How to deal with rejection?

Announcements about the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowships were made a few months back (though now it feels like a lifetime ago). This fellowship provides 3 years of very generous stipend support allowing promising grad students to focus on their research without having to worry about getting TA, RA or other positions to fund themselves.

Getting this fellowship is generally considered a Big Deal, and rightfully so. It’s a major accomplishment and shows the NSF’s commitment to your potential as a budding scientist. However, the truth of the matter is that while everyone who received an NSF GRF certainly deserves it, there is just not enough money to go around so there are FAR more folks out there who, but for simple twists of luck or fate (or systematic bias against individuals from certain backgrounds or schools) did not receive it but very well could have.

I did not receive the NSF GRF during my time in grad school and I remember being crushed by that news. Not getting the GRF is certainly painful, but it will not (or at least, should not) end your academic career; just as similarly, receiving the GRF will not guarantee your success!  It should be just one step on a very long path. I recently posted about my non-award of the GRF on twitter in an attempt to help soften the blow for those that are now in the same boat that I was several years ago. That tweet caught the attention of Kyle Fletcher, who is working with the Professors for the Future Program here at UC Davis. He asked to interview me about my experiences with the GRF and this interview is now online – please check it out if you’re interested here.