An Unwritten Rule

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, also known as NSERC.

Today felt terribly unproductive. After last week – a week filled to the brim with meetings – you’d think that I’d have jumped into the day filled with a spunky1 sort of go-get-em attitude.

Not so. In fact quite the opposite. I woke up this morning completely and utterly exhausted. Fortunately it was an exhaustion that I was expecting given yesterday’s long bike ride2. I fully expected my legs to be tired, and I fully expected to be trudging along a little slower than normal (and that most definitely was the case – I can’t even begin to tell you how tempted I was to use the elevator today3).

But, my brain was also off. Focus was lacking. Reading anything with academic weight was taxing5. Writing anything more than a simple tweet was an exercise in, um, something…something bad. Gah! WAKE. UP. BRAIN!

As you can see, productivity was a goal at the end of a very long and dark tunnel. I’m pretty sure I’m still in the tunnel – possibly walking backwards.

To make matters worse, today was the day that I had set aside to focus on my NSERC6 grant application. Of course, since focus was essentially non-existent you can imagine how successful my NSERC grant writing was. I started by updating some of the standard NSERC forms – a task which I deemed easy enough – a warm up if you will. Given that simple forms were a challenge7, I probably should have just called it a day. I trudged on.

Unwritten rule of grant writing: beer is required.

Trudging on meant actually getting to the meat and potatoes of the application. That is, what the hell I plan to do over the next three to four years. I sat there staring at my computer while a million questions started flying through my head. I started scribbling on pages. I started scribbling on my whiteboard. I started jotting down notes on my computer.

After all of that scribbling, you’d think I’d have come up with some sort of cogent program description – or at least the framework of one. Sadly, this was not the case.

Fortunately all was not lost. I did spend some time finding some up to date articles in the general research area in which I plan to work. I also have a list of questions that I would like to answer. The next step is to somehow synthesize these things into a logical and productive research program.

How am I going to do that?

I have no idea, but I’m sure beer is going to be required.

1 Ugh. I can’t believe I just used the term spunky. I clearly need to turn my brain back on, because there have to be better words than spunky.

2 83 km! W00t!

3 Ultimately I took the stairs4. Of course, I wasn’t exactly happy about my decision, but I know it was the healthy thing to do. That’s got to be worth something, right?

4 Several times throughout the day. One does need to take coffee breaks.

5 Well more taxing than normal.

6 NSERC – Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada – is one of the three major granting agencies in Canada.

7 Thoughts while filling out the forms:

  • Hmmm, surname – that’s a last name, right?8
  • Wait, current position means “What is the student doing now?”, not when they were working with me.

8 I wish I were kidding.


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