Monday, November 30, 2009
All advice hypothetical, of course.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
It should be fun. I know a number of people in the area and will be staying with friends. I'll have a chance to travel locally a bit and give a talk at a prestigious institute about the work we are doing. I wish I had a bit more data from the project I chose to talk about, but I'm good with shadow puppets so I should be able to keep the audience busy.
I doubt I will have much ability to blog over the next week and a half, but for those of you in the US, have a good holiday and safe travels if you are one of the many on the roads, tracks and skies the rest of this week. Hopefully you get some down time before the final push to the end of the semester. You'll be able to find the NFL pool update over at DGT's place, where she will continue to gloat over her lead margin.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Another strong performance by DGT had her padding her lead, which is now at 5 points. Nat also did well this week and shares second place with PiT, dropping me to fourth, followed closely by Tom. Just behind Tom is this week's winner, Alyssa, who posted 10 points and beat Candid Engineer in the tie-breaker. Both of them are tied and 8 points out of the lead.
The race is heating up as we head into the home stretch. Congrats Alyssa!
Monday, November 23, 2009
I have included the relevant section of the NSF GPG below, for those unfamiliar with it.
The EAGER funding mechanism may be used to support exploratory work in its early stages on untested, but potentially transformative, research ideas or approaches. This work may be considered especially "high risk-high payoff" in the sense that it, for example, involves radically different approaches, applies new expertise, or engages novel disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspectives. These exploratory proposals may also be submitted directly to an NSF program, but the EAGER mechanism should not be used for projects that are appropriate for submission as “regular” (i.e., non-EAGER) NSF proposals. PI(s) must contact the NSF program officer(s) whose expertise is most germane to the proposal topic prior to submission of an EAGER proposal. This will aid in determining the appropriateness of the work for consideration under the EAGER mechanism; this suitability must be assessed early in the process.
The Project Description is expected to be brief (five to eight pages) and include clear statements as to why this project is appropriate for EAGER funding, including why it does not “fit” into existing programs and why it is a “good fit” for EAGER. Note this proposal preparation instruction deviates from the standard proposal preparation instructions contained in this Guide; EAGER proposals must otherwise be compliant with the GPG.
Only internal merit review is required for EAGER proposals. Under rare circumstances, program officers may elect to obtain external reviews to inform their decision. If external review is to be obtained, then the PI will be so informed in the interest of maintaining the transparency of the review and recommendation process. The two standard NSB-approved merit review criteria will apply.
Requests may be for up to $300K and of up to two years duration. The award size, however, will be consistent with the project scope and of a size comparable to grants in similar areas.
No-cost extensions, and requests for supplemental funding, will be processed in accordance with standard NSF policies and procedures.
Renewed funding of EAGER awards may be requested only through submission of a proposal that will be subject to full external merit review. Such proposals would be designated as “EAGER renewals.”
I knew these grants existed, but hadn't heard much about them until I got talking to a PO at a meeting a little while back. We were discussing one of the projects we have ongoing in the lab and he suggested that I talk to the relevant PO to inquire about EAGER funding. So, I did.
After a bit of back and forth about the project, the PO asked for a one page summary so that she could present it to the other POs from the program. She highlighted to me that the criteria that they use to decide on these projects are "is it novel, timely, transformative and risky?" We are working on a project that falls into all of those categories, so I wrapped that up in a pretty little one page package and sent it along. Maybe it'll fly and maybe it won't, but I'll post about the process in case anyone else is considering this. It might be a good way to find seed money for that project that you've been thinking of for a while.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
I have confirmation from Free Data Guy that our samples are being processed and we should hear back by the end of the month. On top of that, were sending our big money samples out on Monday. The possible convergence of multiple datasets that will serve to complement one another and provide an enormous resource of "preliminary data" for grants, has me fucking giddy right now.
It may not turn out that we get everything we want out of these datasets, but the potential for a huge step forward in what we are trying to accomplish is there, and who can't get excited about that?
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Even though the amount of travel time I've had this year has put a burden on the family, 6 weeks hasn't been that bad. I arranged to not be away for more than about a week at a time and avoided weekend as much as possible, when I have the most time to spend with my family. What concerns me is that everyone I know who's lab moves at the pace I aspire to travels far more than 6 weeks a year. From my informal survey, the range seems to be between 2 and 6 months of travel per year when all of the trips are considered**. Most people don't keep up a pace at the high end of that range for very long, but many seem to have years where things are clicking and everyone wants a piece of them.
