Archive for: February, 2012

herding cats

Feb 19 2012 Published by under academia, administrative crap, exhaustion

Well, I'm back from another super-awesome conference. This was not my normal crowd, so I made a lot of fantastic new contacts and got some ideas that could start up new research directions for my lab. And there was even some skiing!!! Not that much internet access, though.

Which leads to the downside... I had to do so much work while I was gone! This was the first meeting that I actually had to skip a session to work. Sure, there have been meetings where I needed to get some writing done or read something. But damn! This was crazy. EVERYONE knew that I was going to be gone--and would not have reliable access to email. However, this did not in any way reduce the number of emails I got that required--REQUIRED--my attention within the hour. Like when I got an email asking for something that apparently needed to be done by Friday. I had been working with the administrator on this for weeks--but for some reason s/he had not felt the need to tell me about this deadline. Most of the "emergencies" are concerning our current graduate student recruitment. Somehow (dammit!) I am "in charge" of putting together our recruitment weekend this year. This basically means that I have to get the faculty in my department to sit down and talk to prospective students. Imagine scheduling your dissertation exam...times 20.

sigh. I just got back into town after being gone a week. Right now, hanging out with my wife and Mini-G are top priority. This morning we had crepes and then the first ever sleep-over commenced. We have had so much fun! We went to the playground, made dinner, and watched a movie. There are two girls in Mini-G's bedroom desperately trying to be quiet right now (not very well).

I doubt that anyone at MRU is actually desperately waiting a response over the weekend, but if they are...well, I guess I don't care. This shit will still be happening next week.

 

 

6 responses so far

The most important thing you will ever do

Feb 09 2012 Published by under academia, parenting

When Dr. Mrs. GZ* finally got pregnant, one of the more scary days of my life was telling my PI. I was a postdoc at the time. I had been around a couple of years, and was pretty sure that my boss was going to be cool. But there was a bit of uncertainty. Had I just "ruined" my career? Would my funding go away? And would my j-o-b follow right behind???

I think everything worked out OK. Yes, there were a few months that shit was slow. But I got caught up on my sleep and grouped my poop**. I thought I was pretty efficient before the kiddo. But I have turned it up a notch. I found a way to get everything done AND have a baby in my life. I wrote a K99, it got funded, then I published some papers, went out on the job market, and started my own lab. And hell, I just submitted my very own R01.

Five years later*** I am not sure I have the work/life "balance" thing figured out. Mini-G is awesome, and I can't imagine my life without her. You know what I can imagine? How terrifying it must be to go out looking for a postdoc/other job when you are pregnant.  There is a fantastic, and important post over at Chemical BiLOLogy about this. You should go read. Now. I'll wait.

 

 

I was lucky. My postdoc advisor was freaking fantastic. When I told him my wife was pregnant he gave me a big hug. Then  high-5. It was the most positive reaction I ever got from him****. I know this is not always the norm. I had it good, and if I ever have pregnant postdocs/students I want to behave the same way. I can do these things that make it OK to be a woman that has children in academia. But there has to be more. Right? Because if we want to keep women in the academic world, it HAS to be OK to have kids while you are in the "early" part of your career, especially when you are a postdoc.

Please go back over to Chemical BiLOLogy and add your ideas about how, as a community, we can make it OK to be a #scimom. What projects/programs need to exist to make this a more reasonable career path?

 

*Wow. I need to get a better pseud for my wife.
**Thank you, Namnezia for this hilarious version of "get your shit together"
***HOLY SHIT
****I was told, at that moment, that raising a child is "The most important thing you will ever do".

11 responses so far

finding small pots of cash

Feb 08 2012 Published by under academia, grants

The vast majority of my time and energy as an assistant professor is spent trying to get funding for my lab. Without money, there is no one to do my kick-ass science. Start-up funds don't last forever, and (at least at my MRU) if you don't get an R01 from the NIH you won't get tenure. Even if you don't need an R01 in your gig, if research is a big part of your job you are probably expected to secure some sort of federal funding. So, yeah. You are gonna write applications for the big grants.

But at many places there are other, smaller pots of money that you should also keep an eye out for. These can be called "pilot grants" or "seed money" or "intramural funds". These are usually small grants, IME from 10-50K/yr. They generally last only 1 or 2 years. Just enough to do a fun experiment, develop a reagent, or pay part of a salary. In the first years my lab has cobbled together a not-insignificant amount of cash from the pilot/seed programs around here.

I <3 THE SEED $$!!

The question is: how do you find the seed money and get some for yourself? This is clearly going to be specific to your home institute/MRU. If there are any consortium or project grants around these sometimes will have funds for pilot grants. Some Uni will also use some of the money they earn from licensing IP to fund new pilot grants. You may have to keep your ear to the ground, because these opportunities tend to pop up without much warning. Another great thing is that the money can also show up pretty quickly. I have had less than 3 months from application to budget number, for example.

The applications are generally short. You need to propose a project that you can do in just a year or two, after all. It is not realistic to drop a 3-Aim R01 on a pilot grant. When I write for a pilot grant, I try to make it as explicit as possible how doing the proposed research will set me up to write an R01 (or equivalent) in the future. Most of the seed money sources that I am familiar with really want to know that they did something to start up a new project and that their money has been leveraged into something bigger.

The review of these grants can be internal, or your grant could be sent out to external reviewers. Either way, you will want to be familiar to the folks that have this kind of money and run these programs. You gotta get to know the folks that are running the big project grants in your area. Just like any other area, networking is a Good Thing. Even if there isn't a pilot grant on the line (now), you want these BSD folks to know who you are. Pitch your research program to them, and see what they think is most interesting. I have used these kinds of interactions to get an idea of how folks outside my MRU are gonna respond to different research ideas. And it is helpful to know what outside folks will think are the weaknesses, so you are ready to defend them.

There is almost nothing to lose from applying for pilot grant seed money. IME, junior faculty can be really successful in getting these kinds of funds. In fact, some of these programs are actually LIMITED to us jr. faculty. And it may be that more established researchers aren't going to go through the trouble for such a little pile of cash. But little piles of cash can be a big deal when you are starting out. You can generate some preliminary data, and get some feedback on a future Aim for a Big Grant. So, fellow assistant professors: I say, go for the seed money! Good luck 🙂

7 responses so far

WOO HOO!!!

Feb 07 2012 Published by under awesomeness, queer

GUYS!!! I totally made it through grant-writing hell, and finally got the damn thing submitted. Notwithstanding some hazing from the Administrators in my grants office. Now on to the next thing. 🙂

I'm working on another post that started as a Twitter conversation about pilot grants/seed $. But in the mean time there is more awesomeness that needs to be cheered:

PROP 8 WAS RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL!!!

Yep, a US appeals court has ruled the ban against gay marriage in California unconstitutional. Congrats to all the couples who are in CA that (again) have their families recognized, and good luck to all the other couples that might decide to go down that path. I hope that the rest of the legal crap clears up soon and marriage equality can become the norm. Not just in CA, but everywhere else, too.

Happy day!! 😀

14 responses so far