Year three in review

July is almost here, and with that, the close of year three for me on this job. Year three was exhausting and didn't start out all that well (but when you can use the term "scroti" in a post title, you gotta do it). By mid-fall of year three I was being dominated by this job and was being mocked by funding agencies. Not good.

I plodded on into the winter, firing off grant proposals like Dick Cheney shoots attorneys - three to NSF in January and one at the Feb deadline to NIH. During that time I spent a week in Europe with collaborators, took on new teaching responsibilities and did more traveling.

For some reason, despite being more hectic, the spring semester was a bit better than the fall. Things were working better in the lab, collaborations were bearing fruit; it all just kind of started.... clicking.

Summer came around and proposal rejections started to roll in. First one NSF proposal was bounced, then another. Funding rates are shit and the panels those proposals went to have seen a big upturn in proposals lately. I got involved in a summer outreach program, but despite the rejection and new work our momentum continued to build.

Then some good news. Our remaining NSF proposal and the one at NIH both scored well. It was the first glimpse of funding light, but it still threatened to fall into the abyss of funding darkness. I was told that NSF wanted to fund our proposal, but probably wouldn't have the money. Likewise, our score at NIH looks to be just outside the bubble. Success, but not so much.

So I targeted the next deadline and got to revising. All the while the lab is working up new publications, many of which are weeks (not months) away from being submitted and a few that have gone in. No time to slow down while sitting on the cusp. At the same time, I had initiated some discussions with the admin about the financial situation of the lab and whether there might be a lifeboat hidden in the Dean's office. The good news is that they were very supportive.

But on the eve of completing year three we got a call. Some budgetary dominoes have fallen at NSF and our proposal is going to be funded. Suddenly we're a federally funded lab. I'm still waiting on summary statements from NIH and a conversation with the PO, but if they scored the proposal I sent in last round, I feel very confident that we can break through there with some of my more "NIH friendly" ideas, as well.

And just like that, things are looking different than they did 6 months ago.

24 responses so far

  • Liz says:

    Yay! congrats

  • odyssey says:


  • OMG that is so AWESOME, when is WeeTwo due to come into the world? Looks like its going to be an amazing summer for you!

  • Are you popping some champagne or Jamieson?

  • DrLizzyMoore says:

    Congrats!!! Gives those of us who are nearing the end of Year1 hope!!

  • Nat says:

    That's awesome dude!

  • Fred says:

    Congrats! It seems like the average time to first grant for junior faculty at my place is *at least* 3 years. It is what it is, but for someone who is less than 1 year in, that is going to be a long haul ...

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Thanks folks, it's been a good turn of events. Now we have to get the work done.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    SM - baby due in 7ish weeks and I'm more of a good beer, scotch and tequila person.

  • studyzone says:


  • Congratulations on a wild ride and the upcoming baby. Thanks for keeping up with the blog through all that, it's been a great window into the realities of the job.

  • Elyse says:

    I'm de-lurking to say thank you for posts like this. Even with a good advisor it's hard to learn about the process of establishing your lab. You have been demystifying the ordeal and helping me understand junior faculty better.

  • CoR says:

    AWESOME news.

    And, the good beer, scotch and tequila phenotype must be a general one, cause we share it!

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Well done PlS, well done. Way to keep your ideas in play until the slots aligned and the money slipped out.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    You have been demystifying the ordeal and helping me understand junior faculty better.

    We are indeed an odd breed.

    Way to keep your ideas in play until the slots aligned and the money slipped out.

    Thanks. It's a step, albeit an important one. It also lightens the proposal writing load for this month!

  • Genomic Repairman says:

    Yeah big man, keep it going!

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Oh and "just like that" eh? ....I suspect there was a lot of hard work behind that.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Well after all that time, it seemed like it was "just like that". Turns out most major milestones in life are anticlimactic.

  • NatC says:

    How do you sound so...calm?!

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Should I be writing in all italicized caps?

    I'm calm because this news comes more as a relief than it does complete excitement. I don't think any new faculty come in and expect to throw proposals out the window for three years before they finally get The Call. While I believed that I was going to get funded, I think along the way you get jaded to the ups and downs of the funding game because there is a lot of rejection that comes with the successes. And one grant does not a career make.

  • atypical says:


  • [...] wrap up news, I'm kicking in my contribution to the end-of-year summary meme. In a year that the lab landed NSF funding, we compared grad students to honey badgers, had a second daughter and then made sure there won't [...]

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