Posted by: unlikelygrad | November 12, 2009

Broader Impacts

In response to a GradCafe discussion on Broader Impacts (for the NSF proposal), I’m posting bits from my proposal & personal essay here. (Both essays will be posted in their entirety once the “winners” have been chosen next spring.)

Note that I didn’t specifically mention work with minorities even though I have done so in the past. I don’t know if this was an error in judgment or not…it sounds like a lot of people mention this…

I didn’t make a separate section for “Broader Impacts” in my personal essay, but I think the following paragraphs make the issue pretty clear:

I consider doing science with potential global ramifications to be just the beginning of a process. It is not enough for me to understand that a danger is present; I must also discover solutions that are workable for society at all levels, from large corporations to individuals in third-world countries. My past endeavors confirm that, when I am passionate about a topic, I am committed to community education and outreach on that subject through both written and spoken media. [Note: “my past endeavors” were mentioned earlier in the personal essay, so they should be pretty clear to reviewers.]

In addition, my commitment to improving early science education still remains strong. Because many of the science process skills are best taught one-on-one, my initial efforts in this arena were limited to homeschoolers across the country. However, even my limited experience to date as a teaching assistant has given me ideas about how to adapt my methods to a more traditional classroom setting. As I gain experience teaching science in a group environment, I plan to refine these rough concepts and to disseminate this information across the nation.

(And there goes my anonymity…If you really wanted to, you could figure out my name pretty quickly.)

Here’s the section from my research proposal, which actually was titled Broader Impacts:

Although the Sacramento River delta region is specifically mentioned in this proposal, contaminated waterways requiring dredging exist throughout the world. The use of flood plains of large rivers for agricultural purposes is likewise a global phenomenon, and will likely increase as growing world population escalates the demand for food production potential. In addition, the necessity for increasing food production will very likely lead to expanded fertilizer use. [11] Thus, understanding the effects of nitrogenous fertilizers and other agricultural practices on bioavailability of toxic metal contamination could have extensive effects on agricultural policy worldwide.

Although the U.S., with its stringent environmental regulations, will be less affected by these issues than the developing world, the fact remains that 15 percent of the American food supply is imported from other countries. Thus, problems involving contamination of soils with heavy metals will have considerable impact both in this country and abroad, now and for many years into the future.



  1. did you apply for anything other than NSF? if so, have you heard anything? the wait is killing me.

    • Yes, I applied (of course). I haven’t heard anything yet, but this is not a surprise–results aren’t expected until the end of March at the earliest.

  2. oh, no no, i was wondering if you applied for any OTHER fellowships, like maybe DOE :). good luck on NSF! we’re in different fields so luckily we are not competing :).

    • Yep. NDSEG and EPA-STAR. I didn’t want to put all my eggs in one basket. As my dad said, “NSF awards go to hotshots…and you’re not a hotshot. Yet.”

  3. ooooh, cool. i applied to NDSEG too but decided not to apply for EPA-STAR (i’m in an enviro engineering program but my research proposal isn’t super traditional with respect to enviro stuff).

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