Every year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awards grants to help promising graduate students in the sciences and engineering fund their research and education for three years. Lately, the NSF has made encouraging diversity in science their highest priority — a mission that includes helping veterans who want to become scientists.
This year, 37 of the 2,000 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships were awarded to military veterans.
In addition to the fellowships, which include a $32,000 annual stipend and a $12,000 education allowance, the NSF makes its cyberinfrastructure resources available to some recipients and offers them the opportunity to collaborate with other scientists across the globe.
One recent fellowship winner is Luis Morales, an Army veteran who is earning his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. Last month, the NSF invited Morales and 10 other veteran scientists to Washington D.C. for a ceremony honoring their contributions to science, technology, engineering and math, giving them a chance to meet each other and discuss how to attract more veterans to careers in science.
“Throughout the day, we [talked] about the relationship between veterans and the sciences,” Morales tells the Notre Dame Observer. “We’re not traditional students. Many of us start schooling with families. It can be a struggle to manage this financially and time wise.”
Morales continues, “I wasn’t in a science field when I was in the military. I just had this drive to do it. I followed my heart. I took all the opportunities that were given to me.”
Morales is currently studying reactions in the sun with the use of the St. GEORGE Recoil Separator at Notre Dame. (St. GEORGE stands for “Strong Gradient Electro-magnet Online Recoil separator for capture Gamma ray Experiments.”)
Of participating in the NSF event in D.C., Morales says, “It made me happy to see the NSF trying to reach out to veterans and relate to our struggles. It made me feel like they were genuinely interested in helping future veterans with interests in science pursue them.”