SfN Day 2 - Grant advice, Glenn Close

Nov 14 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

Original post date: Nov 14, 2010

I am not what you’d call a morning person. At all. I am often struck with the firm conviction that if I could just sleep until 10 every day, life would be perfect. I’d cast off the shackles that bind me to the Keurig machine, I’d be less grumpy; I’d be a paragon of productivity. Alas, I am not a freelance writer.

But the cool thing about coming to the West Coast when you live on the East Coast is that you are automatically a morning person! It’s brilliant. I woke up at 7 am Saturday feeling totally fine, and I was so happy I’d be able to make one of the career workshops-- “NIH Funding for Your Research, Training, and Career Development,” which started at 8:30.

This workshop…it was only OK. For the most part it was a run-down of all the different funding mechanisms and in what situations each is appropriate, most of which I already knew. One thing that was continuously emphasized, though, was to contact your Program Director before you apply, since each IC may vary a little in how they define the scope of each mechanism. The speakers kept reiterating that the PDs job is to talk to you, so you shouldn’t feel like you’re bothering them. However, they also noted that you shouldn’t just call and say, “I was told to call you.” Have some questions ready; be able to describe your plans so they can help you find the right mechanism.

A couple of other notes: first, early career investigators are discouraged from applying for R21s and R03s—shorter proposals aimed at high risk/reward and exploratory work. They may seem less intimidating to put together than an R01, but they are harder to get funded and the award itself is far less money than an R01, so we’re much better served going straight for the gold! Second, when the parameters of the initiatives to promote diversity were discussed, the speaker made it clear that being a poor grad student or post-doc did not qualify us as “disadvantaged.”

After the workshop I met up with Tideliar and we headed to the main ballroom for the Neuroscience and Society lecture with Glenn Close, who was here to talk about her mental illness advocacy group, BringChange2Mind.org. In the past, I haven’t been all that impressed with the N&S lectures, but since we were here, I figured there was no reason not to check it out. Hot damn, am I glad we did.

Close hit it out of the park. She moved seamlessly from light self-deprecation to passionate, eloquent storytelling, and her message was crystal clear: there is a stigma surrounding mental illness, despite the public’s awareness that just like any other “traditional” disease, MI is biological in nature. The mission of BringChange2Mind.org is to eliminate this stigma.

Part of this process is to help people who suffer from MI to feel unafraid to speak out about their condition. As examples, Close’s sister and nephew each spoke about their own struggles with mental illness. Their stories were incredibly powerful and so, so inspiring. I left feeling overwhelmed but at the same time completely invigorated and ready to dive into the meeting; this is why I’m here. This is why we do The Science—to help real people with real diseases. And the more we discover through our research, the more we help groups like Close’s succeed at changing the public’s mind about mental illness.

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