Sept. 28, 2009

Doctoral candidates win $2.3M in federal stimulus funds

Some 95 Ph.D. candidates in 30 different disciplines at Cornell have been awarded federal stimulus grants to fund their dissertation research.

Together they received $2.3 million from the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Congress picked up the tab for the program via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The funding relieves most students from teaching assistant responsibilities for three years. Although it does not create new jobs, it does free up teaching assistant positions for other graduate students.

The grant covers funding for about 20 new fellows and 75 returning fellows, according to Sarah Hale, the Graduate School's associate dean of student services. They each are receiving up to $121,500 for research-focused master's and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. The fellowship includes a stipend of $30,000 a year, $10,500 a year for tuition and fees plus supplements that cover travel and supercomputing. Only about 12 percent of applicants win the fellowship.

In addition to the funding, the program's benefits are "immense," Hale said. "They get to choose their own [dissertation] project, because they're not tied to a faculty grant," she said. "It looks wonderful on the curriculum vitae. And it gives them important experience in writing proposals, which they're going to need as faculty."

Thus far, Cornell has received 106 ARRA awards, totaling almost $92.5 million.