Academia, Career, Economics, Faith, Neurological Disorders, Pain, Problems to Solve, Spinal Cord Injury, Uncategorized, Writing

Grant Amazing

I  did! I posted again!

Okay, it’s been a long time since my last post. While I feel bad about not keeping up with the blog, at the same time, I have a good reason. I’ve been deep in the bowels of grant-writing.

Science, despite all it’s glorious discoveries and wonders, fails without cold-hard cash driving it forward. In our day and age, money motivates discovery. Almost all our breakthroughs in science have some kind of sponsored backing.

Sad, but true. But then, many of us who are in the field of academic science research are driven by more than simply the need for knowledge fulfillment. Personally, I believe I belong in research (for now). And I love to teach…. which in my position provides me with that opportunity.

Regarding Money

With my desire to propel my projects forward, I’ve stopped nearly all distractions from my ability to devote time and energy to getting a grant. As some of my friends know, I’ve made this a top priority. I firmly believe that the work I’m doing in the lab will have some future benefit as well provide an exciting perspective on the issues of Spinal Cord Injury and Pain. 

A metaphorical image….

So I give myself a pat on the shoulder, because just a day ago I got a phone call from the funding agency that my grant application has been award full-funding for the next two-years.

I’m a young investigator, and this is my first grant funded as the principle investigator. In the course of an academic career, this is a THE milestone toward something “bigger” or at the very least more independent. For a little bit of time, and to a point, I will have my own little research space to study something on my own. This is nice, scary, and exciting all at the same time.

As I move forward, as the quiet margins open up again, I will try my best to continue my ruminations. Writing continues to be a great outlet… no matter the topic.

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Academia, Career, Existence, Philosophy, Problems to Solve, Thinking, Wisdom, Writing

Grants: A Complaint

I’m about to do a bad thing. I’m going to break a promise. (It is not wise to make promises, I’ve heard before).

I’m going to complain.

Grant writing is by far the most frustrating exercise I now have to master–look at that, a sentence that’s too long. It should read shorter:

Grant writing sucks.

It takes up an exorbitant amount of time with no guarantee of reward. It’s like studying for a test in college. Day and night, study, study, study, and you know for a fact that you will have a random grade at the end of the semester.

I love the writing part. I enjoy playing with words. But it’s worse than blogging a post. There’s a judgement at the end.

People hate writing, generally, because there’s that sense of judgement. The style, the words, the ideas, they are all judged in your mind, and those of your readers.

It’s much worse when the writing is a grant where you’re asking for money (i.e., funding) because the judgement is a tangible thing. It is a piece of writing that is judged not only on the writing aspect, but the ideas held within. The ideas must be clear and good.

And so, while you write a grant you are judging yourself.

The problem is there. How is there freedom in writing something when it is under constant judgement?

I don’t feel any freedom when I write a grant. It’s a weight bearing exercise, the burdensome knowledge that I will be judged. I hate being judged. But, I suppose this is the life we live in, where ideas and thoughts are not entirely free, but all come with a cost eventually.

In my field, ideas are cheap until you get paid for them. Wow, I sound cynical! But really, I’m doing this for another reason so it’s not that bad. I was designed/trained to do this job….at least for now.

Okay, back to grant writing.

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Academia, Existence, Faith, Grants, Neurological Disorders, Philosophy, Politics, Problems to Solve, Storm, Thinking, Wisdom, Writing

Ambition

It’s a hard job, being a scientist. This is not a complaint, but a mere observation in the spirit of scientific fashion. It is hard.

I’ve been in different jobs. At this moment, from this vantage point, the biggest difference I see between working in a lab in academia versus the world of commercial business is the competition, the struggle.

In commercial business, the main impetus appears strongest from the outside. Your boss, your client, your project demand your very best. And if you satisfy your boss, your client, and do a good job on your project, then you will most likely do well in your job.

On the other hand, in academic scholarship, the main impetus appears from within. While there are certain external forces that vie for your utmost effort and attention, it is within you that the most demanding pressure manifests.

In this world, there are no deadlines to meet, no benchmarks or milestones except the ones you make for yourself. Hence, if you do not self-motivate yourself, you could float around in the nether until you’re either fired or find yourself in a dead end, low-paying position (relative to your peers 10 years your junior) with no way out because you’re too old.

Now ambition says that relaxing and enjoying your life is a waste of time. Well, I suppose a glimpse into this world of academic science would help people understand how things are done in the scientific world.

