That string of consonants in the title stands for National Science Foundation, Graduate Research Fellowship Program. It’s an award given to starting graduate students in the sciences, to fund their studies and research for a total of three years. This year was my third and final chance to apply for it, and I am thrilled and honored to have been selected.

Receiving the award itself is a huge honor, and a compliment to the work I’ve done so far. The financial support that comes with it enables me to spend more time focused on research and be more adventurous in the research I undertake. My main project is understanding the effects of climate on post-fire regeneration in the Sierras, through manipulative experiments and large-scale modeling. I will also be working on a post-fire regeneration project in chaparral, looking at the interactions between shrubs and wildflowers after a three-year drought. Finally, I am planning a trip to Kenya to run a short research project (yes, also potentially involving fire).

Applying for this award each year has been an incredibly emotional process, with a lot of insecurities and frustrations. I am very grateful that my reviewers appreciated not only my proposed project, but also my emphasis on teaching, photography, and mentoring as core aspects of my approach to science. I am also overwhelmingly thankful for my family, friends, and labmates who edited my drafts and supported me. This is a very helpful stepping stone, and I’m so excited for the years of work to come.