1. First, go to the NASA GSRP website. Learn about the program. Make Sure that you are eligible. You must be a U.S. citizen. You can be just entering grad school or at any point in your graduate career, so you could apply in your 3rd or 4th year of grad school, unlike, for example, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, for which you must be entering grad school or not yet finished with your first 12 months of grad school. The NASA fellowship is for renewable for up to 3 years. (See 7. below or this link for more details on the grant.)
2. START EARLY. The due date is the beginning of February (usually February 1st). The NASA people are very busy and can be somewhat slow at returning phone calls and emails. So you need to get cracking. The final proposal must be reviewed by the Harvard College Observatory (HCO), the FAS Sponsored Programs Administration, and be reviewed, signed, and FEDEXed from Harvard's Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP). In order for this to happen the final proposal (including a printout of everything being submitted online) and transcripts should be in the HCO Administrative office four days BEFORE the due date- otherwise proposal submission cannot be guaranteed. Be sure to consult your advisor's travel schedule so that s/he will be around to sign in time.
3. Determine whether your research is relevant to NASA work. The simplest way is search for "Research Opportunities" in that section of the GSRP application website. If you find something that matches what you're doing, you're probably good. You can pick TWO opportunities to apply to. For example, you might apply for one opportunity at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and another through the NASA Science Mission Directorate - Space Sciences (SMD-SS). NOTE if the center is not one of the NASA Science Mission Directorates (SMD-SS or SMD-ES) [also known as the Office of Space Sciences (OSS) and the Office of Earth Sciences (OES), respectively], then the research will have to involve you going down to the specific NASA Center at some point.
4. Once you've located the two opportunities, look at the materials on that particular Center (i.e. Goddard, Marshall), and try to find someone you might like to work with as your NASA Technical Advisor. Email them directly, a couple months before the due date. NOTE that for opportunities at SMD-SS or SMD-ES, you do not work directly with a NASA technical advisor. You would just continue your normal Ph.D. work with your regular advisor, but make sure that your work fits in with the relevant NASA themes for that research opportunity. You can confirm this by calling or e-mailing the NASA contact person listed under SMD-SS or SMD-ES, but the relevance of your work to the specific NASA Center should be clear enough from reading the descriptions of the individual research opportunities.
5. For all other NASA Centers except SMD-SS or SMD-ES, correspond with the NASA scientists and see if you can work out some plan of research. When you've agreed on something, write up this plan in a five-page, single-spaced, 12-pt font document. Here is a sample two column latex file with the proper formatting. Send a copy of your proposal to the scientist at NASA for confirmation. (Sample Research Proposals OSS - GSFC). You will need to know, in particular, "How you will use the resources at the particular NASA center that you're applying to". You should discuss the amount of time you would spend at the NASA center with your NASA Technical Advisor. This information also goes in the Budget section of the online application (See 7. below). Once you have an appropriate version of each proposal, you can upload them to the NASA site and re-upload drafts which will overwrite the old ones up until the due date.
6. Get two copies of both your grad and undergrad transcripts, and a two signed copies of a letter of recommendation from your advisor. One copy of each transcript and the letter of recommendation and a NASA signature form (See 9. below) will be mailed to each NASA center. Also get a "biographical sketch" (read: CV) for you and your advisor. These you upload using the online application on the same page you use to upload both your research proposals..
7. Fill in all the details on the online application at this link. When you get to the part about an "Institution Authorizing Official", contact your advisor's grant administrator to ask for the name of the institution authorizing official at the Office of Sponsored Research (OSP) in Holyoke Center, 6th Floor Suite. The grant administrator should also help you come up with a budget (in consultation with the Astronomy Department secretaries). Typically, NASA awards a 3-year grant up to $24,000 per year with the following breakdown. Student Stipend: Maximum of $18,000, Student Allowance: Maximum of $3,000, University Allowance: Maximum of $3,000. The Student and University Allowances are usually itemized for things like tuition, travel, research supplies like laptops, etc...
8. Call the administrators at the NASA Center you're applying to make sure you have both mailing addresses all correct. They sometimes differ from the addresses given to you on the last page of the online application. You will need to supply the people at the HCO business offices with the correct NASA mailing addresses, which they will then pass on to OSP.
9. Print out the online application (sample application), and both your research proposals (NO STAPLES! - the HCO people need to make copies). Print out the "Signature Form" for each NASA Center that you download from the NASA web page, sign it and have your advisor sign it (Sample-OSS signature form, Sample-GSFC signature form). Once you have the online application, the proposals, transcripts, and signature forms, go to your advisor's grant administrator with all of these materials, which will go next to the HCO Administrative office. The administrator also needs to fill out an internal form called "Dean's Approval- Sponsored Projects" which your advisor must sign and the grant administrtor should also do an internal budget to bring along with the proposal. The HCO Business Office will help you make copies of all the forms for their records, and they will know who to send the thing to for authorization (including the relevant FAS Dean and the Institution Authorizing Official at the Office of Sponsored Research in Holyoke Center).
10. Once it's all ready, HCO has a courier that can take materials down to OSP that day. OSP sends it out by Fed Ex to the specific NASA Centers, and you're all done!
If you have any questions please feel free to contact Andrew Friedman (afriedman at cfa) or Ryan Hickox (rhickox at cfa).
Last Updated April 2006.