I am fortunate that, at the moment, my wife's job does not require a lot of travel but am acutely aware that my travel has a wider effect than where I sleep. I know that thousands of people do it every year across all manner of professions and they seem to make do, but in talking to several successful senior colleagues recently they have all mentioned the adverse family consequences their hectic schedules have had on their families.
As my schedule slowly fills for the summer of 2010 these conversations are one more thing in the back of my head as I wrestle with what I define as "successful" at work and at home.
*She doesn't quite get the whole Skype thing yet. Half the time she keeps looking behind the laptop to see where I am and the other half she spends hitting random keys on the computer. We're working on it.
**Hats off to those of you with a two-academic-career family, or any situation where a couple both travel heavily for their work.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Some problems just cost a lot to figure out. That's my moral of the week. I was trying to find less expensive ways to chip away at one of our research questions so that we could produce enough data to qualify as "preliminary" in a proposal and get some Fed funds to do the financial heavy lifting. We tried several different ways to get at the problem, all of which provided tantalizing clues. As a result, we have lots of suggestive data, but no smoking gun. With the January NSF deadline looming, it was time to make a call - do we step up our efforts to chip away at the question with hammer and chisel or do we get serious and blow some real cash for the experimental equivalent of some C4?
I decided it's time we get this shit done. There have been continued delays with the "free" data and I'm tired of taking baby steps on this project. I've talked to too many people about it at this point, and if we're right, this would be a project worth scooping. Plus, we're not going to get it funded until we show more results and our other ideas about how we get an answer all have the potential of still being inconclusive, even if they work.
Nope, time to burn some cash. Your safety goggles are on the right and you may want to take another step back - this fire is going to be hot.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
One of those was the ability animals have to mask a problem - that despite having a gaping wound or broken bone, they would pretend like everything was fine. "Nothing to see here folks, move along, sorry for bleeding on you." It's one of the reasons being a vet is so tough, because once an animal shows a problem, it's almost always too late. Inevitably, the camera crew would focus on this animal and we would watch, helpless to do anything, as the animal kept up this facade. Sometimes they would keep on for quite a while, looking stoic, but the other animals could sense the problem. Maybe they even knew, but couldn't help.
Eventually, despite the best acting job around, the damage couldn't stay hidden and the result was a catastrophic failure that seemed so sudden, yet so expected. I remember as a kid wondering if the animal was still trying to pretend that everything was okay or if it was relieved that it could finally stop acting. I still don't know the answer.
Yet more proof that we're not so different from the rest of the animal kingdom.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Is it possible to change the culture of a department and how would one go about it?
In all honesty, I'm not thrilled about the science culture where I am at. The mentality is very 9-5 and this place is a ghost town on weekends and after about 3:00 on Fridays. I'm not advocating for around the clock work or people chained to their desks, only that a few people feel passionate about their work enough to work outside of the bare minimum hours. It's also not that I care what the other faculty members are doing, but the problem that PhDamned articulates from a student perspective, is that the attitude of the faculty is reflected in the students. So, when faculty never come in on weekends, after hours or on holidays, the students assume that there is no point to doing so. The same is true for after hours events.
Obviously, just because someone is not in their office doesn't mean they are not working, but you can tell when a department has an active and vibrant community and when it doesn't. You can feel it the same way that you can go to any sporting event anywhere in the world and gauge how much the team means to the fans - how invested they are in the teams success. It's not that my department doesn't have a good research track record, only that the sense of a vibrant research community just isn't there like I have seen it elsewhere.
So, is it possible to change this? More specifically, is it possible for a junior faculty member to change this? If so, how? Doing things by example is great, unless no one is there to see it.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Oh, you all want to go to the meals but don't seem to have any other available time? Well, what if I send you a second email specifically asking for times during the two days the speaker will be here that you would be willing to spend just 30 minutes conversing with our invited guest?
Hello? Is this thing on? Anyone out there?
After all of the organization and publicizing I've done around this event, not one of you has 30 minutes to spare to talk science? Hell, talk about your dog or something, I don't give a fuck, just commit to this minor task that should be enjoyable.
Dude. Fuck! sigh.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
My guess is that the people who go into teaching and then on to grad school decide that even if they enjoy teaching at their pre-grad-career level, they eventually want to teach at the college level. On the other hand, I also know of cases where teachers find out they hate teaching and go to grad school in order to take their careers in a different direction. I'm sure there's no cookie-cutter reason, but I've been surprised by the prevalence of a teaching career on many applicant CVs.
