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,
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…