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The easiest funding I’ll ever get January 4, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, research.
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I’ve been getting more and more frustrated as time goes on. You see, in addition to working on a dissertation, working half-time, and having a family and too many hobbies, I’ve been getting ideas for research I’d like to do. I am compiling a list. I pretty much tripled the size of the list last year, with only one thing knocked off.

It turns out that this was one of the most recent ideas, something I’d been working on in my head for a couple months after beginning a literature search. It was something I was expecting someone else to have figured out, so I was very surprised when I completed the lit search with nothing like the idea. At some point, I mentioned this to a co-worker. He thought it was an awesome idea. So I went to talk to my boss. I told him I had a thought related to one of the projects I was working on, and explained what it was.

I was very lucky. It turned out that there is another project, relatively low-priority, that had some funding, and what I wanted to do lined up perfectly with the goals of the project. I was bequeathed with five weeks of salary to work on the project.

I am truly spoiled. I can’t imagine that I will ever again be in a position where I can say, “I have an idea,” without much to back it up and be given money and resources to work on it.

Now I just hope it turns out like I want it to.

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1. Strigiformes - January 4, 2011

You keep saying that you have a dissertation to work on, what do you mean by that?

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2. mareserinitatis - January 5, 2011

PhD thesis. I know conventions differ, but where I did my MS, a thesis is usually something a master’s student writes while a dissertation is a PhD student’s project.

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Strigiformes - January 5, 2011

Oh wow. I wasn’t referring to what a dissertation is. But for the longest time I always thought you are an assistant professor or a professor instead of a grad student. I’m not sure why that happened and why it has taken so long for me to realize otherwise. Must’ve gotten my blogs mixed up 😛 Anyhoo, I still love the stuff you post here. Good luck!

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mareserinitatis - January 5, 2011

Ha! Okay. I guess I misunderstood your question. While I’m very flattered you thought that, no, I’m still a lowly grad student. I’d like to be a prof when I get finished, but I know the possibility is pretty small. Still, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

What about you?

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3. FrauTech - January 5, 2011

Well that’s supposed to be the advantages of working in a lab at a research place, right? I mean, I’m not saying you’re not lucky, but just that you probably deserve it and all that.

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mareserinitatis - January 5, 2011

That is the benefit of where I am, but I do think some of it was a fluke. The idea happened to work with a project that had some ‘discretionary’ money. Most of our funding comes from customers who, while we are supposed to do research, comes in a fairly narrow and well-defined band, so there isn’t much room for exploring ideas.

It really surprises me how little research (at least in engineering) is true exploration of ideas and how much is tied into contracts with specific deliverables.

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Strigiformes - January 5, 2011

Could this be because of the source of funding in engineering? You said “customers,” can I assume they are companies that want certain things out of your research. In biology at least the NSF grants support basic science research, otherwise every grant you see mentions some sort of disease(s) that most people have heard of.

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4. Strigiformes - January 5, 2011

I’m still too naive and idealistic in that I believe I will one day land on a tenure track position somewhere if I can get through this grad school business and the post-docs to come. I guess that’s because over the years I’ve only seen those who have gotten these jobs but never had a chance to meet those who were turned away.

In most biology programs like the one I’m in first years do (generally) 3 rotations before picking a thesis lab. I’m current on my second one and have a vague idea of what the third one would be. Between the three they encompass two very different fields (one related to what I did in undergrad and one is what I was hoping to do when applying to grad school). So I guess it depends on what lab I end up picking to get a better idea of the kind of career options more appropriate (or feasible) for me. I would be very surprised if I end up picking the one related to my undergrad research, but weird things often happen in life and it’s more fun that way. So I guess I’m not strongly opinionated about what I want to be.

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5. Only if life is this easy! | "I'm in the lab…" - January 21, 2011

[…] FCIWYPSC shared a while back about getting paid to do a project based on just an idea.  A professor of mine once got a DNA sequencing machine (the really primitive ones that reads an actual sequencing gel you have to pour yourself and load) by submitting a two page essay to a teaching grant.  I once got a 5-grand stipend for a summer internship from a fellowship no one else was applying (because of the extra planning and work it takes to get that fund). […]

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6. Patent (De)Pending | Engineer Blogs - February 4, 2011

[…] of you who read my blog may remember me talking about some easy funding I got for an idea.  The idea involved developing a special widget, and my supervisor thought it […]

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