Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Absolute Longest Couple of Weeks

It's that dreaded time of the fall semester. That time when just about everything seems to be coalescing. Conferences, applications, class assignments, exams, etc. etc. I fared pretty well myself over the past few weeks, at the very least I don't have exams, nor am I doing any grading. For that, at least, I'm thankful.

Last week I was away at a conference, however, during the past three weeks I was also working on a fellowship proposal. This was one of the few conferences where I actually got work done; when I wasn't at a talk or a meeting, I was holed up in my room writing. I just applied for a STAR fellowship through the environmental protection agency. The EPA STAR grants provide up to three years of tuition and stipend support as well as $5,000 a year for research. I'm hoping to get this fellowship for when my current funding ends, otherwise it's back to teaching and grading to support myself and looking for research money elsewhere.

The application had many parts to it, including a five page research proposal, a personal statement, my resume, and three letters of recommendation. I feel pretty good about how the whole application turned out, and I think it's pretty strong for a first submission. We'll see if others agree with me, I guess. Many of my friends are also going through the hell of grant writing. It's just that time of the year: mid fall, everything is due. Several friends were writing NSF predoctoral grants (which, sadly, I'm not eligible for because I have a master's degree) and a few were writing a doctoral dissertation improvement grant (DDIG), which is strictly for research money, not stipends or tuition.

After getting through the past few weeks, I'm finding myself extra agitated at the people you hear going around talking about how scientists are scammers, out to get rich off of research money. Rick Perry comes to mind especially, and after all the work and thought I put into just trying to get a piddly amount of money to stay fed and do work, I really would love to punch people like him in the face. These people are liars, ignorant, or some sad combination of the two. I'm certainly struggling to find research money, as is everyone else I know, and I'm certainly not living it up in my little apartment near the war zone of Albuquerque. I suppose maybe the implication is that scientists shouldn't get paid to do research, or that research expenses should come out of my pocket somehow. But research is a real job, and it would be like asking a teacher to pay for textbooks or a McDonald's worker to pay for the fryer. Ridiculous. Incidentally, many teachers DO pay out of their own money for supplies, which like I said, is ridiculous.

After next week I'll have more time for getting some writing done. I have a class presentation on Tuesday in my paleoclimate seminar, and a lab group presentation on Wednesday. I'm going to be talking about past climate change, and changes in wild fire frequency and vegetation. I have no idea what I'm going to present to my lab though, probably what my new project ideas are for the upcoming year. I don't have data, but I have lots of interesting questions that I want to start working on. I came back from SVP with lots to think about.

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