An IUP student has been admitted into the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP).
Vincent Thompson, who graduated from IUP in December with a dual major in physics and mathematics, was selected to be a part of the program.
“The NSF GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited US institutions,” according to www.nsfgrfp.org/.
“The five-year fellowship includes three years of financial support including an annual stipend of $34,000 and a cost of education allowance of $12,000 to the institution.”
Thompson, who is currently enrolled at IUP in the master’s program of applied mathematics, plans to pursue a doctoral degree in mathematics (abstract algebra) at Rice University in Houston beginning this fall.
Thompson was elated when he was informed that he had been selected for the prestigious program.
“I was ecstatic,” Thompson said. “It was almost surreal.”
“I woke my girlfriend up and we freaked out together, and then I started to contact graduate schools,” he said.
Thompson is excited about the professional opportunities that could stem from being accepted into the program.
“It’s a nationally competitive fellowship, and so it’s prestigious in that right,” he said. “It’s given to people who the federal government believes will have an impact in the field that they study.”
“In that way, it’s sort of like a vote of confidence from an outside source. So, when I’m applying to jobs, they’ll see that, and it gives them a reason to take another look.”
Being accepted into the program also had more of an immediate impact on Thompson’s academic prospects.
“Before I had won the GRFP, I had good offers from good universities, but once I won it, I started to hear back from higher-ranked universities.”
One of those universities was Thompson’s top choice – Rice University.
“It was the attraction of a small campus,” Thompson said. “I was looking for a graduate program like that, and Rice has a small community (about 7,000 students).”
“That was the big thing was I liked small universities, but I also really like the research that they do there,” he said. “They’re one of the best research facilities in the whole country.”
Thompson was very active as a student during his time at IUP. He completed research with Dr. Greg Kenning (physics) and Dr. Francisco Alarcón (mathematics), and he was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship during his junior year. He forged close relationships with many of his professors over the years.
“Vincent was an excellent student,” Alarcón said. “He always sought to challenge himself and would always want to go beyond the class requirements and pursue areas related to the course content that he found interesting.”
“Vincent is organized, disciplined and hard-working,” Alarcón said. “He is also talented, but often in science, and in mathematics in particular, it is not enough to have talent, but it is equally important to be dedicated, committed and hardworking.”
“Vincent was just special,” Kenning said. “He was a little bit older, and he came in very mature.”
“In this field, a lot of your ability to survive and work has to do with your academic maturity,” Kenning said. “He was absolutely at the top.”
“He’s an incredibly bright guy who is going to be able to do anything he wants to do in life.”
“I am proud that Vincent was selected for the NSF fellowship, but it was not a surprise,” Dr. Charles Lamb (mathematics) said. “It is a well-deserved honor.”
Thompson has also forged many close friendships during his time at IUP. He credits those friends with helping him achieve the success that he has.
“Vince exhibits a myriad of traits that qualify him for this scholarship and his other accolades,” Micayla Schambura (senior, chemistry) said. “His intellectual ability in science and mathematics is beyond that of any other individual I am acquainted with.”
“He displays strong commitment to the goals he sets, and he speaks with an undeniable fervor for topics he is interested in,” she said. “In the simplest terms, Vince is an achiever.
“He is very persistent with his goals and finishes what he sets out to do, and I’ve admired that the entire time I’ve known him.”
Students who want to learn more about the NSF GRFP can visit https://www.nsfgrfp.org/.