WARF support for graduate students

When Jaye Gardiner began graduate school at UW-Madison, there was one thing she didn’t have to worry about: financial support.Ph.D. student Jaye Gardiner

Gardiner came to UW-Madison with a two-year Graduate Research Scholars fellowship funded by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). Gardiner says the fellowship provided the support she needed in her first year to complete her Ph.D. rotations and choose a dissertation lab that was the best fit for her.

Providing financial security for graduate students is a top priority for the Graduate School at UW-Madison. And WARF is a major partner in that mission, providing $12 million for graduate student support.


The integration of graduate education and research at UW–Madison is greatly enhanced by the WARF gift and their support of our graduate students and faculty.

—Dean William Karpus


WARF’s annual support not only benefits the students receiving funding, it forges an important link between graduate education and faculty research.

The support enhances the ability of faculty to educate students and Karpus says, “that makes their research programs much more competitive. It also accelerates the pace of discovery.”

“Many labs are reluctant to recruit new students because of concerns about being able to fund them over the course of the four- to six-year training period,” says Gardiner’s advisor, Nathan Sherer. “Some years this can severely limit the types of research and projects that are available to incoming students.”

Because Gardiner had her own funding, she was able to work on projects that veered from the aims of Sherer’s current National Institutes of Health support. That meant she could help generate preliminary data used to apply for pilot awards and, subsequently, bigger extramural grants.

adrienne_wood“This gives us more freedom to ask ‘high-risk, high-reward’ questions,” says Sherer.

In her second year, Gardiner applied for and won a three-year, pre-doctoral fellowship from the National Science Foundation. She’s now a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in cancer biology. She is working on molecular cloning while conducting and analyzing her independent research.

For Adrienne Wood, receiving a University Fellowship from WARF took a huge weight off her shoulders as she began her Ph.D. program in psychology.

Wood studies the mechanisms that guide humans' recognition of facial expression of emotion, and has been able to examine the implications of her research for specific clinical populations, such as individuals with facial paralysis.

Wood has been able to focus on satisfying coursework requirements, and publishing in the top academic journals of her field, co-authoring several articles and book chapters with her advisor, Paula Niedenthal.

“In general, the first and second year of graduate school are very difficult,” Niedenthal says. “Not having to do other things to earn a living is beneficial.”

WARF’s investment in graduate students’ education can pay dividends. Many significant discoveries in science and engineering come from the work of graduate students, says Michael S. Arnold, an associate professor of materials science and engineering.

“As a result of research assistant support and fellowships, graduate students in my group are conducting internationally recognized research of new materials for electronics and energy applications.” Arnold says. “They have won highly competitive national awards, made important discoveries that have been published in top journals in the field, and been awarded patents that hold promise for making money for WARF and, indirectly, the university.”

Amir Mashal, a fourth-year graduate student in Arnold’s lab, believes that the materials used today for everything from solar cells to energy storage will be maxed out within 20 years. The next generation of this technology will be based on carbon nanomaterials such as graphene or carbon nanotubes, he says.

“One of the potential applications 10 years down the road could be a TV in your shower curtain (made of materials) that are super flexible, and impermeable to water,” he says. “The applications are really endless because these materials are incredibly flexible, transparent, and conducts electricity at a more rapid rate than materials used today.”

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