Thursday, October 25, 2012

Troubles of a grant virgin....

I am writing, or rather trying to write, a grant application. It is very difficult and quite different from writing a paper. (So I decided to write a blogpost instead first)
I know what is expected from me in a paper. Introduce the study, present your results in a clear way, discuss the results in the context of the scientific field. Also, when appropriate give credit to previous work (references).
But, how does that work in a grant application? There are no results, only plans. So, that means writing an introduction and then present the plans. How far should I take this? The committee is multidisciplinary, so too much details will not help, but maybe there will be some specialists there who would appreciate details. Still, I really wouldn't want to bore any members of the committee. AAAAAARGH!!!!!
Should I use references in the same way as in a paper? I guess not since the grantcommittee will not be interested in all the details. Still, it is good to show that my plans are based in reality and not too outrageously far-fetched.

One thing I picked up from a grant I could use as an example from my boss is that every figure should have a very clear, exciting and colorful message. Maybe I should include some figures from my present work, combined with some figures from papers the lab has published I'm going to work......

Decisions, decisions.....

There must be some people here who have written grants before. What are the do's and don'ts??? I would be eternally grateful ;-)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

People hang on his every word, even the prepositions...

Okay, so that was another embarrassingly long absence from blogging.

The last months have been hectic, both professionally and on a personal level. I have a postdoc (jeej!), so I have to finish my PhD in time. This means: finish my book in November, graduate in April, get to Boston in May. Two papers... two papers is the only thing in between me and my thesis. Two papers to analyse all the data for, two papers to write and then two papers to send off. I know it's ambitious, too ambitious maybe, but I don't really seem to have a choice.

Meanwhile there was a great little conference here in Amsterdam the last few days. The Cerebnet and C7 consortia had a joint meeting right here in our institute. Today was the final day with a few workshops. Together with a colleague I demonstrated in-vivo patch recordings in the cerebellar nuclei. Now I'm waiting for a PCR gel to settle and I can go home and crash. Next week, an old student will visit the lab, so that's another week out of my schedule. Two papers.....

There is one great thing though from the conference I have to share with you. The keynote lectures were done by two emiritus professors: Professor Nieuwenhuys and Professor Voogd.
Rudolph Nieuwenhuys spoke about the evolution of the brain and what that tells us about its function. He is an unbelievable speaker, with his 80+ years he still captures the audience; I never heard our colloquiumroom so quiet. A very clear lecture with clear takehome messages after every few slides.
Jan Voogd then took the audience home, back to the cerebellum. Why is the cerebellum so big in humans? Which zones got bigger? Is this only in primates or also in other mammals? Dolphins for example show a big cerebellum, but this is mainly due to skeletomuscle zones that increased in size. In primates however, the increase is in the non-skeletomuscle parts of the cerebellum.

They must be the two most interesting men in the world!

The best part actually might have been that they both refused to operate the computer, so someone else was advancing the slides for them. This took the pace out of the presentation and it all came across very calm and controlled. Maybe there is a lesson to be learned here for presentation skills!

If you want to learn more about these two absolute legends in neuro-anatomy, you can buy their book! It's a great bargain, just under $100 for about a thousand pages of wonderful diagrams and clear explanations.