There is that internal drive that must be tempered. That internal beast that says you must produce otherwise you’re a failure. I’m sure everyone who has wanted to do well in their career has at one point experienced this monster. I battle this thing so that I can get good sleep at night, enjoy time with my loved ones, and do what I like as a human being.

There is nothing worse than a worker with no soul.

© All rights reserved by Childish Dream

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Academia, Existence, Missions, Philosophy, Problems to Solve, Prose, Storm, Thinking, Wisdom

A Day Off

I’ve slowed down my blogging to focus on priorities in my work schedule. I’m preparing to write a grant and rearing to dive into a new project. Also had a few projects end nicely with publishable results. So in all, April has been a perfect storm of activity.

I sit right in the middle of the eye of it right now.

Calm, but swirly, if I can call it that. That’s how I feel. Whew. Someone once said to me that “…in life, you’re either coming out of a storm, in a storm, or about to enter a storm.”

Brilliant. A bit cynical, but ingenious and true. So, I think I’m somewhere in the exiting part of it.

That in itself deserves a kind of celebration, a day off, and thank goodness I really did get a cold yesterday–had an extra, extra excuse to take a day off. A day off to think, to ponder, to reflect, to gather myself up again; gain those steely eyes and the rock solid determination to slap the next project in the face and find out what’s going on in this nasty disease we call neuropathic pain and spasticity.

My day off… I think I’ll take another one tomorrow. It’s Good Friday, for realz.

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Academia, Career, Thinking, Writing

Out Loud, Mindless

Quick lunch break. Time to blog! 

Today is data analysis day in the lab, which means that I get to sit at my computer for long periods of time, walking the fine line with carpal tunnel syndrome as I push numbers around a spreadsheet.

As it turns out, however, this is a great time to think. You turn your mind off for a while as the numbers move about the spreadsheet (and there are thousands). Then, you have iTunes running, and you can ponder the important things in life.

Things like what you’ll do this weekend when the weather gets better, maybe. Or, perhaps, topics of a deeper nature: why am I alive, and what am I supposed to do with this fleshly vessel I’m made of–though it rot away over time?

I suppose I’m doing the things I’m meant to do because I can’t envision myself doing anything else. Moving forward steadily as it were. Loving the freedom that I can question the problems I see around me; go out, spend a bit of time reading, then designing a way to test what I think is happening. I get to write, think, produce new knowledge (i.e., de novo, from nothing).

My attitude may change, as it often does with any individual. In the future, I know I will bounce around a bit in my own head with the things I want or enjoy to do. But in all seriousness, there’s something so unique about being a professional scholar.

Anyway, just thinking out loud….

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Philosophy, Thinking, Wisdom, Writing

Adverb Power

Today is one of those days when the weather is good and there’s not much work to do (even if you wanted to do it). So, I took a walk outside and drove out to get lunch instead of staying indoors. The weather is beautiful.

Anyway, on my walk I thought about the power of words. I recently had a research paper accepted. The funny point about this is that the acceptance letter had this as a line:

“Your paper is potentially suitable…”. In lawyer speak, this means that we’ve accepted your paper under certain conditions. In my case, these are whether I appropriately make the minor grammatical corrections and that the co-authors of the paper agree to sign off on the final copy (this is a separate contractual document). 

The keyword here is “potentially”, which is an adverb and modifies the verb “is”. That statement has a very different meaning without the word potentially. It would be stated like so: “Your paper IS suitable…”.

I kind of like the utility of the word “potentially”. It gives me the tools to write really provocative sentences; for example:

This work is potentially groundbreaking.

I have a potentially fantastic chance of winning the noble prize.

And, so on…

This blog post has potentially ended–

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Existence, Problems to Solve, Thinking, Time, Writing

Mad March Dash

Wow, I missed a few posts these past few days. The reason? Well, let me give you the bullets:

  • Small scientific breakthrough in my project — surmounted a technical hurdle that has been bugging me for months
  • I had a visit with my doctor and got some potentially bad news (more to come)
  • My car had some issues and requires a visit with a mechanic
  • I discovered an old airbrush in the basement storage that I haven’t used in 10 years or so — I was playing with that on the weekend
  • I’m writing a research paper — a priority over blogging (my apologies, dear reader)

Whew! So, if there was ever a perfect storm, this March is madness.

Stay tuned….

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