Friday, May 11, 2012

On travel

So here I am, on travel! Because science is a collaborative enterprise, it involves quite a bit of travel. This travel can be to conduct research, present research results (and see others') at a conference, or learn about something new that you're trying to figure out how to do and start new collaborations. This week I'm in California to do the latter. I received some funds from EPSCoR (a program to improve research infrastructure in states that don't get a lot of research funding -yeah West Virginia is one of those states) to establish some collaborations with people that have built instruments for micro satellites to support our current collaboration to provide the science instruments for some planned microsatellite launches. So yesterday we visited NASA Ames to talk with people that have been doing these for awhile. While we were there, we visited the lab of another person that I did some collaboration with back in grad school. To make the trip even more worthwhile, today we visited a company that does plasma processing of wafers to get some ideas for relevant experiments that we could do in the lab. This was all piggybacked onto a conference that our postdoc and grad student were presenting at this week. I have had the opportunity to travel to some great places throu my job. As a grad student, I got to do research for a summer in Australia. I have traveled above the arctic circle in tromso, Norway and saw the midnight sun. Through all of this I have worked with and met lots of scientists. My husband thinks this is all a big boondoggle, and everything should be done by Skype. Now, we do a lot of meetings by teleconference or web conference, but some things just need to be done in person. At conferences, you're likely to see a talk or meet a person that you never would have if you were just checking out select talks online. Plus your own research is more likely to be seen by a wider audience when they're all there in person. This is especially important for younger scientists trying to network for jobs. Similarly, our meeting with the second person at Ames yesterday allowed us to tell her about previous work that our group had done that will help her out with her current research, and we may have found a solution to her two-body problem (finding jobs for both spouses in the same city). Next week, I am doing another short trip that seems a lot more like a boondoggle, but is not supported by federal dollars. I am working with a team that is developing educational materials on the science of cycling and zip lining, so we're going on a trip to do some zip lining and mountain biking to understand a bit more about the location that we will be working with so we can figure out how to integrate the educational materials with the terrain. We will also be meeting with e people in charge of the site to discuss our ideas and plans.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Proposals 1

I previously mentioned that I would eventually get to proposals, and here we are. Scientists that don't work for a company that directs their research have to write proposals describing what they want to do. These are submitted to federal funding agencies (like NASA, National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health, etc), private foundations, internal university funds, and other sources of funds. There is typically a solicitation describing what kind of projects the agency is looking for. The proposals are reviewed by scientists that are experts in the related field for federal agencies or the board of a foundation (sometimes with input from related experts).
I recently started working on two proposals. One is for funds supported by the university's ADVANCE grant to support women faculty in science fields, and the other is a big one to NSF to increase majors in science fields. The first one will be a rewrite of a proposal I wrote earlier this year but was not selected for funding (some say you have to write 3 proposals for every 1 you need to get funded, and that could get worse in today's federal budget climate). The budget available is about half as much, so I'll have to cut something out, probably the funding for 1/2 a grad student. The second one will involve work with a bunch of other people at the university, so I'm currently in the process of making lots of contacts. I'm also doing a literature search to get the necessary data on best practices in increasing science majors.
I'll try to keep you posted as the process goes along.