Student Spotlight – Floripa Olguin

floripa_olguin_headshotName: Floripa Olguin

Year: 2016.5

Concentration: Ethnic Studies and Public Policy

Floripa has been involved with social advocacy work through the GISP program, the Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute, The Native American Community Academy, the World Bank, and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers. Read on to learn more about Floripa’s path as scholar, activist, and leader both in and outside of Brown.


What kind of research experiences, internships, or fellowships have you been involved with during college?

I’ve been involved in two group independent study projects (GISP), the first was about Ivy League institutions and their relationship with Native students, and the second was about the first generation college student in the Ivy League. I’ve also done research as part of a fellowship called the Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute at Princeton University. My research was about hepatitis C vaccine for state prison populations.

I’ve also interned at my old high school, the Native American Community Academy, the World Bank, and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. I did a research project for both the World Bank and the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. The first was an analytical project that looked at Native youth leadership programs in Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and the United States. The project I did at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors looked at philanthropy’s work with mass incarceration and criminal justice reform.

How have these experiences shaped your goals and plans for the future?

I think that what I’ve researched has aligned with social justice. So I’d say that these experiences shape by goals and plans because they allow me to challenge myself both academically and within the realm of social justice. It shows me that not only is it possible to be a scholar, a community member, or an activist, but that it’s necessary.

What was your favorite part of or an interesting story about a research experience, internship, or fellowship you participated in?

I think my favorite part about the research projects with my internships is that they were useful to my supervisors that I was working with. This showed me that research is really important and can have real world implications.

Do you have any advice for students looking to potentially pursue opportunities similar to what you’ve pursued?

I would say to stay true to your values and goals while growing. This has always helped me when looking for a new opportunity.

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Student Spotlight – Maya Faulstich-Hon

maya-headshotName: Maya Faulstich-Hon

Year: 2017.5

Concentration: Environmental Science

Maya has been engaged with social change work through the iProv internship program and the Social Innovation Fellowship. Read on to learn more about Maya’s experiences with community engaged work and social ventures supported by the Swearer Center for Public Service.


What kind of research experiences, internships, or fellowships have you been involved with during college?

After my sophomore year, I interned with Farm Fresh Rhode Island through the Swearer Center‘s iProv Internship program. iProv pairs students with organizations in Rhode Island that work towards creating social change in a variety of sectors. As part of my internship, I worked on a nutrition education program for low-income families called Healthy Foods, Healthy Families.

Then, more recently, I became involved with a social venture called Kulisha that produces a sustainable form of fish feed made from insects for use on aquaculture farms in Kenya. I’ve been working on it for about a year, and we’ve been supported by the Social Innovation Fellowship.

How have these experiences shaped your goals and plans for the future?

Through these two very different experiences that are both related to food access and food security, I’ve been able to explore different sides of a similar issue. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned so much about myself: how I work on a team, how I deal with conflict, what sort of tasks I like to do and what I put off for weeks.

What was your favorite part of or an interesting story about a research experience, internship, or fellowship you participated in?

Though I started working on Kulisha in the fall of my junior year, I didn’t actually go to Kenya and begin growing bugs until the following summer, through the Social Innovation Fellowship. It felt so good to finally be doing what we’d been saying we were doing for nearly a year and learning about this amazing insects in real-life that we’d spent so long researching.

Do you have any advice for students looking to potentially pursue opportunities similar to what you’ve pursued?

First of all, don’t get caught up in the pressure to be DOING something. There is no reason for you to be stressing out about developing your professional career in your freshman or sophomore year.

If you’re like freshman me and are horribly overwhelmed by the plethora of internships, fellowships, and research opportunities out there but also feel hopelessly incompetent and undeserving of any of them, stop. You don’t have to have it all figured out. You also don’t have to know exactly what you want to do or what you’re passionate about; these experiences are meant for you to push and prod, explore and investigate, and learn about yourself.

That being said, there are so many opportunities out there. Start by talking to people and browsing the internet. The CRC is an incredible place staffed by very friendly people who can help, and if you’re interested in anything vaguely related to public service or social change, definitely browse the Swearer Center‘s website and talk to anyone there!