However, my question for readers is whether they would prefer someone with teaching experience over an applicant right out of school? Obviously, this is highly candidate specific, but given roughly equal CVs and no perceptible difference in attitude, is there a preference for one over the other? I'll keep my opinions to myself for the moment.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
On my way to the conference last week I spent some time on the same large conveyance as three other people traveling to the same destination. They were traveling together, but I had never met them, nor they I. We were all aware that we were being picked up together at the end of the trip, however.
When we met up at the place we were supposed to be picked up, I introduced myself to the three of them and we started chatting. During the conversation one of the three said, "We had you picked out on the trip." When I inquired as to what had given me away, she suggested the following items (which may differ slightly from those I actually own) that I provide for you to paste onto your own scientist paper doll.
At first I found this odd, until we got to the meeting and I was struck by the phenotype of the people (who are not in my direct field) there and how clearly I matched. It was nearly comical. Maybe I'm meant to change fields and never got the memo.
In any case, it got me wondering if there are other "uniforms" in different fields and how they might differ from the model I suggest here.
Monday, November 9, 2009
I think the biggest thing that going away makes you appreciate is how fast kids change. I saw the Wee One briefly on Wednesday morning, but otherwise had did not see her between Tuesday morning and Sunday evening. Even during that short amount of time she has added a number of words to her burgeoning vocab (including phrases like "more juice" and "more cookies", which are a direct result of a weekend at grandma's) and is putting words together much better. We are realizing that we have to be more and more careful about what we say around her, as little ears hear all. She's even putting concepts together, like when I grabbed a beer after work last week and she immediately pointed and said "Daddy's milk".
As much as we enjoyed our weekend away and some time hanging out in Big City, one incident on Sunday morning reminded us why we are happy living where we do. We were walking on the sidewalk and approached a cab where two parents and two kids were piling out. One of the kids was crying in rather dramatic fashion and his mother was trying to sooth him. They were dressed for church and getting out of the car in front of a small yard on the church grounds where kids were running around. Rather than pointing out the playing kids to her son, the mother said to him "Look honey. Grass!"
Now back to reality, meetings and deadlines. Oh my! I have two weeks before I travel again and a mountain of things to finish between now and then and one visiting speaker I will be entertaining for two days.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Can we institute some sort of licensing for the use of AV projection equipment that needs to be renewed every couple of years? It could be like a diver's license, where one would have to show functionality with the equipment at first, but then occasionally re-demonstrate their ability to use said equipment safely. After the age of 55, maybe it's important to demonstrate this more regularly, so that you don't get up in front of an audience and cause some massive technology pile-up. No! Don't hit the "black screen" button and then look bewildered for 30 seconds before a grad student fixes it, again!
Like I said last night, this isn't my crowd. What has been really interesting is the importance of lineage in this group. "Who did you work with?" is a regular question if the information isn't volunteered early in conversation (often it is). I can't figure out if I'm noticing this more because I don't know a lot of these people or if this behavior is indeed, unlike the circles I normally travel in, but there is no question there is huge importance on who knows who here. If someone's supervisor is not quickly recognized, a long explanation ensues to place the person's supervisor in the greater context of the field. This is curious behavior to me, but I suspect fairly common.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I don't have a problem with this from a social perspective, but from a science perspective is fucking tiring. I find myself constantly trying to decipher the, only mildly familiar, jargon from related fields to mine. There are some big names here and I'm trying not to piss anyone off by asking "So... what do you do?" I know some of these dudes (and it's almost all dudes here) have made big contributions, but again, this ain't my field. I'm already sick of hearing about some of the typical model systems and the talks haven't even started. In any case, I'm exhausted and this has barely begun.
Day one of travel (yesterday) resulted in my wife being called by daycare at noon because the Wee One slipped on a ball and went face-first into a brick wall. She ate her lunch, but the caretaker was concerned about the swelling and didn't want to risk having her nap there! Thanks guys, lots of help. Break the kid then get rid of her in case she gets any worse. Luckily she was fine, if not a bit swollen. She woke up this morning with minimal lasting damage.
2.5 days left before the weekend...
Monday, November 2, 2009
And in case you would think that I have the ability to learn from previous incidents, I have even planned a weekend get-away for my wife and I in a place we can meet when my traveling is done. It'll be the first time we're away without the Wee One, which will be fun and slightly stressful. In my infinite wisdom however, I thought it would be a good idea to save some money and commit to our hotel room in a non-refundable way. It's like I'm poking fate right in the eye with a pointy stick.
In a related note, I won't be around to announce this week's winner of the NFL Challenge, so DGT has graciously agreed to host tomorrow. So, if you're looking for Week 8 results, head over yonder.