NSF GAIN Scholars Ph.D. student success program

Program overview

The University of Nevada, Reno is proud to offer a new program - at no cost to students - designed to increase the retention and success of historically underrepresented groups in graduate programs. Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, our GAIN Scholars program engages incoming Ph.D. students for two 3-week summer preparatory camps, as well as additional professional development, mentoring and social network support activities during their first two years of graduate school.

A hand using a tablet with a laptop in the background.Students completing the GAIN Scholars program will learn how to code apps for citizen science research projects, how to design experiments and analyze data using the R programing language and how to create immersive virtual reality videos of their graduate experiences.

The program is provided at no cost and includes a free laptop as well as a tablet for communicating graduate experiences with family members.

The NSF GAIN Scholars program consists of the following modules:

  • Module 1: Skill Assessment and Individual Development Plans
  • Module 2: Family Support/Family Life Education (FLE)
  • Module 3: Smartphone App Development Boot Camp
  • Module 4: R-based Statistical Analysis
  • Module 5: Computational Tools for Big Data
  • Module 6: Virtual/Augmented Reality (VR/AR) and Outreach to Rural Communities

Read the NSF grant program description

Who is eligible?

Incoming domestic, first-generation college students and students from historically underrepresented backgrounds who apply for fall 2020 and 2021 admission to a research-based PhD program are eligible. 

Please note: The GAIN Scholars program is only available to domestic students. Applications from international students will not be considered. 

How do I apply?

You can apply as part of your general application to a Ph.D. graduate program at the University of Nevada, Reno or you can apply with a separate submission.

How will participants be selected?

Approximately 40 applicants meeting the eligibility requirements and accepting admission to a University of Nevada, Reno research-based Ph.D. program by April 15, 2021 will be randomly selected from the pool of eligible applicants. We anticipate receiving approximately 80 applications, so qualified applicants will have a good chance of being selected to the program.

Associated faculty and staff

The project is a collaboration between administrators, educators, engineers and scientists from the University of Nevada, Reno’s (UNR) Center for Advanced Media Studies, the Colleges of Education, Engineering, and Science, the Graduate School, the Graduate Student Association and the School of Community and Health Sciences. A list of participants and their role(s) in the project is below.

  •   David Zeh, Project Director and Principal Investigator
  •   Matthew Aquirre, Project Co-Director  - Mentor/Mentee Training, Faculty Training
  •   Veronica Zepeda, Project Co-Director - Mentor/Mentee Training, Faculty Training
  •   Eelke Folmer, co-Principal Investigator (PI) - Smartphone App Development; Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) and Service Learning
  •   Matthew Forister, co-PI - R-based Statistical Analysis; Project Assessment
  •   Karla Wagner, co-PI - Social Network Analyses (SNA)
  •   Bridget Walsh, co-PI - Family Life Education (FLE); Project Assessment; SNA
  •   Anne Leonard, FA - Individual Development Plans (IDPs) and Skills Assessment
  •   Julie Lucero, FA - FLE; Service Learning
  •   Anna Panorska, FA - R-based Statistical Analysis; Project Assessment
  •   Thomas Parchman, FA - Computational Tools for Big Data
  •   Yu Yang, FA - R-based Statistical Analysis
  •   Gi Yun, FA - VR/AR and Service Learning; SNA


Contact the NSF GAIN Scholars program coordinator Loren Pietsch at lpietsch@unr.edu or (775) 784-6229.