Thursday, December 01, 2005


I got excited recently when I had the opportunity to submit a research proposal for some funding from the biology department at school. I wrote a brief proposal for an ecological survey of urban bats in San Francisco. One of my ecology professors edited it into a really great proposal. I knew it was unlikely that I would get the whole thing funded (bat recorders are expensive toys) but I thought I might get some help. Plus, going through the process helped me see that I don't need to wait until I get a PhD to actually do science. I could start doing it right now. How exciting is that! You already know where this is going, don't you. Last night in my email inbox was my first rejection notice. Not particularly tactful, the message informed me that that although 40 proposals were submitted, they could only fund 30 of them, and not mine. No reason was given. I was invited to re-submit the proposal next spring, when they will allegedly give previously-rejected proposals higher priority. OK. Thanks for telling me just exactly how much my proposal was not great after all. Being a science student, I can do that math. Ouch. It's actually even more painful that that. Since I knew I was unlikely to be fully funded through school, I was hoping to apply for a student grant from Bat Conservation International. I noticed that the annual deadline for applications is December 15th. What excellent timing! (well, not exactly, that's finals week.) It's really scary to apply, since this proposal would be considered by actual bat people, but I was up for the challenge. Then I read that I also needed to submit three references by that date. I knew it would be hard to get three busy scientists to help me craft the proposal in that time. But I sent off some emails to people I thought might be most likely to help anyway. And.... nobody answered. Intellectually I have known that there would be an emotional cost to forging my own path. I've had enough vision to see that it's possible to do what I want to do rather than follow the paved road. But it's one thing to conceive of another path, and a different beast entirely to actually deal with the burrs and stickers and poison oak I will surely encounter while trail blazing. Thick skin would seem to be in order. When I ask myself if I still want to do this, the answer comes back unambiguously yes. The validation would have been great, but there is some part of me that knows it is not necessary. It's really scary to keep putting my foot out there for another step, but the ground always rises to meet me and somehow I still just know it's the right way. So. Let's go back to the part about how I don't need to wait until I get a PhD to do research. All is not lost here. I will buy the equipment myself. I will spend some time over the break to do some more work on my proposal, without the stress of submitting it to BCI. I will re-submit the proposal in the spring. I will tune my ears to the sound of truth, and follow it wherever it leads.


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