Graduate student Katherine Kim receives prestigious NSF fellowship
Heather Punke, ECE ILLINOIS
- ECE graduate student Katherine Kim received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.
- Her proposal involves improving solar panels and integrating them into the power grid.
- She wants to work on integrating more intelligence into the devices and enable them to adapt to their surroundings.
Three years of hard work finally paid off for ECE graduate student Katherine Kim—she received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) after applying three years in a row.
The NSF GRF is awarded to graduate students across the country in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines and offers students three years of financial support, according to the NSF. Students can apply the year before entering graduate school, and their first and second years in graduate school.
Kim has been interested in the fellowship since she started her master’s in 2009, and she received the fellowship on her last year of eligibility. The application involves three essays—one personal statement, one on past research, and one research proposal. Kim said the research proposal was the most difficult aspect of the application.
“As someone coming out of undergrad, I actually hadn’t done that much proposal writing,” Kim said. “I think in my third application this year, I really improved in that area.”
For this year’s application, Kim visited the Graduate College Fellowship Office, where she gathered suggestions for strengthening her proposal. “It’s a really good resource for all students to use,” she said. “They helped me form my research proposal correctly, and I think it made it stand out more.”
ECE Professor Philip T. Krein, Kim’s adviser, also helped her with her winning proposal. “He helped give me ideas and see research problems from a different perspective,” Kim said. “He was definitely important in getting everything together and making it a really effective proposal.”
Kim’s proposal involves improving solar panels and integrating them into the power grid. She is finishing up her master’s research on controlling photovoltaics in varying environmental conditions—how the panels deal with changing sunlight—so her PhD research funded by the fellowship will take that research one step further.
“I wrote my proposal on photovoltaic controls, but going to the next level for the smart grid. I want to work on integrating more intelligence into the devices and making them able to adapt to what’s happening around them,” Kim said.
Kim said she feels lucky to receive the fellowship, and she has one piece of advice for students vying for the award: don’t give up.
“I think it’s important to consider everything you’ve done, get lots of feedback and just keep applying—if you really want it, go after it!”