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Managing the Nitrogen Cycle

An NSF S-STEM Scholarship Program

The University of South Florida hosts an S-STEM (“Scholarships in STEM”) scholarship project, funded by the National Science Foundation. The project provides scholarships to students with demonstrated financial need pursuing master’s degrees in Geosciences, Environmental Engineering, Water Resources Engineering, and Integrative Biology. The theme of the project is “Managing the Nitrogen Cycle”, so scholarship recipients must have an interest in this topic and be willing to participate in a range of project activities (see below). Applications for this scholarship are submitted in conjunction with standard applications to the participating academic programs listed above. Accordingly, interested students should coordinate with graduate program advisors in their program of interest. Information and contacts are available online for Geosciences (Geology or Environmental Science & Policy), Environmental or Water Resources Engineering, and Integrative Biology.

Submit your scholarship application HERE

For students seeking to join the program and begin receiving scholarship support in the Fall 2021 semester, the scholarship application deadline is March 1, 2021.

Note: This is not an application to graduate school. This is an application for the Nitrogen S-STEM scholarship, to be submitted at the time of or after your general graduate school application. You may also apply for this scholarship after you are enrolled in graduate school. Information about graduate school applications can be found at the above links to the participating programs.

Diversity is beneficial to our academic program, and we strongly encourage those who are underrepresented in STEM fields, to apply. We strive to create an inclusive community in which people of diverse race, ethnicity, veteran status, marital status, socio-economic level, national origin, religious belief, physical ability, sexual orientation, age, class, political ideology, gender identity and expression participate in, contribute to, and benefit equally, from the academic community.

Program Requirements and Scholarship Information

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  • Scholarships provide up to $6,400 per year, renewable for up to a second year.
  • Out-of-state students may be eligible to receive the in-state tuition rate if they lack other forms of support (e.g., teaching or research assistantships) that provide this waiver.
  • Scholars are eligible for travel funds to attend academic and professional workshops, meetings, and conferences.
  • In order to qualify you must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, national, or refugee.
  • You must be enrolled in a USF master’s degree program in Geosciences, Environmental Engineering, Water Resources Engineering, or Integrative Biology, so eligibility for this award depends on meeting the admission and good-standing requirements of your degree program.
  • The scholarships are need based. So, to qualify, you must demonstrate financial need. Your application will be forwarded to USF financial aid personnel who will require you to complete a FAFSA form and will determine your need-based eligibility. A new FAFSA form will need to be completed if you seek scholarship renewal for a second year.
  • Other support you are offered upon entering graduate school (e.g., a fellowship from another source, or teaching/research assistantship from your department) will reduce your unmet financial need, and thus affect your eligibility for a need-based S-STEM scholarship. Accordingly, the S-STEM selection committee will work with your prospective degree program to identify whether they are providing you with assistantship support. Likewise, you should keep the S-STEM project team informed of other financial support you are offered or anticipate receiving.
  • This scholarship project is built around several activities that are designed to provide support in the areas of mentoring, cohort-development with other students, connecting your studies with the broader community beyond the bounds of the university (i.e., community engagement), and building workforce connections with alumni and practitioners in environmental professions. Taking a scholarship, as well as maintaining it, means agreeing to participate in these activities. They are briefly described here.

S-STEM Scholar Activities

S-STEM Scholar's Roundtables

As an S-STEM Scholar, you will participate in Roundtables that meet about twice a month during the academic year and provide a variety of mentoring and professional-development activities. Roundtable sessions will cover topics that show the interdependence between natural and engineered environmental systems, lead to development of workforce skills, and present opportunities for community engagement. Examples of Roundtable sessions include discussions of emerging scientific and environmental-management issues that reveal the value of collaborating across disciplines; meetings with faculty members, working professionals, and visiting speakers about science, current affairs, education, and employment; and professional development workshops that provide advice on project management in a STEM career, leadership, and communication skills.

Research Practicum

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Each scholar will belong to a lab research group and have a faculty-member advisor who is the head of that group. For thesis-conducting students, this faculty member will be the person who is your primary advisor for your thesis research. Our S-STEM management team will ensure that S-STEM Scholars in a non-thesis track are connected with a faculty advisor in the department where they are seeking their degree. Within these research groups, the faculty mentor and their trainees (postdocs, technicians, graduate students, and undergraduates) work together. They meet regularly to discuss scholarly literature, share research progress, and enrich knowledge and skills. They interact around common office and laboratory spaces, and cooperate in conducting field work and experiments. These experiences will present you with technical knowledge directly from an expert faculty member, and with meaningful relationships with peers and mentors inside a disciplinary area. You will thus be embedded in two cross-cutting peer-support networks, your interdisciplinary S-STEM scholar community and your research lab group, thereby helping you navigate the wider academic community.

Professional Development


As an S-STEM Scholar, you will receive professional-development training through several means. You will develop technical skills in a disciplinary area through interactions with your research mentor and lab group. Some Roundtable meetings will be used as professional skills training sessions (e.g., how-to sessions) and as opportunities to meet working professionals in environmental fields. Your S-STEM management team will identify select campus events (e.g., workshops, visiting-speaker presentations) that opportunistically provide professional-development training. Additionally, for-credit professional development courses are taught in all participating S-STEM units (Dept of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Dept of Integrative Biology, and School of Geosciences). These courses make you more aware of career opportunities and better understand tasks (e.g., writing proposals to seek funding, writing research articles) associated with those careers. Other hands-on opportunities for professional development include interactions with practitioners and scientists at professional meetings and conferences (the project provides you with travel awards to attend these events), informal alumni interactions (see below), and presentation of your own work at on-campus events (e.g., USF’s annual Graduate Research Symposium).

Interdisciplinary and Community Engaged Courses


This program seeks to improve your workforce readiness by training you as an interdisciplinary thinker who can communicate with other disciplines to co-design solutions to environmental problems, and who understands that engaging local communities is key to the success of sustainable infrastructure projects and environmental solutions. Community engagement also contributes to professional growth by prompting you to employ technical knowledge, and to increase it through practical application.

As an S-STEM Scholar, accordingly, you will work in interdisciplinary teams to engage local communities in your academic work. There are several avenues through which you can accomplish this. Some students pursuing a thesis-based master’s degree formally incorporate community engagement into their thesis research; this option is something you would develop with your research mentor (see research practicum section above). Additionally, all project scholars are strongly encouraged to enroll as a cohort in courses that incorporate community engagement in course activities. At present, 4-5 such courses are taught in the USF academic units participating in this project. The USF Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships, a partner in this S-STEM project, is an excellent resource for identifying and developing community-engagement opportunities.

Informal Interaction with Alumni

S-STEM Scholars will have opportunities to informally interact with alumni and environmental professionals, where you can obtain additional professional mentoring that goes beyond the academic mentoring you receive from faculty. These interactions may take the form of discussion panels, meet-and-greet at social events such as alumni banquets, or other forums where you can learn from working professionals about the career diversity your degree will open up, observe marketable skills, and professionally network.

Informal Cohort Building Activities

The project seeks to help students build a community with one another outside of the classroom. At the start of each Fall semester, scholars will participate in a project orientation where they will meet all S-STEM scholars in their cohort, the project team (faculty and staff), and students from previous S-STEM cohorts. Other social activities may include group meals, field trips to research sites, attendance at professional development events, and entertainment and cultural events.