Sunday, January 30, 2011
And now for some good news
So Kris requested more info about the fellowship I won, and it's about time to bump the break-up post down the page a bit, so here you have it. Working as a scientist in an academic lab is a bit like running your own business. Generally, the institute or university does not provide money for salaries and supplies, it's up to the scientists to bring in their own funding, generally by applying for large grants from places like the NIH but also from private foundations (you know how people do those fundraisers for cancer research and the like? Some of that money does go to researchers like me.) There's no real job security and funding is a constant source of stress. When I was a grad student I didn't personally have to worry about it as I joined a lab with a few years of solid funding, but I saw the way the faculty members in my department constantly worried about financing their research and spent so much time writing grants, the vast majority of which end up getting rejected. I swore to myself that I wouldn't go down that road, that I didn't want that sort of career. But now I've ended up in a situation where I really like my job and my research projects and want to keep them going, so I have no choice but to reluctantly start playing the grants game. I'm fortunate in that my group had some money to get me started and my institute does provide some internal funding for research projects, typically smaller pilot studies that, if successful, can be used to attract more money from external sources. My biggest obstacle is that I'm still very junior and have a lousy CV (I'm not being modest. It's shite.) so my strategy has been to look for smaller awards designed for early career scientists. It helps that my research area is an easy sell: we study pneumonia in children living in developing countries. Now who wouldn't want to support that? I applied for a science and engineering fellowship from the American Australian Association and they ended up awarding me the Morgan Stanley Pediatrics Fellowship for $25,000. Hooray!! It's great news for my project and for my career, as now I'll be bringing in some grant money of my own rather than solely siphoning it off of other people.