We're a little crazy, about science!

An uncertain future…

Surreal door made from a question mark.

My funding is about to run out. There I’ve said it. The problem is I cannot afford to live without the funding I get from school. If I don’t find someway to gap the issue I could quickly find myself homeless, or worse. I’m trying not to panic, but it is just a little scary to be getting so close to this invisible end. Both my two PI’s have offered workarounds, which may or may not happen. There are some good options, but those may be off the table. It’s complicated, so let’s just lay it all out.

If you follow along, it should be no surprise to you that my funding is running out. I’ve applied (and was rejected) for the NDSEG fellowship (here). I’ve written two proposals, and I ghost wrote one R21 grant with my Co-PI (which I will share the results with soon… hopefully?), but nothing has come through so by this time next month I may not be getting my regular monthly paycheck for the work I do. Once again, a PhD should be funded as in you get paid to do it, never pay for your PhD (more).

Both of my two PI’s (I just love saying it that way because it sounds funny to me) have offered workarounds and solutions to this upcoming doom. My Co-PI has been looking into extending my fellowship since COVID slowed everything to a crawl and has even offered to hire me. My main-PI has funding for me if I can commit fully to his lab again, which I wouldn’t have a problem doing if my research wasn’t so clinically based these days. Plus I really, really love doing clinical work and I want to stay in that environment if I can help it.

I also have another funding proposal that I wrote (here), but the deadline was extended to the middle of August so funding wouldn’t come until the spring at the earliest and that may be a one-way ticket back to my main-PI’s lab. Which I’m trying to avoid since I like the work I do, but there may not be any choice here. Even in the unlikely event that get’s awarded it would be several months too late so in the meantime I need to figure out how to keep a roof over my head and do all the routine stuff I do which requires money (like pay my cell phone bill, or internet bill, or the electric bill, etc.).

At this point it may sound like there’s no problem, just go back to my main-PI’s lab or if I really don’t want to do that let my Co-PI hire me. Out of all the options I have going forward having my Co-PI hire me is probably my favorite choice. It would give me the chance to do the research I enjoy, be paid better, get better benefits, and ironically it would be less work. That’s the thing about being a student, the pay is shit and the benefits are non-existent, so fully committing to my Co-PI’s lab would solve a lot of problems for me. Up until recently that didn’t seem like a good option because we were afraid my main-PI wouldn’t like losing me like that, after all he’s spend a lot of money from his own lab funds and time to train me, but we got his blessing to do it!

Then as luck would have it everything went to shit (here). My Co-PI was offered a new job at a new hospital with a shiny new spinal cord injury unit that would give him more space to do his research in. The space we have now is… inadequate for the work we do to say the least and we’ve fought tooth and nail to get something better. Since the hospital he’s at now doesn’t want to lose him, that could change, but then again maybe not.

Basically my future is in his hands in a way that I don’t think he fully appreciates, but at the same time he has his own future and the future of his family to worry about so I totally understand why he’s having a hard time making the choice. However, time is running out and I need to get an answer from him. Right now he’s on vacation, but when he returns I think I will need to remind him just how soon my funding will be running out and that if he’s going to hire me it needs to happen soon or I will suddenly be living in his office (okay not really, but maybe?) and I don’t think anyone wants that.

If he doesn’t give my main-PI enough time to get my funding figured out with the school I could be stuck for a month or more without the income I rely on to live and I do not make enough to have savings enough to cover a full month of not getting any sort of pay from school. So I’m stuck because if he doesn’t make a choice soon I will be forced to make a choice that I don’t want to make. It’s scary and I think tomorrow I will talk about a very specific fear I have, it’s appropriate to bring that up now I think.

So here’s the disclaimer to everything. After my suicide attempt I’ve had this weird string of luck where I fall up (I’ve written about that here). It’s a little surreal considering all the bad luck I had up to that point. Which ties into my newly decided topic for tomorrow, but that luck is scary. I don’t rely on luck, ever. Luck is outside of my control and if I can’t control something about my life then what’s the point of being an adult? What I am saying is that it wouldn’t surprise me if I fell upwards here too and my Co-PI decided to stay, I got hired on, everything worked out better than I could dream. Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if it went the other way too and that’s the thing about luck, you just never know.

I hope to have answers soon, if not I’ll have to force it. I would be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t a little very scared about what will come next. I don’t do well with so much uncertainty. For now at least, I have to be in the present because everything is fine today; I can worry about tomorrow later. At least until I can’t.


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