Marie Garcia Talks About NIJ's Graduate Research Fellowship

Sidebar to the article How NIJ Is Building the Nation's Research Infrastructure by Andrew Marcoux

Andrew Marcoux sat down with Marie Garcia, who manages NIJ's Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF), to learn more about the program.

Andrew Marcoux (AM): What resources does the GRF program make available to doctoral students?

Marie Garcia (MG): The GRF program supports universities that sponsor doctoral students who demonstrate the potential to successfully complete their degrees in academic disciplines relevant to NIJ's mission. The real benefit of the GRF program is that it provides doctoral students with funds in the final phase of their dissertation research, so they can focus on completing their degrees.

AM: How has the program changed since you began managing it?

MG: The GRF program has always encouraged doctoral students from all academic disciplines to apply for awards if their dissertation research has direct implications for criminal justice policy and practice in the United States. An important change to the program happened in fiscal year 2014, when we released two solicitations. One sought dissertation research that focused on the social and behavioral sciences, and the second focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Although the goal of both solicitations is the same, this allows us to consider a broader range of topics for research fellowships, and it speaks to the changing nature of criminal justice.

AM: What other types of research have been funded?

MG: The dissertation research funded under the GRF program represents the diversity and range of issues that practitioners and researchers face when assessing the state of the criminal justice system. Recent fellowships have focused on how contact with the juvenile justice system affects delinquency and academic achievement and how physical and biochemical factors affect the recovery and analysis of DNA from human skeletal remains.

AM: Why is NIJ interested in assisting doctoral students?

MG: By helping doctoral students complete their dissertation research, we are investing in their futures and, in turn, in our own future. Our goal with this program and NIJ's other fellowship programs is to increase the pool of young researchers with innovative ideas whose research can have an impact on the criminal justice system.

AM: In what ways does NIJ assist doctoral students?

MG: Funds can be used in a variety of ways. For example, students can use their funds to travel to conferences to disseminate their research or pay for courses on new, innovative statistical techniques. This allows students to bring attention to their research while gaining valuable networking opportunities with scholars and practitioners in their field of study. Also, the experience of writing a successful grant application is hugely beneficial for those who will enter academia and want to continue their line of research.

AM: What made you want to apply to be a graduate research fellow? How did the program help you personally?

MG: I applied to the GRF program because if funded, I knew it would allow me the time and resources to focus on my dissertation research. Being able to dedicate all of my time and energy to the final phase of my program was one of the most important benefits of receiving the fellowship.

AM: How does one apply for a fellowship?

MG: NIJ typically releases the annual solicitation in late fall. Information about the program and the requirements for applying are on NIJ's website.

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