UMD CMNS - Applications Open: Richard Payne Graduate Award

The Dr. Richard Payne Graduate Award was established in 2020, following a generous donor commitment to the University of Maryland, College Park. The commitment honors Dr. Payne’s outstanding professional and personal contributions to the University of Maryland. Dr. Payne served as a Professor in the Department of Biology, a member of the University Senate, and a dedicated instructor and mentor for students and postdocs. His many accomplishments include advancing the understanding of how light is converted to information for the brain and redefining teaching and learning in large, university-classroom settings. 

This award is intended to recognize excellence in graduate students in the University of Maryland’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS). It provides $5,000 to support innovative graduate-level research that has both social and environmental implications. Applications are especially encouraged from students with research relevant to climate change, particularly that which could inform policies. The award carries no tuition remission. 

Eligibility and Award Requirements

 Eligible applicants must: 

  • Be a currently enrolled graduate student (master’s or PhD) in the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland, College Park. 
  • Graduate from their degree program no earlier than December 2025. 
  • Show strong potential and enthusiasm to significantly contribute to policy-relevant environmental research. 
  • Demonstrate a high level of accomplishment both in and beyond academia. 

Upon the completion of their fellowship year, successful awardees must: 

  • Deliver a written summary of their research suitable for a well-educated public audience. 

Application and Review Process

The application package should include a cover sheet, a personal statement, a CV, and a recommendation letter from the applicant’s advisor or a professor in their major. Completed packages must be submitted as one PDF document to Dr. Margaret Palmer at

The cover sheet must include: name; university ID, email, dissertation/thesis title, current program year, current GPA, expected graduation date, advisor name, and department. 

The personal statement must be no more than 1,500 words and should discuss the applicant’s research goals for the fellowship year, how they will use the funds to benefit climate-relevant science, and how the fellowship will advance the applicant’s long-term aspirations. 

Decisions will be reached on the basis of applicants’ outstanding qualifications, the significance and relevance of the scholarship, and the feasibility of the proposed plan for the fellowship. 

Deadlines and Dates

There is one application deadline per calendar year. One fellowship will be granted per year. 

Applications are due Friday, December 18, 2023, COB. The selected applicant should plan to complete the award year and deliver upon award requirements by January 2025. 

Contact Information

Please direct questions to Alaina Gallagher, Assistant Director of Communications, SESYNC, at 



The University of Maryland is an Equal Opportunity Employer.