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Sarah Tucker and Yoshimi Rii collect seawater samples to examine marine microbes during a Kāneʻohe Bay Timeseries Sampling event.

Within the past five years, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) has grown exponentially. Currently composed of 36 masters and PhD students, a range of disciplines are represented such as astronomy, botany, computer science, Earth and planetary sciences, entomology, geography, linguistics, marine biology, oceanography, tropical plant and soil sciences and zoology.

NSF GRFP annually funds a diverse group of outstanding graduate students with more than $110,000 for three years to become future scientists, engineers, researchers and STEM educators. GRFP graduates go on to pursue careers in federal agencies, national labs, academia, policy work and conservation management. Notably, UH Mānoa GRFPs have consistently been selected for other distinguished fellowships such as the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship Program and E. Gordon Grau Coastal and Marine Resource Management and Policy Fellowship Program, both coordinated through the UH Sea Grant College Program (Hawaiʻi Sea Grant).

  • Martha Newell, Knauss Fellow 2017
  • Beth Lenz, Knauss Fellow 2020
  • Sean Mahaffey, Knauss Fellow 2022
  • Cuong Tran, Grau Fellow 2022
  • Gina Selig, Knauss Fellow 2023
  • Sarah Tucker, Margaret Davidson Fellow 2020 and Knauss Fellow 2023
  • Erik Brush, Knauss Fellow 2024
  • Ryan Jones, Knauss Fellow 2024

Cuong Tran: disaster preparedness

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Cuong Tran

Former fellow and master of urban and regional planning graduate, Cuong Tran, applied his UH Mānoa experience into his post-graduate work as a Hawaiʻi Sea Grant Gordon E. Grau Fellow with the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC). Tran collaborates with various partners on several local, national and international disaster-related projects and co-designed the Red Hill Information Hub in collaboration with the UH Red Hill Task Force. The Hub provides a one-stop-shop of the latest information, data, and tools the general public can use for education, communication and research. Tran also co-planned this year’s Pacific Risk Management ʻOhana Conference, a platform for Pacific Island communities to channel joint efforts toward becoming resilient. Upon completion of his Grau fellowship, he plans to step into the role of training technology program coordinator at NDPTC.

Tran’s number one advice for current students is to “always apply for fellowship and scholarship opportunities, even if you think you won’t receive them. You’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Sarah Tucker: monitoring climate change

two people standing in front of a taro patch
Sarah Tucker and Anne Innes-Gold following a community work day in the loʻi at Kākoʻo ʻŌiwi.

Marine biology PhD graduate, Sarah Tucker, went on to fulfill the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Margaret A. Davidson Graduate Fellowship after three years as a NSF GRFP Fellow. Tucker was part of the inaugural cohort of Davidson Fellows and collaborated with the Heʻeia National Estuarine Research Reserve where she worked closely with staff and Paepae o Heʻeia managers producing outreach materials, mentoring an undergraduate student, joining community restoration work days and helping with scientific observations and monitoring within the Heʻeia Reserve.

After graduating, Tucker was selected as a 2023 Knauss Fellow and currently works in NOAA’s Global Ocean Monitoring and Observing (GOMO) Program. The GOMO Program supports half of the world’s ocean observations, which are used in climate and weather prediction models and help us understand our changing ocean. Tucker’s two main projects involve serving as the coordinating editor of the Arctic Report Card and a secretariat member and field operations team lead of the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee. Following Knauss, she will start as a Simons postdoctoral fellow in marine microbial ecology at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Tucker recommended, “talking to as many folks as you can about what the fellowship experience entails, review application materials from past candidates, and be clear about what you want out of it. Also, stay open to trying new things and follow your gut. I never thought I would work on Arctic Research and Policy, but it has been incredibly fulfilling and more connected to my previous work than I could have imagined.”

2025 Knauss applications now open

For those interested in applying for the 2025 Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, visit the program website or contact Hawaiʻi Sea Grant assistant director for research and fellowships, Maya Walton,, to learn more. Application deadline is February 15, 2024, 5 p.m. HST through Hawaiʻi Sea Grant via eSeaGrant.

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