Oct 16, 2019 | Atlanta, GA
Article by Autumn Siebold
Financial security may not be the only thing you need to succeed in graduate school — but it certainly doesn’t hurt. That’s why, when Lauren Liebman was offered a Georgia Tech President’s Fellowship, it made her decision about where to go to earn a degree much easier.
“Grad school is a really expensive investment,” said Liebman, a second-year Ph.D. student in Biomedical Engineering. “From research to coursework, I have enough on my mind. Knowing that I have this fellowship to support me definitely helps with my stress level.”
The President’s Fellowship program, which was established in 1972, was created to support Ph.D. students who show outstanding scholarship and innovation in their fields. Students in the program receive topper funds, that is, supplements to fellowship awards they already have. The funds are given in installments of $5,500 each fall and spring semester.
Fellowships are awarded to incoming Ph.D. students by their academic departments. Recipients are selected based on academic achievement, letters of recommendation, and educational goals. (All full-time Ph.D. students at Tech who have already received a major fellowship are eligible.)
About 75-100 students are selected each year, and currently there are 450 fellows in various Ph.D. programs at Tech. Fellowships can be renewed annually for three additional years at the discretion of the student’s department.
“The program was created to help us recruit top Ph.D. students and to support their development as scholars and leaders,” said Bonnie Ferri, vice provost for Graduate Education and Faculty Development. “The fellowship funds provide financial security, which allows students to focus on their research and puts them on a path toward making an impact here in Georgia and beyond.”
For example, Liebman’s research is focused on how to better treat osteoarthritis.
“Based on my lab’s research, we’ve shown that a person’s lymphatic system is involved in causing osteoarthritis,” Liebman said. “So, we’re figuring out how it’s involved to hopefully produce a drug that could stop or even reverse it.”
Although Liebman's Ph.D. program covers her tuition, the fellowship covers her institutional fees.
“This has come in handy at times, because last year, my program’s graduate research assistantships didn’t start paying us until right around the time fees were due,” Liebman said. “Since I could use the fellowship, I didn’t have to stress out.”
And the benefits of the program go beyond funding assistance. For example, participants have a chance to come together for a breakfast or reception, which offers an opportunity for them to get to know one another.
“When I went to the gathering for PFs last year, it was early enough in the semester that I didn’t know many people,” Liebman said. “I liked having a chance talk to students from different colleges, since it can be hard to meet people outside of my lab. Being part of this program allows me to be a member of a community of students and receive funding — it’s like the best of both worlds.”
For more information on the President’s Fellowship, visit grad.gatech.edu/PresFellows.