Applying for a NSF GRFP while in a Clinical Psychology Program – Part I

Are you interested in writing a Clinical Psychology NSF? If so, this is the time to start thinking about it, as in the past deadlines have been in early November. I will be writing a six part series on applying for the NSF GRFP as a Clinical Psychology student.

Part I – The Unique Aspects of Applying as a Clinical Psychology Student

Part II – Basic Outline of Application Process and Award

Part III – Review Criteria

Part IV – The Personal Essay

Part V – The Research Proposal

Part VI – Looking at Past Winners – What Did they Do Right?

So moving on today’s topic, The Unique Aspects of Applying as a Clinical Psychology Student

But.. can Clinical Psychology Students Even Apply?

There has been lots of back and forth on whether Clinical Psychology student can apply for NSF GRFP grants. As of right now, the NSF is funding Clinical Psychology students. However, Clinical applications are still pretty uncommon – you will notice when you apply that you will have to choose  your field as “Psychology (other)” and write in Clinical.

There are, however, some limitations on what you can and cannot do as a Clinical Psychology applicant. On the NSF website, it says that “Clinical study that is ineligible includes patient-oriented research, epidemiological and behavioral studies, outcomes research and health services research. For example, clinical study that is ineligible includes investigations to provide evidence leading to a scientific basis for consideration of a change in health policy or standard of care, and includes pharmacologic, non-pharmacologic, and behavioral interventions for disease prevention, prophylaxis, diagnosis, or therapy. Community and other population-based intervention trials are also ineligible.”

 Last years program solicitation further elaborates, stating the following, Research with disease-related goals, including work on the etiology, diagnosis or treatment of physical or mental disease, abnormality, or malfunction in human beings is normally not supported. Animal models of such conditions or the development or testing of drugs or other procedures for their treatment also are not eligible for support. However, research in bioengineering, with diagnosis or treatment-related goals, that applies engineering principles to problems in biology and medicine while advancing engineering knowledge is eligible for support. Bioengineering research to aid persons with disabilities also is eligible.” Once the program solicitation is updated, it will likely contain an update.

So to summarize, clinical/patient related research, outcomes research, epidemiological and behavioral studies, interventions, and any research directly related to disease (etiology, assessment, treatment) are not allowed.

What kind of studies can Clinical Psychology students do?

Your study cannot be related to a disordered part of the population. So, with that in mind, you will have to think of a research topic that is connected to your work but broader in nature and more involved with basic sciences.

For example, if you currently research overeating, you will have to think of health behaviors in general. If you research substance abuse, you will have to look at risk taking. If you research eating disorders, you will have to think of a topic in eating behaviors, etc.

 What are some past funded NSF GRFP topics in Clinical Psychology?

After a lot of web searching and looking at past 2014 winners and their research, I found that these are some broad and specific Psychology topics that the NSF has funded:

  • False memory, age-related differences in cognitive processes, and the assessment of cognitive decline
  • Neurobiological basis of addiction
  • Neurobiological underpinnings of undergoing obesity prevention program
  • Neurocognition of maladaptive eating behavior
  • Effect of chronically elevated levels of serotonin, using an Anorexia Nervosa sample, and their effects on cognitive processes and anxiety
  • Neuroimaging methods to examine reward processing in depression and bipolar disorder
  • PTSD and Decision Making
  • How brain networks involved in executive function develop in young children, using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI)
  • Bodily contributions to emotion and in how conceptual complexity contributes to emotion experience and perceptions
  • Impact of Exercise on Stress Response Both With & Without Psychological & Physical Stress.
  • Whether and how engaging with food-related blogs and other social media influences parental feeding decisions
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