Student Spotlight – Charlie Scott

scott-headshot-copyName: Charlie Scott

Year: 2017

Concentration: Sociology and Ethnic Studies

Charlie has done research through the Sociology department and the Royce Fellowship. Read on to hear about Charlie’s experiences with archival research on the path to graduate school.


 

What kind of research experiences, internships, or fellowships have you been involved with during college?

During my first year I was involved with a research project lead by a professor in the Sociology Department, and this past summer (2016), I had the wonderful privilege of receiving the Royce Fellowship, which allowed me to stay on my reservation, the Navajo Nation, for a summer and conduct archival research.

How have these experiences shaped your goals and plans for the future?

As I am applying for graduate school, I wrote that “my primary goals are encouraging the educational system to be accessible to Indigenous scholars and to be inclusive to their knowledges and traditions.” My research experiences, especially the one funded by the Royce Fellowship, showed me what a limiting view the West has had of my own indigenous communities’ knowledges and traditions. The archival research I was doing was often violent because it was my own ancestral knowledge that was being examined and disregarded. Yet, being involved in a research project of my own creation allowed me to realize how much I still enjoyed learning and how much I enjoyed challenging age old assumptions that continue to this day, especially when I am centering indigenous knowledges and understandings.

What was your favorite part of or an interesting story about a research experience, internship, or fellowship you participated in? scott-supplement

I think my favorite part of my project was being able to go to Washington, D.C. and visit the Library of Congress. My reservation had the knowledges and traditions, but they didn’t have the archives of photographs that I was seeking for my project. I remember going into the photography archive at the Library of Congress and I was looking at a photograph, taken by Edward Curtis, of whom I am assuming is a Diné (Navajo) women weaving on a loom that was in front of a tree. The loom was made of branches and rocks. It must have been tied together with rope. I remember this photograph because I was amazed at the resourcefulness of the structure of the loom. My mother weaves and she was taught by my great-grandmother on my father’s side, and so I grew up with a modern structure of a loom in my household made of wood and nails. Replaced by a loom of metal and bolts. For a brief moment, as I was reaching to a past through the photograph, the photograph was reaching out to me.

Do you have any advice for students looking to potentially pursue opportunities similar to what you’ve pursued?

I think the advice I can provide for folks who are interested in research is to ensure that the research that you’re involved with or are interested in is one that you enjoy engaging with. If anything, my Royce Fellowhsip research experience reminded me of a value my mother instilled within me; na’nitin jidindzin – the enthusiasm for learning. My research project, and now my thesis project, is embedded with my own enthusiasm and passion because I love what I am writing about. It makes the process of thesis writing much more bearable, yet exciting at the same time. Enjoying research and actually liking the research, makes the research much more profound and invigorating.

Student Spotlight – Nikki Lee

probably-already-saved-thisName: Nikki Lee

Year: 2018

Concentration: Sociology and Ethnic Studies

Nikki has interned with the Childhood Lead Action Project and is a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. Read on to hear about Nikki’s experiences as a researcher on the path to academia.


 

What kind of research experiences, internships, or fellowships have you been involved with during college?

Freshman summer, I interned with the Childhood Lead Action Project, centered in Providence. Not only did I learn a lot about non-profits, public health, and the intersections of race, class, and space, but I was also partially funded through the Swearer Center‘s Off Campus Work Study Program, which gave me a livable wage for the summer. Sophomore year, I received the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, which is allowing me to work on and produce a thesis my senior year, with the goal of eventually attending graduate school and entering the professoriate.

 

How have these experiences shaped your goals and plans for the future?

In regards to my freshman year internship, I became very interested in how policy (especially health policies) and activism are intertwined, which then helped me formulate my research topics later sophomore year. Since becoming involved with Mellon Mays, I have really become interested in pursuing grad school and producing more research. Ideally, I’d love to end up in academia, but that’s a long while away. 

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Mellon Mays Class of 2018

What was your favorite part of or an interesting story about a research experience, internship, or fellowship you participated in? 

