Spotlight on Ryan Watson - NSF Fellow

Aug. 14, 2014
Photo of Ryan Watson

Hi! My name is Ryan Watson I am receiving my PhD in Family Studies and Human Development (FSHD) at the University of Arizona. The National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) assisted my work from 2011-2014.

My program of research focuses on the best ways to support minority students across the world. I compare large datasets to investigate the best social resources for youth that may struggle with their identities. I proposed to use my research to inform scholars, teachers, policymakers, and other stakeholders.

One challenge I encountered in the application process was the interdisciplinary nature of the FSHD graduate program. Though this is a clear strength on one hand, it was a challenge to articulate for purposes of the GRF application. With the NSF GRF, applicants are able to choose the type of program in which they are enrolled: I classified my program as 50% developmental psychology, 20% social psychology, 20% sociology, and 10% “other” psychology. It isn’t always so complicated, sometime scholars can classify their program as 100% Microbiology, for example.

I definitely encourage eligible student to apply because of the many opportunities the fellowship has opened for me. For example, I participated in the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide program. This program is open to all NSF GRF recipients. NSF and the Research Council of Norway funded me to travel to Trondheim, Norway to collaborate with a leading scholar in adolescent psychopathology, Lars Wichstrøm at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Together, we used a database designed by Wichstrøm that traces the experiences of youth from 1992 to 2005. My advisor at the University of Arizona, Stephen Russell, works with me to compare these findings to a dataset that tracked more than 20,000 youth in the United States from 1994 to 2008.

If you have any questions on how to classify your program, strategies for essays, or the benefits of the NSF and studying abroad, feel free to email me!