We're a little crazy, about science!

The other funding options

I think I would describe my life as controlled chaos. It’s a delicate balancing act of stuff I need to do, mental health, physical health, and just my horrible luck in general. For the past few years my level of panic has been steadily increasing as the end of my funding was getting closer and closer. Try as I might, I have had no luck getting further funding for my PhD and in less than four weeks that dreaded deadline will be here. Which for those who are not students, means I will not be getting paid, my school will not be paid for, and the house of cards I’ve built will come crashing down around me. But there’s still some hope…

As I mentioned yesterday (here) I am applying for yet another grant to fund my PhD! With any luck we’ll get it, but since luck hasn’t been very kind lately I’m not holding my breath. I’m hard at work trying frantically to find other sources of funding and I have some options. A quick reminder, I’m a student so I have very little (see almost zero) savings. Yes, I own a home, which I’m thankful for, but that was bought using a VA loan so no down, meaning no equity in case of emergency (see: right the fuck now). Basically I pay roughly what I would for rent, but I have a home and I get all the fun headaches with homeownership without a lot of the benefits.

I’m panicking because if I were to say lose my main source of income, I would not be able to afford my home and would quickly have to figure out how to sell it before the bank came in and did the work for me. I’ve been homeless, I really don’t want to go back and frankly the experience was traumatic to say the least. We treat our homeless like garbage, worse we treat them like being homeless is somehow their fault, which it’s not, ask me how I know… (more). Like I said yesterday, thankfully I’m not alone and I have my two PI’s, which neither of them want to see me end up homeless, much less being in a position where I could not continue my PhD.

Which brings up the options I was given. Why am I worried about being homeless if I have options? Well let me explain my choices. Since this is my list, we’ll go with my favorite choice and probably the most unexpected one. My Co-PI has graciously offered to hire me as a salaried researcher in his lab. I would get health benefits (no more VA!) for the first time since I finished undergrad (where insurance is mandatory through the school, at least where I was, but somehow grad school doesn’t have the same requirement… odd). I would get paid significantly better, I don’t know how much yet, but I was told it was more than I make now, so considering I would be doing roughly the same amount of work, any pay increase is a good pay increase. My schooling would be paid for, which is awesome and I would have an actual job where I could say I had research experience since school somehow doesn’t count in the eyes of employers (if I didn’t want to go the academic route).

In short, I would have a lot of really great things. It is by far the best option. I am thrilled at the offer, my main-PI has said some very kind things about the fact that it was offered, and everyone is okay with me making the jump. In fact, the hospital is putting the contract together as I write this! Yep things are looking great, so why am I scared? Well there’s a catch, because of course there is. The soonest I could be hired is 6-8 weeks and I’m told that’s optimistic, maybe even overly optimistic. I don’t have 6-8 weeks, I barely have 4 and there is no way I could support myself for the other 2-4+ weeks, plus the two weeks before my first paycheck. There’s always a fucking catch to everything… My Co-PI, the one who made the offer, is trying to see if there is a way to speed it up. Technically I’m a “visitor” at the hospital, but that doesn’t make the hiring process any faster apparently.

Unless something changes, I’m just being teased at this point. Which means I need to have a different option. Option number two is almost worst case scenario. It’s not homelessness, but it would be close. Option two is I go back to working in my main-PI’s lab full-time. This would mean that I would be given a different project to do (which admittedly is a cool project, but I wouldn’t learn anything and what’s the point of getting a PhD if I’m not learning?) and school would be paid for. It also means saying goodbye to my collaboration with the hospital as this would be full-time in my main-PI’s lab, worse it would mean a significant pay CUT. As in I would only be getting 75% of what I currently get, which 75% of a small number is only a slightly smaller number, but I barely survive on what I get as it stands.

In the end option two would keep me from being homeless… for a time. I could probably cut some expenses if I am honest with myself, maybe buy cheaper food, or use less electricity. I already don’t go out to eat or anything like that, so can’t cut what I don’t spend. My finances are pretty lean as it is, so while I wouldn’t be homeless right away, it would definitely push me towards needing to sell my home and trying to find a cheap place to rent. The good news would be I wouldn’t be homeless, I just wouldn’t own a home anymore, which has been a huge boost to my mental health.

Unfortunately the choice may have already been made for me. I can’t go back to my main-PI’s lab and wait to sign the contract, it doesn’t work like that, it’s one or the other, not both. I could go back to my collaboration if the grant I’m working on is funded, which would be the spring term at the earliest (next fall at the latest), but for the next six months to a year my life would be a mess and there’s the high likelihood that my proposal will not be funded. So if the hospital can’t get the contract to me sooner, option two is the only real option I have.

The worst part is I don’t have time to wait and see. I need to figure this out in the next two weeks, BEFORE school starts and my main-PI was being gracious about this deadline since he needs to file the paperwork with the school, so I’ve made more work for him unfortunately. Hopefully it will become clear this week if option one is even a real option. If not things will get bad pretty quickly, but I’ve been through worse so I guess I’ll survive.


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