Grant Wishes

I suppose I can now call myself a real scientist. I have applied for funding from the NSF.

I’m listed as a co-PI on a Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) grant proposal. We’ve called it Improving the APplied Physics Laboratory Experience, or iAPPLE. The purpose of the grant would be to create a junior-level lab course sequence,

Artist’s conception of iAPPLE.

Artist's conception of iAPPLE.

which hasn’t existed to date. Instead of doing the “classic” experiments, though, students would propose, design, and carry out independent projects. They would have to create mathematical models (using Mathematica, naturally) for the phenomena they’re investigating and produce some sort of physical apparatus of demonstration equipment-level quality. In turn, these would be folded back into the introductory courses, and the lab students would be responsible for assessing the quality of their work as it’s used in the intro classes. Therefore, a feedback loop is created, in which students come into the program and learn from materials more advanced students have made, then they make more materials for the next “generation”. These educational materials would accumulate in our department over time. It’s win/win/win… or so we believe.


The grant-writing process itself has been hectic, especially toward the end. I was gone on vacation for a week, though, so I missed a lot of the slog of writing and editing. I feel a bit guilty about it, but my responsibility in the actual execution of the grant is quite significant. But the last few days since I’ve gotten back have been a constant cycle of re-writes and edits and meeting to talk about grammar and re-formatting. We submitted it today, though, so the pressure’s off. We think we have a very good shot of getting funded. We’re all very excited about the project anyway, regardless of the NSF’s decision.

Now, it’s on to write another NSF grant about starting an REU program here…


2 Responses to Grant Wishes

  1. Brian says:

    Good luck!

    I’ve now written three grant proposals. The first, a year and a half ago, I didn’t get. The latter two are under consideration now; in fact, I have an interview for one of them (a Dutch fellowship) next week. The other is for a similar fellowship in Germany.That one I wrote myself. The Dutch ones were with the assistance of my two advisors here, who both have a stellar track record in receiving funding.

    I’ve been really fortunate to have their advice and learn from their “process”. The main message, simple though it sounds, is: take the proposal really, really seriously. Some people take more of a shotgun approach, or at least serial submission. This is tempting because you can iterate the proposal, editing and improving it each time you submit it again, with the idea that eventually it will be accepted. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with this (a glance at NSF acceptance rates suggests it’s unavoidable, to a degree). In a small country like The Netherlands, though, the risk is in becoming known for sloppy proposals: your peers are, after all, your referees, and they’re likely to see your proposals more than once.

  2. jwambaugh says:

    Hey Brian — Congrats on getting the proposal finished!

    Hey Brian — How did the interview go?

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