I got a DDIG…so I’m going to Sweden!

The National Science Foundation provides many opportunities for scientists at many stages of their careers to receive funding. Last year, I was awarded the NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship, which has been paying my stipend this year and will continue to do so for the next two years. The Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is open to PhD students early in their program (first 2 years), and is a great way to help students focus on their research and not be distracted by teaching and otherwise finding ways to pay rent. But it doesn’t help you pay for your science projects.

To help grad students get their projects finished, the NSF also offers the Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (DDIG). This is a grant made to the university at which the PhD candidate (yes, you must have passed prelims to qualify) is a student, just like any of the big-time grants the NSF awards to professors. It is $13,000 of research money, which the student can use to make their research actually happen. Last fall, I painstakingly wrote a proposal for this grant right after finishing my prelims, expecting to have to go through the process again this fall. Instead, I received a phone call from the NSF telling me that the panel liked my proposal–and all my hard work on the grant was not for nothing! My DDIG is being funded!

Obviously, this is very exciting. What’s almost MORE exciting is that the project I proposed is to take place in Sweden. I get to travel the world for science! That was one of my dream goals when my younger self began imagining herself as a scientist. I’m going to be doing some population genetics on a species of pipefish called Nerophis ophidion, and also doing some behavioral ecology experiments on another pipefish species, Syngnathus typhle. I’m very excited to be able to do some more field work and hands-on work with the fish, not to mention to be able to collaborate with some wonderful European scientists and spend some time in Sweden. I’m leaving in two weeks.

I plan to post about my time in Sweden and my experiences–I’ll definitely post some pretty pipefish photos at the very least!

Your Inner Fish

I just watched the first episode of PBS’s “Your Inner Fish”, which I presume is based on the book by Neil Shubin (which is in my stack of books to read on my bedside table). It is a phenomenal piece of popular science television! I highly recommend you watch it, which you can do here. It is a great introduction to human anatomy, developmental biology, and evolution. It also does a really nice job of demonstrating how science works in the modern era. It presents the quest-like excitement that science can provide, but it also shows the slow pace of progress, the importance of luck as well as skill and thoughtful planning, and how it takes many people and collaborations to make real progress.

I highly recommend checking out the program, maybe in time for the new episode tonight!