Mellon Mays provides an incredibly supportive space for research to blossom and grow. I recently went to the Northeast Mellon Mays Conference and listened to several folks discuss their research, as well as discussing my research. It was amazing to see the types of research Mellon Fellows are producing across the country, and it was so affirming to hear people’s comments on my own ideas for research.

Do you have any advice for students looking to potentially pursue opportunities similar to what you’ve pursued?

Talk to your professors and advisors! And if your advisors aren’t willing to listen to you ramble about your aspirations/ideas, look for adults who will listen (and try to get a new advisor!). And if you see folks at Brown doing cool stuff, try to ask them about it. For me, two of my rugby teammates were Mellon Mays Fellows before me, so I learned about the opportunity from them. I then spoke to a couple of professors about my ideas and then decided to apply (also with a lot of help from upperclassmen and professors). I asked for help every step of the way. I guess the gist of it really is, don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice, because there are so many people at Brown who want to see you succeed, whatever that looks like for you. A lot of us at Brown are used to being independent, but learning to ask for help and ask questions has helped me so much here at Brown, especially in terms of fellowships and such.

Student Spotlight – Jacqueline Agustin

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Name: Jacqueline Agustin

Year: 2018

Concentration: Health and Human Biology/ Pre-med

Jacqueline has been a research assistant for a project through the Education department, done an independent study, been a research associate through the Green and Healthy Homes Institute, and participated in the Summer Health Professions Education Program. Read on to hear about Jacqueline’s experiences as a researcher and pre-med student.


 

What kind of research experiences, internships, or fellowships have you been involved with during college?

I’ve had a few experiences both at Brown and outside of Brown. During my first semester at Brown, I became a Research Assistant for a project in the Education Department that focuses on education beliefs. At the time, it seemed like a far cry from my interests but I decided to contact the PI (Principal Investigator) because of how strongly I felt the project resonate with my life as a child of immigrant parents. I remained an RA for three semesters, culminating in an Independent Study, where I integrated my work and my life experiences into a paper.

The summer after my freshman year, I spent my time as a part-time Research Associate for the Green and Healthy Homes Institute, researching and editing data for a website focused on compiling Rhode Island- specific information on things such as housing policies and general health concerns to help address health hazards. The summer after that I attended the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program at the University of Washington (now Summer Health Professions Education Program). For anyone who is pre-med and is freshman or sophomore, I highly recommend SHPEP.

How have these experiences shaped your goals and plans for the future?

These experiences have helped me explore fields I had not been able to experience before and to integrate them into my experience at Brown and into my growing perspective as a pre-med student. It has also encouraged me to keep exploring fields, because I feel that this has helped me become more well-rounded and able to solve problems using multiple perspectives.

What was your favorite part of or an interesting story about a research experience, internship, or fellowship you participated in?

agustin-simulation

One of my favorite experiences in the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program was shadowing and being able to work with my peers to evaluate resources within a specific community. We discussed the connection of having a variety of resources in a community with quality of health. Shadowing really opened my eyes to certain aspects of healthcare I didn’t think about before and to the need of healthcare professionals who are aware of potential barriers, big and small, to maintaining good health.

Do you have any advice for students looking to potentially pursue opportunities similar to what you’ve pursued?

Don’t be dissuaded by how selective or challenging an opportunity may seem to be, definitely apply if you’re very passionate about gaining that experience. Also, don’t be afraid to contact professors if you’re interested in what they’re doing and want to get involved, that’s how I got my first position as an RA. Subscribe to mailing lists that post opportunities, such as the Health Careers listserv, concentration listservs, CareerLab, etc.

Final Musings from the 2015-16 FIRe Blog Writer

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I’m Mya Roberson and for the past academic year I have been the author behind the CRC FIRe blog. Today is my final shift at the CRC and I thought that I would post some final reflections on my experiences with fellowships and research at Brown, as well as on my role as the FiRE Coordinator this year.

I was fortunate to have an AP Biology teacher in high school who was so wildly passionate about science in research. As students in his class, we would always try to get him to diverge from the prescribed curriculum and tell us about his experience conducting research for his graduate work. While others may have viewed these digressions as tangents, they were where the real learning took place for me. Sparked by my innate curiosity for finding out more about everything I knew that I wanted to do research when I got to Brown.

