We're a little crazy, about science!

The two year countdown

Yesterday was exhausting! In the end though I had a meeting with my school-PI (I think that’s as good a nickname as any) and we discussed what my timeline is and when I see myself graduating. A lot of what we discussed revolved around the funding we just got and the fact that I’ve just taken a new job doing research full-time in a clinical (see: hospital) setting. The talk went well, he’s been supportive of the fact that I took this job and even though it’s caused some friction between school-PI and hospital-PI (formerly main-PI and Co-PI respectively) things are settling down some and I’m hoping to find some minor and probably temporary stability in life.

For those super confused I gave a good breakdown about how we got to this point yesterday (here). Since a lot of things need to happen between now and when I graduate my school-PI asked me to give him my timeline, as in where I felt I was and how much I had left. Based on the discussion, I think he wanted to make sure that I was being realistic with my timeframe. So I told him that I want to graduate in two years, which is the end of the grant we just got.

Thankfully he thinks my goal is realistic… with a caveat.

My project is big, really big. He recognized that and offered to bring someone on the project to help me accomplish everything I want to do in the timeframe I’m hoping to get it done in. Data collection is going to take some time, so he’s going to be taking on a new grad student or maybe even a postdoc to help me collect the data and do some of the data analysis. I’ll still be the lead for the project since this is my baby and my dissertation, but having another set of hands to help will make my life so much easier and really makes this all feel more doable.

There’s still a lot to be done. I need to write the IRB, which is just the document that the university approves so that we can to do the experiments. We have to list what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, the benefits to the people doing the experiments, benefits for others/science/etc. The point is to show that we’re not harming people, that we have thought out the risks and we’ve come up with a plan to mitigate that risk. Thankfully, the lab is non-invasive so our research is pretty straightforward, so I should have the IRB approved in the next two or three months.

Since the project will be starting soon, I should be doing my proposal defense soon as well! Quick breakdown of what that means. The proposal defense is a formal meeting with my committee (which I already have thankfully) to go over the plan for my PhD dissertation. I will go over the rationale for what I want to do, the need for what I want to do, how it will contribute to science, and more importantly, the timeline for doing the project. Since my school-PI already signed off on the rough timeline I proposed, I suspect that the committee will agree that the timeframe (with the added help) is appropriate. The goal of the committee isn’t to fail me, it’s to make sure I succeed and they are people I picked myself, so they know me, I know them, and they are excited to see what comes out of this.

The project is going to be very high risk. I talk about this a lot, but mostly because I want to remind myself. There’s a good chance that it won’t work, but if it does it will be a very cool outcome. I’m very excited to answer this question and with the promising results I found in my qualifying exam and some of the interesting results in the subsequent experiments, so far nothing has been a failure. The catch to that is that nothing has been a definitive yes, this is a thing. I’m a little nervous because we just got this funding and the people who gave it to us will expect results of the positive kind. As in success, but I hope that we made it very clear that this is high risk in that failure is a probable outcome.

I mean in the big scheme of things and budgets, it’s not a lot of money. I understand that logically, but to me it’s a ton of money. I want to have a good outcome, especially now that people just gave us this gift to figure out if what we proposed actually works.

In the meantime, between now and when we start (probably some time in January or February) we have press releases, planning, and a ton of coordinating to do with not just the stuff on my school side, but with our collaborator that just joined on for this proposal.

I still hate this time of the year, but I’m glad that I got some good news and that my school-PI thinks that my timeline for graduation is realistic. Now, I just hope that I can hit it!


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