Douglas Osheroff, 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics
Osheroff had received the GRFP in 1968, after only receiving an honorable mention the previous year. Osheroff explains, “I had applied for an NSF graduate fellowship as a senior at Caltech, but at that time I only received 'honorable mention' or some such thing. David Lee, my graduate thesis advisor suggested I apply again in the fall of 1967.”
When asked if there were any difficulties encountered during the GRFP application process, Osheroff assured that there were not any, however he did note the importance of reference letters. After only receiving an honorable mention when he applied for the GRFP in his senior year of undergraduate school, Osheroff found that he had better luck once he had graduate professors who would be able to vouch for him.
“In this case I of course was having people write letters for me who would benefit by my getting the fellowship. You might keep this in mind when comparing letters for graduating seniors with letters for applicants who are already graduate students,” explained Osheroff.
Osheroff went on to make the discovery of the superfluid phase of 3He while pursing his Ph.D at Cornell University in 1973.
“We discovered our mysterious phase transitions in my Pomeranchuk cell in November 1971, and almost by magic, Venky called me up in early December with good news,” Osheroff explains.
Douglas Osheroff had these words for students seeking to apply for graduate fellowships:
“My advice to students seeking graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics is to definitely apply for an NSF fellowship. Just applying tells a potential research mentor that you are pro-active. Also, even an honorable mention can look attractive to a potential mentor, assuming that you will re-apply.”
Osheroff continues his accomplishments as a professor at Stanford University in the Departments of Physics. He was also elected to serve on the Space Shuttle Columbia Investigation Panel, and currently serves on the Board of Advisors for Scientists and Engineers for America.