Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lab trajectories

Labs go through boom-and-bust cycles. I've been on the downhill side, seeing a formerly high-flying lab lose major funding, half the trainees kicked out or running for the hills. In the last few years, I saw and heard of more and more labs losing funding, downsizing or shuttering altogether.

During graduate school, I did my Ph.D. in a stable, middle-of-the road lab. That lab had gone apparently gone through a hairy period before I entered it, but it was pretty stable when I entered. Years after I graduated, that particular lab is still doing well, and still pretty much at the same level. It is neither expanding or contracting--it seems to have achieved a nice steady state.

Then there are the labs on an explosive trajectory. I think I may be soon entering one of these.

Several months ago, our research institute made available a large sum of internal funding in support of high-priority institute goals. PIs were invited to submit applications. It was a mad scramble, very similar to the craziness that occurred for the NIH Challenge Grants. And like the insanity that was the Challenge Grants, it seemed that everyone here submitted multiple applications for the Internal Pseudo-Challenge Grants.

Last night, the word came down on the internal grants. My current boss, sadly, did not get any of his applications funded.

But Hot Young PI, with whom I plan to work next year, did very well.

Today I had a meeting with Hot Young PI to discuss my career grant application with his lab. He'd e-mailed me to say that he had some exciting updates to share. I wrote back that I'd already heard of some of them.

Me, walking into his office: Congratulations! I heard you got 6 out of 7 internal grants funded!

PI: Oh, not really. (Slight pause) It was 7 out of 8.

Me: agog and speechless.


Interdisciplinary Introspective said...

My advisor let it slip at group meeting a few weeks ago that we have $2000 PER DAY to spend over the next five years. Then, yesterday, he announced that we received another grant for $150k per year for the next five years. It's nice to know that my job is secure (although I'll be graduating soon anyway), but I do have to wonder grant money is being distributed in the best way. I mean, can we really expect to spend what is now $2500 per day for the next five years?

The bean-mom said...

Wow, yours sounds like a well-funded lab. Although I don't know what's typical in your field?

After years in science, I still don't have a grasp on how much it actually costs to run a research laboratory. Of course it depends on the number of people, the types of experiments being run, equipment costs, etc etc... but I still have no good idea, for instance, of the operating budget of my current lab or any lab I've worked in. When you think about it, that is really strange..

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

7 for 8 is a great ratio! It sounds like very exciting times...