Monday, June 27, 2005

Bio+Nano = Moolah

Scientific funding tends to depend greatly on a scientist's ability to use buzzwords and key phrases. A few years back, there were huge surges of funding (and thus output) in the areas of biotechnology (including genetic coding and sequencing as well as protein folding and the new "proteomics") and nanotechnology (electronic components with size scale on the order of a billionth of a meter). Once scientists got a whiff of all this money being spent funding on these areas, many of the possibilities were soon exhausted. Next, scientists thought, "Hmmm.... If all this money is being spent on biotechnology and nanotechnology, how much money will they give me to do BIONANOTECHNOLOGY?" This new hybrid, mutant, money-making field was beginning to take over applied research when I started my graduate studies. My masters degree was done on ferromagnetic and ferroelectric materials that could be categorized under nanotechnology. Recently, I decided to apply for a national fellowship that gives a buttload of money to students specializing in "interdisciplinary" research, or, basically, bionanotechnology. I spent about a week writing an impressive proposal full of all the words funding agencies loved and did an interview rearranging these words into new phrases. The feedback I got was that my proposal and interview were very good and I had good ideas. Unfortunately I was lacking in making my proposed device applicable to biological applications. In other words, too much "nano" and not enough "bio". They said if I could find a colloborator more into the "bio" aspect who would be willing to work with me, I would be funded. Last week and this week (and probably next week) I'm looking for these "bio" people. I've learned a very important lesson in all this: you never get to do the research you REALLY want to do. You have to change what you want to do to fit what's in, what's hot, what will get you the most funding. Oh, by the way, the reason I was given this second chance was because there were two openings for funding. Two students that had had this fellowship declined it for their second year. It seems they were offered more money (a buttload and a half) through another fellowhip given by Homeland Security. My prediction is that the next wave of mega bucks will go to projects involving BIO-NANO-DEFENSE-WEAPONS-ANTI-TERRORIST-TECHNOLOGY.

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