (This does not include Fulbright Scholarships) while on tenure
  • The fellowship may not be put on reserve for outside employment
  • See the NSF Frequently Asked Questions resource for additional restrictions

The NSF stipend of $34,000, will be paid through Caltech's payroll as a fellowship and under current taxation guidelines is considered taxable income. The $12,000 NSF Cost-of-Education Allowance will be applied to tuition and the remainder of the tuition and mandatory fees will be covered by a Special Tuition Award from the Graduate Studies Office.

Prospective students will receive a revised offer of financial support from the Graduate Studies Office detailing the terms of the award. Should you accept Caltech's admission offer, you will receive further instructions from NSF to declare your tenure and graduate institution by May 1 via Fastlane.

Continuing students will receive an award letter from the Graduate Studies Office and your academic option will be notified. You will also receive instructions from NSF to declare your tenure by May 1, and to confirm Caltech as your graduate institution.

As a reminder, you are asked to read carefully the updated Administrative Guide for Fellows and Coordinating Officials for the latest policies. It is our understanding that there will also be a FAQ and PowerPoint Training Module to provide an overview of the fellowship and to answer any questions you may have. If, however, you still have questions after reading the Guide and the information appended to the Guide, you may contact Caltech's Coordinating Official for NSF and Dean of Graduate Studies, Professor Douglas C. Rees.

NSF and Responsible Conduct of Research

Please note that Training in Responsible Conduct of Research is required of students and postdoctoral scholars funded on NSF awards, where the award resulted from a proposal submitted January 2010 or later. In order to satisfy the NSF mandate, the Caltech RCR plan requires that students and postdocs supported from NSF funds as described above shall take the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Program.* This can be done by logging into Access.Caltech and following the link "Research Ethics Education (CITI)," and then selecting the "NSF Required Students and Postdocs" course. You should plan on doing this during the summer term prior to the start date of your NSF tenure.  You will be able to open the course module once you have been granted permission to the Access.Caltech portal. Training is only required once during your tenure.

NSF and Teaching Assistantships

NSF will allow fellows to be a teaching assistant (GTA) and be compensated for that activity while on tenure as a GFRP fellow. Being a teaching assistant is an important component of graduate school, builds valuable skills in working with students, and strengthens your command of the science and engineering at the core of your expertise. For this reason, there is an expectation by many options and advisors that all students will do some TA activities during their graduate student career. In keeping with the spirit of the NSF stance on this topic, TA assignments for GFRP fellows should not interfere with your research and studies as well as be relevant to your educational program. From the Guide:

"Each Fellow is expected to devote full time to advanced scientific study or work during tenure. However, because it is generally accepted that teaching or similar activity constitutes a valuable part of the education and training of many graduate students, a Fellow may undertake a reasonable amount of such activities, without NSF approval. It is expected that furtherance of the Fellow's educational objectives and the gain of substantive teaching or other experience, not service to the institution as such, will govern these activities. Compensation for such activities is permitted based on the affiliated institution's policies and the general employment policies outlined in this document."

At Caltech, NSF GFRP fellows may potentially receive up to $7,000 additional compensation per tenure year in the form of fellowship supplement or TA compensation.  However, the compensation of students for TA activities over and above the base stipend is at the discretion of the Option.  Students may be required to perform uncompensated TA activities if this is part of the official graduate program requirements.  In all cases, students on full fellowships should not be asked to perform excessive TA duties and the TA time commitment for a student with a full external fellowship must be limited to a total of less than 15 hours per tenure year.

NSF and Other Federal Fellowships

Starting with the 2011 Fellows forward, GRFP Fellowships cannot be concurrently accepted or combined with another Federal Fellowship, irrespective of the Fellow's Status. Federal Fellowships are defined as awards that are made to individuals from the US Government (e.g., Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, National Institutes of Health, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Agriculture, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, etc.).

This means that if you are awarded an NSF GRFP fellowship and another individual Federal Fellowship (NDESEG, etc.), you may only accept and use one of these. You may not accept and then put on reserve your NSF GFRP fellowship in order to use another individual federal fellowship. However, you can accept the NSF GRFP fellowship and place it on reserve (see the Guide) in order to take advantage of Institutional funding from Caltech (this requires permission of your advisor and Option) or private fellowship funding.