The Dr. Richard Payne Graduate Fellowship

Dec 11, 2020

The Dr. Richard Payne Graduate Fellowship 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 understandings of how light is converted to information for the brain and redefining teaching and learning in large university classroom settings.

The Dr. Richard Payne Graduate Fellowship is intended to recognize excellence in graduate students in the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS). It provides $5,000 to support innovative and actionable graduate-level research that directly links social and environmental sciences, with a particular focus on connecting climate and policy studies. In addition to a monetary award the Fellowship is offered in partnership with the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation to CMNS. Awardees will benefit from mentorship and interdisciplinary research learning opportunities over the course of the award via engagement with members of the SESYNC Leadership team and access to the Center’s diverse and robust scientific community and calendar of events, including virtual seminar series. The award carries no tuition remission. 


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 2021 
  • Engage to the fullest extent with SESYNC mentors and activities as mutually agreed at the onset of the fellowship year
  • Show strong potential and enthusiasm to significantly contribute to the climate-policy research nexus
  • Demonstrate a high level of accomplishment both in and beyond academia

Successful awardees must upon the completion of their Fellowship year:

  • Deliver a research seminar (virtual or in-person as university guidelines allow) detailing the funded work and its contributions to the climate-policy nexus
  • Submit a report to SESYNC and CMNS that 1) outlines research accomplishments; 2) reflects on socio-environmental synthesis lessons learned; and 3) documents how fellowship funds were spent


The application package includes a cover sheet, a personal statement, a CV, and a recommendation letter from the applicant’s advisor or major professor. Completed packages must be submitted as one PDF document to SESYNC’s application portal.

  • The cover sheet must include: name; university ID, email, dissertation 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 funds will be used to benefit climate-policy 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. 


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

Applications will be due Friday, December 11, 2020. Applicants should expect to be notified of decisions by Friday, December 18, 2020. The select applicant should plan to complete the Fellowship year and deliver upon award requirements by December 3, 2021


Please direct questions to Dr. Nicole Motzer, Assistant Director for Interdisciplinary Science at SESYNC, at or 410-919-4823. 


The University of Maryland is an Equal Opportunity Employer

Minorities and Women Are Encouraged to Apply

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