I was fortunate in my freshman year that I stumbled upon great mentorship from a professor who took me under his wing and allowed me to work on one of his projects in my first spring semester. I was nervous that I would mess things up, I came in with no hard skills, but that was all part of the process I quickly came to find out. If we all knew everything already there would be nothing to learn.

From that point on, I was hooked on research, I loved how I got to go in every day and just ask and work on solving questions. I had spent the rest of my Brown undergraduate career trying to figure out what type of research really inspired me and was something I could see myself working on long term. Through some more great mentorship as well as inspiring courses, I found my calling at the intersection of science and public service by doing public health research on cancer disparities in marginalized populations.

This new found interest led me to conduct research at Princeton University as part of  the Leadership Alliance, in Birmingham, AL as a Royce Fellow, and finally at Brown as a senior honors thesis writer. Having the opportunity to conduct independent research on a topic that I love cemented my future plans to go to graduate school and become a career researcher. There are so many questions that remain unanswered, particularly within the realm of health disparities and I hope that I can one day leave my mark within that area of knowledge.

In my role as the CRC Fellowships, Internships, and Research Coordinator over the past year I made it my goal to increase awareness of fellowship and research opportunities, particularly for historically underrepresented groups, and support students to the best of my ability as they worked through their applications. This blog has been an act of consolidating resources and opportunities for students into one neat place. While it is by no means comprehensive, I enjoy the fact that students can identify opportunities, read up on application tips, and see student experiences all in one place.

Supporting students with their applications has by far been the most gratifying part of my job. I have gotten so see so many students’ passions from  history to physics and everything in between. Having seen so many great proposals and applications gives me great hope for the next generation of scholarship. It has been a wonderful year for me in this role and I look forward to seeing what future scholarship comes out of Brown.

 

Signing Off,

Mya

Student Spotlight- Nimesha Gerlus

Nimesha

  • Name: Nimesha Gerlus
  • Year: 2017
  • Concentration: Cognitive Neuroscience
  1. What type of research experiences have you been involved with during your time in college?

Up to this point, I have had two major research experiences at Brown. During the summer of 2014 after freshman year, I participated in a research collaboration between Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Brown University meant to help first-years and second-years develop foundational biology research skills. I worked with a team called “Drug Discovery” toward a collective goal of using three-dimensional cell culture technology to test chemotherapeutic drug models in human cancer cell lines. Specifically, my partner and I examined whether certain drug models could reverse drug resistance in cancer cells by inhibiting proteins responsible for efflux of common chemotherapeutics. Funded by an UTRA during the summer of 2015, I began working for Drs. Richard Liu and Tony Spirito as a summer undergraduate research assistant for a clinical study at Bradley Hospital investigating whether intensive cognitive behavioral therapy would have different treatment outcomes for teens with suicidal behavior compared to standard community care. This summer I will again be working at Bradley under the Royce Fellowship, studying the prediction of behavioral symptoms using computational methods used by Dr. Michael Frank’s lab.


  1. How did you find out about this opportunity/these opportunities?

I found out about HHMI-Brown because I took a biology class taught by a professor who directed the program at the time and encouraged students to apply. However, I came to Bradley a different way; I attended a small symposium on mental health in high-achieving college students of color advertised through Morning Mail, and met a psychology post-doctoral fellow who began mentoring me on my journey toward a career in psychiatry. She worked with Dr. Spirito on a different clinical study, but connected us when his lab was looking for undergraduate research assistants.


  1. What is your favorite part about the research process?

I love the flexibility of my research work schedule and my primary investigators’ accommodation of those who prefer working late as well as those who prefer working early in the morning, so long as all the work is done. But favorite part about the research process is the learning experience. Throughout the past three years, I have found that even if I set out to answer one question, other questions will inevitably arise. My research experiences have taught me to redefine failure and to embrace opportunities to think critically about approaching questions in innovative ways.


