We're a little crazy, about science!

A meeting with my PI

It’s a treacherous path, but one I need to take

Well I may have overestimated how fast I could get the data processed from yesterday. I have it basically done, but I was up until almost 2am getting it to that point and I didn’t have the energy to start the analysis so that’s going to happen today. Instead of sharing my excitement for a second day in a row I thought I would share some news. I got an email back from my PI and tomorrow we are meeting.

This morning I woke up to several emails, one of them from my PI and another that was not so good news. We can get into the second email another day, but for now let’s talk about my PI. First, for those of you not in academia a PI is the primary investigator of the lab, they are the person in charge. The role of a PI is to run the lab, dictate the research, guide students, and help find funding. That last one is probably the most important even though it should be guiding students.

After the presentation I did (read more), I was told I needed to give feedback on how I felt the presentation went. I’m probably extra critical of myself so I gave back a horrid review of my performance and said that I would need to work harder for the next time, which now that it’s over is all I can do. I also asked if we could meet to discuss my progress in the program and the next steps I have.

He agreed in a one line email to meet with me tomorrow at noon. I was hoping for something a little more substantial, but that’s how my PI works and while it takes some getting used to, I know that I can’t read too much into the brevity of the email. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts I’m trying to plan for my future. I have several funding routes that I’m working towards, one is a grant I wrote for my PI, the other is fellowships.

All of which will allow me to do the research I’m interested in. When you bring the money in you get more control over the research you do, that’s basically how it works. While I can’t go off on a complete tangent, if I bring in the funds I don’t end up doing research that is specific to funds given to me. It’s a slight distinction that is important when you get into academia. If you have a very specific idea about the research you want to do, you need to know where the money will come from to fund it. Because chances are if your PI has funding for you, there’s some sort of project attached to that funding.

That being said, I’m still somewhat in search of my own funding. I have some now, so that isn’t an issue, but it was only two years of funds. Those funds run out at the end of the term so I’m working on getting new funds set up. My meeting will hopefully address some of these concerns so we can talk about where the grant is and if it will be/has been submitted. I haven’t heard anything back since I sent it off to my PI at the end of October, so it’s been a little bit now.

I also need to discuss the timeline for my proposal defense. I would ideally like to do it ASAP so I can formally state my research. Now I could theoretically do it as late as the term before I finish the research, we’ve had people take that path before, but I want to do the more traditional route and basically do it at the start of my research and not near the end. My PI needs to agree with my timeline before I start involving my committee in the process of selecting a date. Basically this is partially an administrative meeting to make sure I don’t do something silly like start a process my PI doesn’t think I’m ready to start.

The hope is that tomorrow I will get good news and a green light to start writing my proposal and setting the date formally to do the proposal defense. It’s going to be a bit of work between now and then, but I have new and (hopefully once I analyse it) interesting data that will help me make the case that the work I’m doing is valid and worthy of a PhD. Now a proposal defense isn’t supposed to set you up to fail, it’s supposed to help you plan for the next steps so you don’t end up spending 10 years on your PhD (which is actually the maximum time my school allows). So it’s not as stressful as the qualifying exam and certainly not as stressful as doing your PhD defense. It’s a minor, but important step to make sure that everyone is on the same page and to make sure your committee knows what your research is and what the end goals of that research are.

I don’t know how tomorrow will go, but I’m hopeful that my PI will agree that I’m ready, give me the okay to start my proposal defense procedures, and if I’m lucky we will submit that grant! I’m not sure about the last part since that’s a lot of moving parts, but I’m hopeful that overall things will go smoothly. Fingers crossed! The scary part is I won’t know until after I make tomorrow’s post, so you won’t get to hear that outcome until the day after tomorrow. It’s all a bit anxiety inducing, but what else is new!


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