National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program

The Graduate Research Fellowship Program History

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is the country’s oldest graduate fellowship program that directly supports graduate students in various STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. In March 1951, Alan T. Waterman, the chief scientist at the Office of Naval Research was appointed by President Truman to become the first Director of the National Science Foundation.  Waterman defined the Foundation’s policy role as “one of advocating a research support program, improving government-university relations, and compiling reliable information on scientific research and manpower.” In 1951, Congress appropriated only $151,000 for the agency to start administrative operations.  Very early on, the Foundation created the Division of Graduate Education (DGE), to be responsible for fellowships and scholarships for graduate students and postdoctoral scientists. The GRFP was established early in the foundation's history, to encourage the best basic research and ensure a comprehensive research program.

Since 1952, NSF has funded over 46,500 Graduate Research Fellowships out of more than 500,000 applicants.  More than 30 of them have gone to become Nobel laureates, and more than 440 have become members of the National Academy of Sciences.  In addition, the Graduate Research Fellowship Program has a high rate of doctorate degree completion, with more than 70 percent of students completing their doctorates within 11 years.

Learn more about the history of the National Science Foundation.


2012 marked the 60th anniversary of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. NSF features profiles of Fellows from the 60 years of the program's history.

          Photo of 1951 National Science Board

National Science Board Members, July 1951.
(left to right) First Row: Dr. John W. Davis, Dr. Sophie B. Aberle, Dr. Detlev W. Bronk, Dr. James B. Conant, Dr. Alan T. Waterman, Dr. Gerty T. Cori, The Rev. Patrick H. Yancey
Standing Row: Dr. Marston Morse, Dr. E.C. Stakman, Dr. Chester I. Barnard, Dr. Paul M. Gross, Dr. Frederick A. Middlebush, Dr. Joseph C. Morris, Dr. James A. Reyniers, Dr. O.W. Hyman, Dr. Lee A. DuBridge, Dr. Robert F. Loeb, Dr. Robert P. Barnes, Dr. George D. Humphrey, Dr. A.A. Potter, Mr. Charles Dollard.

Credit: NSF Collection


NSF Contact Information

To get the latest information about program deadlines, to download copies of NSF publications, and to access abstracts of awards, visit the NSF Website at


4201 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA 22230

General Information about the NSF

(703) 292-5111

Information for NSF Fellows who have questions about their fellowships



National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program
Operations Center Administered by: American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)
1818 N Street NW, Suite 600 Washington, DC 20036 | 866-NSF-GRFP, 866-673-4737
(toll-free from the US and Canada) or 202-331-3542 (international) |