  1. How has doing undergraduate research shaped your potential career plans?

Undergraduate research has changed the trajectory of my career plans. I came to Brown planning to eventually practice medicine, particularly psychiatry. After my clinical research experiences, however, I am interested in fusing my medical interests with research and becoming a physician-scientist; next year I now plan to apply to programs (M.D./Ph.D.) that combine medical and research training.


  1. Any advice for students looking to find out what research interests them?

Don’t commit to a lab that is that you’re not passionate about! This sounds intuitive, but I have met many people who joined a lab during their second or third semesters and stuck with the experience because they wanted to be in a lab even though they were not particularly interested in what the lab was doing. Undergraduate research positions should be as enriching for students as they are helpful to professors, and I would encourage my peers who are interested in research to talk to professors whose classes they find engaging and inquire about opportunities in the field. I think it is also important to keep in mind that research experiences are not monolithic; they depend on the discipline, the investigator, and the lab’s dynamic, so one bad research experience shouldn’t turn you completely away from research in general! I personally find working with people much more rewarding that “wet lab” research, and I would not have discovered my interest in clinical research if I hadn’t been open-minded toward the new experience.

 

Student Spotlight-Michelle Hoang

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  • Name: Michelle Hoang
  • Concentration: Biology and English
  • Year: 2017
  1. What type of research experiences and research conferences have you been involved with during your time in college?

Thus far, I have participated in two summer research internships outside of Brown’s campus and volunteered in the Lab for Cognitive Perceptual Learning during the fall semester of my junior year. My summer internships were completely different. In my first experience, I studied treatment-resistant prostate cancer at a private research institute while in my second summer, I conducted an independent project in the neuroscience learning and memory at a large public university.


  1. How did you find out about these opportunities?

I did an extensive Google search and found a database with co-ops and internship opportunities. For my position at Brown, I asked my peers about their previous lab experiences.


  1. What is your favorite part about the research process?

My favorite part about the research is also the most challenging aspect – developing my own theory from prior knowledge. As a university student, most of my coursework involves memorization and rote learning. But, in research, I  go beyond those skills to develop my own ideas. In my most-recent summer internship, the scientists around me taught me the necessary skills to run my own experiments. Then, they told me to design my own never-before-done experiment. The immense freedom involved in that process was wonderful. What I found to be just as important if not more important than background knowledge or critical reasoning ability is creativity. The generation of intellectual property, the development of novel ideas is the most exciting part of research.


  1. What was it like attending and presenting at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students?

Attending and presenting at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students was a whirlwind. I was nervous, overjoyed, enthusiastic, worried, and exhausted all at the same time. First and foremost, it was very affirming to be in a space that acknowledged the struggles of minority students in biomedical research. Often, science avoids the sociopolitical realm, ignoring the needs of the scientists themselves. ABRCMS recognizes that many students face barriers to careers in research and works to alleviate these issues. I met so many other scientists in various different stages in their careers who also faced socioeconomic barriers. Their support and their wisdom was encouraging and very useful.

Additionally, part of ABRCMS is a grad school/career fair. During this time, I was able to network with grad school representatives as well as future employers. Never in my college experience have I attended a career fair that had opportunities for students interested in academia or research.

Lastly, presenting at the conference forced me to understand every minute aspect of my work. I became an expert in my preparations to speak. But also, I learned how to present my research to an audience that had no prior knowledge of neuroscience. It is easy in research to forget about the big picture. I spent 12 weeks, looking at the translation levels of two genes in a sack of neurons in a marine snail. My entire life was about levels of CREB-2 and CREB-1 in Aplysia californica. I was so focused on the minutia involved in my research, but having to present to a wide audience forced me to contextualize these details and to evaluate the importance of my research.


  1. Any advice for students looking to find out what research interests them?

I would recommend that they seek diverse and in-depth experiences. There are so many different types of research – molecular, behavioral, systems, computational, etc. The best way to figure out what research interests them is to get first-hand experience. I also recommend that students do research before they join labs. It is not good for the lab or the student if a student begins research that they are not genuine interested in. Also, I would like to remind others to not get discouraged. Labs are always gaining and losing new members. Finding the right lab is a matter of luck and perseverance.

