Archive for: November, 2009

Note to travelers

Nov 30 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

If you ever find yourself about to jump on a plane and feeling that odd sensation in your throat that suggest you might be coming down with something, the obvious solution is to find something in an airport that might push off that sore throat for a couple of days. I have often seen Airborne Formula but have never bought it before. If you do and you expect a pill to take instead of the large disc you find, read the directions. If you don't read the directions 'cause that's not how you roll and you pop that disc in your mouth, you'll find out the hard way that it's REALLY not meant to be chewed. If you weren't a guy, you might have read that they expect you to pop that large tablet into a glass of water and you wouldn't be foaming at the mouth like a deranged and rabid raccoon in the middle of the international departure lounge. Of course, one option would be to swallow the damn thing, but then you might feel like a bottle of Diet Coke that someone dropped a Mentos into.

All advice hypothetical, of course.

7 responses so far

Round 2

Nov 30 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

The vacation's over and I'm waiting at the airport for the European trip. Happy to report that the Wee One flew relatively well and the only issue was that she threw up all over everything when we tried to put her down for a nap right after we got to our destination. Otherwise, the trip was uneventful - in a good way. This next week should be a bit crazier and I need to try and get a couple more questions together on the flight so I can appear to be conscious tomorrow at the defense, 5 hours after I get off the red eye. I'm not so worried about the talk, but there are another 4 examiners after me, each gets 30 minutes and at least two of those will be speaking a foreign language. Hopefully European toothpicks are stronger than their US equivalents and will keep my eyes open. At least they have good coffee there, because I'll need an IV.

No responses yet

Happy Thanksgiving and see you on the other side

Nov 25 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

So begins the week of stupid travel scheduling. We leave the house at 5:00am tomorrow morning and fly out for a family vacation. We fly back Monday with enough time for me to drop off bags at the car and say goodbye to the family before hoping on a Europe-bound red eye that arrives at 9:00am. After a shower and some food, I should be all set to sit through a 2:00 defense in a foreign language i can more or less understand and then ask questions (in English) as the external examiner. No problem.

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.

4 responses so far

NFL Week 11: surging to the finish

Nov 24 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

Only 6 weeks left. That's all the time members of the pool have to show that they have what it takes to hoist the trophy at the end of the regular season. A few people are making a late season surge and a few (*cough* myself *cough*) are following what I like to call the Denver Broncos model. Maybe I'll have Chris Simms make my picks next week.

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!

2 responses so far

Alternative Science Careers Webinar

Nov 23 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

If you are in the Biological Sciences and are interested in getting information about alternative career in science, you should check out this Webinar announcement from AIBS. I am not familiar with the content, but some details are provided on the site.

No responses yet

EAGERly waiting

Nov 23 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

Last year, NSF made a change to it's Grant Proposal Guide and replaced the Small Grants for Exploratory Research (SGER) program with a new initiative, the EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) grants. These grants were specifically put into place in response t the criticism that NSF had gotten "too safe" and wasn't funding science that might be considered risky. My understanding is that the R21 is supposed to be NIH's equivalent, but Ive heard that the "preliminary" data hurdle there is just as bad as anyw other NIH grant, so the NSF initiative seems more progressive on the surface.

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.

One response so far

Mmmm, tasty

Nov 22 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

Question: Is there anything worse than discovering that your morning bagel is moldy?

Answer: Making the discovery with only half a bagel left.

9 responses so far

Make my day

Nov 21 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

Alright, it's the weekend and I'm working but took a break to check out my new favorite website. Seriously, this made my day. How can you not appreciate pictures like this? I'm alternately fascinated and concerned for our country's future. I'm not kidding. It did make me laugh so hard I hurt, though.

9 responses so far

The anticipation

Nov 20 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

Aside from actually receiving a steaming pile of fresh data, my second favorite period of time is the anticipation of said data. Anything is possible and receiving back exactly what you anticipated or data that lead to conclusions you haven't even thought of, is all still in play. It's like the build up to Christmas was when you were little, or week before summer vacation. Whereas the data may or may not live up to the hype (likely not. It is science after all and she can be a cruel mistress) everything is on the table and it's a rare period when I actually want time to move faster instead of my normal feeling of always being a day or two behind.

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?

3 responses so far

Travel bugging

Nov 19 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

By the end of this year I will have spent over 6 weeks traveling for work, between conferences, workshops and research-related trips. Most of that travel was concentrated in the summer, but not all as I will be away for the first week of December, for instance. Minor home crises while I travel aside, that's 6 weeks that my wife has to single parent, six weeks that I can only Skype with the Wee One* rather than tuck her in and six weeks that I will sleep in a bed not my own.

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.

7 responses so far

Older posts »