Sunday, November 2, 2008

Roller Coaster...

Friday was an incredible exhausting day. It started out in neutral, so to speak. I had to call a bunch of granting agencies/foundations and leave messages/speak with assistants to arrange phone calls with program managers for next week. I managed to successfully orchestrate that, so I was pretty proud of myself.

I was chairing a student symposium for the department which was from 10am-3pm, and there were industry judges and both an oral and poster session. So, at 9:30, I left my office and went over to the hall where it was. (Note, extensive planning had been done in the weeks leading up to this to enable me to just "show up"). I brought the judge's gifts with me (and they were awesome, by the way). So, from 10-3, I got to meet with undergraduate/graduate students, which I really enjoy, and learn about a lot of research going on in my department - which was also useful. And we had Halloween cupcakes. This was one of the admin assistant's ideas - which I strongly supported - and they were great.

Around 2:30, we announced the winners of the symposium (presentations and posters) and one of my students won the poster contest, which was awesome!

And, about 10 minutes later, I got an email from DARPA, saying that my grant (which I submitted in August) had been positively reviewed, and would now enter into contract negotiations - ie, I got a grant! I am planning a party for my group for next Friday.

At this point, I think it was a good thing I had on heels (which I never wear and therefore, they make me virtually immobile), because they kept me from jumping up and down and screaming.

After the whole symposium wound down, I went back to my office, and shot off a bunch of emails (namely to my post-doc advisors about the DARPA grant). Then my department chair called.

As back story: When I arrived, I had one person filing my grants (who was awesome). Then the chair hired a new person - who knows less than I do, if that is possible. I asked to keep the first person. (Let's call this person AP - for awesome person. We can call the second person CP - for crappy person.) Apparently, CP's job was to file grants for everyone in my building to let AP file grants for everyone in the other building. AP couldn't handle both buildings - which I completely believe. Therefore, I had to use CP.

AP has been doing this forever and would semi-proof read my grants - make sure I hadn't forgotten something obvious, like an equipment justification section, or make sure I wasn't asking for an obscene amount of money in comparison to other other grants recently awarded. This is stuff I didn't even think of (the latter) or know how to write (the former). Now that I know to do this, I will. But AP's experience is really helpful.

AP thought this was unfair (a new professor working with a new grants manager - essentially the blind leading the blind), and continued to file my grants. My chair found out, and got pissed. I requested to meet with him (in person) to discuss this next week. He opted to call - conference with everyone - at 5pm on Friday. Not surprisingly, it turned nasty. I'll just stop here.

Then at 5:30, I had a meeting with a professor in another department to discuss teaching - this professor has won lots of awards in teaching and volunteered to meet with anyone who wanted advice. He asked how my experience was going so far. I said it was okay. He asked how I liked my department administration. It was like he read my mind - bizarre. I pseudo-lied, and said I liked my division - I love my dean. And, as this prof is smart, he said what I couldn't say - that my chair is a grumpy ass, but his term is also limited. So, as long as I get along with the dean (whose term isn't limited), then I should focus on that, and somewhat ignore the chair (obviously not ignore - but keep my eyes on what is really important). We are meeting again next week to actually talk about teaching.

Well, a lot of other stuff is also going on, which is probably obvious as my blogging is getting more and more sporatic. But I felt like I needed to at least give a feeling for the rapid emotional roller coaster that occurs in a single day. The ups are much much higher, and the downs are much more pronounced than when I was a grad student or post doc. So the total swing is just more exhausting. I'm sure I'll develop a coping mechanism of some sort, but I'm just not sure what it is going to be or when it is going to kick in.


Candid Engineer said...

Congrats on the DARPA grant! That's great news.

Anonymous said...

WHOO HOO! par-tee. this is one of those occasions where shoes really do matter... jumping in Naughty Monkeys would cause some breakage. Tevas work best for hopping around like a grant-possessed crazy woman.

I'm slowly churning out a proposal and I'm elated to have a business manager who is a godsend.

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog and I'd like to say you are great!!!! Congratulations on your DARPA grant!!! I know very few people who get grants in their first year on the tenure track, so you are really good! You applied for a lot of grants already, this seems to be the way to go. I am also a female assistant professor of engineering at a large (public) university and I can completely relate to your stories. Regarding the downs in your days, try to ignore such details as much as possible. Just focus on achieving your goals, which you will surely do!!