 

 

Student Spotlight- Héctor Peralta

Hector

  • Name: Héctor Peralta
  • Concentration: Education and Ethnic Studies
  • Year: 2016
  1. What type of fellowship/research experiences have you been involved with during your time in college?

The Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) is a 2-year fellowship that one applies to during the spring of their sophomore year. Its main mission being to increase the representation of people of color within academia and to fortify commitments to social justice-oriented scholarship, the MMUF fellowship provides funding for undergraduate students to conduct an independent research project under the guidance of a faculty mentor at Brown.


  1. How did you find out about this opportunity?

I found out about this opportunity through Professor Evelyn Hu-Dehart in the Ethnic Studies department, as well as through conversations with former Minority Peer Counselors (MPCs) who I would interact with at the Brown Center for Students of Color. When seeking to learn more about the fellowship, I visited Dean Besenia Rodriguez during her office hours, as well as chatted with other faculty on the MMUF Faculty Advisory Committee.


  1. What is your favorite part about being a Mellon Mays fellow?

My favorite part is being part of a community of administrators, faculty and students who are all dedicated to transformational education through progressive and reparative knowledge-production processes.


  1. How has being involved with this fellowship shaped your future goals and plans?

The MMUF has exposed me to the value of pursuing academia as a career, for it provides both flexibility and potential for positive social work. The MMUF was also my bridge to the Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers (IRT) program that I participated in this past summer, and together, these two opportunities have helped me be admitted into some of the top PhD programs in the country.


  1. Any advice for students looking to apply for fellowships?

A simple conversation with your favorite professor or with an upperclassmen who you admire can go a long way. Make sure to tap into that intergenerational knowledge present on college campuses– use your resources wisely, including older people who have experience in fields that interest you.

 

 

Student Spotlight- Hawasatu Dumbuya

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  • Name: Hawa Dumbuya
  • Field of Study: Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology PhD student
  1. What type of fellowship opportunities have you been involved with during your time as a graduate student at Brown?
    The Ford Foundation’s mission is to increase the diversity of the nation’s college and university faculties by increasing the number of professors who can and will use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students. The Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship is awarded to individuals who have demonstrated academic achievement, are committed to a career in teaching and research, and who are prepared to use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students.


    2. How did you find out about this opportunity?
    I learned about this fellowship by one of my former peer mentor and alumni from the Molecular Pharmacology & Physiology program,Dr. Teresa Ramirez ’14Dr. Ramirez, who was a 2009 Pre-doctoral Ford Foundation Fellow. She encouraged me to apply to the fellowship since my first year.


3. What is your favorite part about being a Ford Foundation Pre-doctoral fellow?
This fellowship is different from other fellowships. Not only does it financially support you (three years of graduate study support and expenses paid to attend at least one conference of the Ford Fellows), but as a fellow you have access to an amazing network, compromising of previous and current fellows. Every year, the ford foundation plans the Conference of the Ford Fellow, where current and previous Ford Fellows (pre and post-doctoral) reunite. Attendees get the opportunity to present their research, attend academic and professional development workshops, obtain one-on-one meeting with assigned advisor/mentor, and most importantly the opportunity to network! In order to stay connected, they have designed a Ford Fellow Listserv, where individuals’ accomplishments are celebrated, and various job openings are shared.

I attended and presented my research at the 2015 Conference of Ford Fellows, which took place at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington, D.C. in late September. 


 

4. How has being involved with this fellowship shaped your future goals and plans?
As mentioned the Ford Foundation’s mission is to increase the diversity of the nation’s college and university faculties. This mission aligns well with my long-term goals, which are to narrow the scientific communication gap that exists between the scientific community and the rest of the society, particularly underrepresented communities. I want to contribute knowledge within the scientific community and to disseminate this knowledge to diverse audiences, through my passion for basic research and community engagement.


 

5. Any advice for students looking to apply for fellowships?

My advice for students is to apply and start early! Make sure to really understand the guidelines for completing the entire application successfully; to really work on the personal essay, and research proposal (if required); to be very picky in choosing references. Pick individuals who can talk about different aspects of you so that the selection committee can have a full picture of who you really are; and lastly, do not give up if not successful, re-apply!

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