Thursday, October 20, 2005

Another big fat notch in the belt

Yesterday we drove down to DC for the day to present our proposed research in front of the Science Advisory Board. And, miracle of miracles, they voted to fund out proposal to the tune of $1,880,000 over four years. Yay! Much rejoicing and drinking of beer followed as all 5 PIs celebrated. In some circles, $1.8 million may not be a lot, but for us it is huge, quite possibly the biggest grant the entire department brought in this year. I'm still in shock. And this happened just in time for my mentoring committee meeting (on Halloween) and in time for me to add it to my package for this year's pay-for-performance adjustments. Life is good.

Also today I submitted my re-worked Career proprosal to the NSF unsolicited category. I'm asking for about $500,000 over three years for me and one co-PI. I feel that this is one of the best proposals I have ever written, and I will be crushed if (when?) it doesn't get funded. I got lots of good advice from my senior co-PIs on the way down to DC yesterday about the "broader impacts" part of the proposal, so I re-wrote that section and took it to one of my designated mentors to look at this morning. He gave me even more good advice (list the undergrads and high school students you have mentored by name and give a sentence explaining their projects). And I even remembered to include the mentoring I did for Chem 200, which is a new class run by the Chemistry Department with funds from NSF for their "Undergraduate Research Center." That ought to help, right? I never really understood that "broader impacts" stuff before. Now I'm finally starting to get it.

I have two PhD students who are trying to finish by Christmas. I doubt that both of them will make it, in fact I think the odds are high that both will miss the deadline and have to pay tuition for next semester. They are both sending me new drafts of their papers every week, which is a little overwhelming for me. But I'm eager to get them out and get their papers published.

My student centered learning experiment in my lab class is going really well. The students turned in their lab reports last week, and then they turned in their grades of each other's lab reports this week. I still have to do the final tallies, but they frequently gave out lower grades than I did for the same lab reports. At least they are taking their grading responsibilities very seriously, and I think they are learning A LOT. Not enjoying it much, but learning a lot. And after all, isn't that what it's all about?

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