The Plight of the Post-Doc


Extreme Makeover: Blog and Grant edition

While y'all were down in NC this weekend at ScienceOnline2010, meeting each other IRL and watching videos of duck penises**, I was home in rainy New York with an icky cold and a grant to revise.  Naturally, I found it the perfect opportunity to teach myself a little HTML/CSS and start watching Lost.  Inspired by Biochem Belle and her blog's fancy new look, I checked out BTemplates for something that felt more like me than the standard Blogger template.  I found one that I almost liked completely called "Extreme Georgia," and then through lots of trial and error figured out how to tweak the font and colors to better suit my liking.  HTML is the sort of thing I imagine is actually super easy if you have even the tiniest smidgen of baseline knowledge, but with zero, I assure you, it is quite boggling.  But persevere I did, and as you can see, OTM:FTTT is now different, but similar.  Didn't want to freak anyone out; did want to incorporate my favorite font (Futura--coincidentally, same font as Lost logo!).

With that and 10 hours of fuselage, polar bears, and SECRETS SECRETS OMG SO MANY SECRETS!!!! under my belt, it was time to turn my 20-page, 5-year K99 proposal into a 2-page, 2-year NARSAD proposal.  This is not just a little fat-trimming here, we're talking major surgery:  face lift, eye job, tummy tuck, lipo--the works.  I had to pick out the sexiest parts of the K99 and sculpt them into a perfect, tight little package of hot science that could feasibly be done in two years.  Not an easy task, no indeed (how excellent is this expression, btw? I was so confused when I first heard it, back when the SfN meeting used to be in New Orleans)

Now, I could have just gone and taken Specific Aim 1 from the K99 and called it a day, but let's be honest:  Specific Aim 1 is the boring Specific Aim.  Oh sure, it sets things up, lays the groundwork for things to come, but as a self-contained idea is often lacking in hotness.  If I'm going to get some clinically-relevant, high-impact-style data out of this grant, I've gotta go straight to the money shot: Specific Aim 3.  Luckily, my proposal was not set up such that I needed definitive answers from the first two Aims in order to do the third, so I didn't need to re-work things too much.

But two pages, man, that is KILLER.  I think the last time I had to write a two-page anything was in my freshman writing course, which occurred during the Clinton administration (first term).  Add in the fact that I'm restricted to just 10 citations, and I basically have to find someone who's done my exact experiments already so as to keep my methods as succinct as possible. 

Painful though it may have been, I think writing this grant was a great exercise.  When you're so constricted, you're forced to be clear and to the point, rather than blathering on about the entire history of your field and how monumentally important your research is.  Your ideas need to speak for themselves, rather than you speaking for your ideas.  This is going to prove incredibly useful the next time I apply for a grant from NIH, which recently cut the page limit of its grant applications in half, much to the chagrin of long-winded scientists everywhere.  But for me, 6 or 12 pages is going to feel downright luxurious!

**Hot damn did you love those duck penises!  Twitter was so full of your tweets during Carl Zimmer's presentation I'm amazed "duck penis" wasn't a bona fide trending topic.  For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, click the "duck" link at the top, and scroll down to the video.  It just might blow your mind.


biochem belle said...

Two pages?!?! I had to write a 2-pg research proposal for a training grant app... but that's nothing compared to this.

And kudos to your dabbling in html :)

Candid Engineer said...

Not an easy task, no indeed

Uhh, maybe I'm retarded, but what is so awesome about this phrase? I feel very neutral about it.

Congrats on getting the application out. :)

Becca said...

You are not retarded; I am, I think. Or I just haven't spent enough time in the South. I have this memory of being in N.O. and asking someone a yes/no question, and getting a "No, indeed!" response that was so cheerful in tone that neither I nor my friend could tell if she meant "yes" or "no". It then became our top expression for a while. In writing, however, I concede that it is actually quite clear what one means.

Candid Engineer said...

Haha, okay. Not retarded then, no indeed. :)

Anonymous said...

i'm going through this as well for a one-year (200k€) three-page high-risk grant.

ugh, boy does it suck.

LM said...

Wow, two pages is really short. Must be one hell of an application though.

PS. I like the new blog look. Mostly. Not sure about the 'recent posts' title at the top. Overall it's spiffy though.

PPS. That duck penis totally blew my mind.

Becca said...

You know, LM, I never really thought about that "Recent Posts" thing, but now that I look at it, it seems a little odd. I'm going to take a peek at the html and see if I can do something about it. Thanks for the feedback!

Kendrick said...

I enjooyed reading your post

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