What I Do All Summer


I absent-mindedly sketched this with a marker, with the intention of doing a clean version later (pencil first, then ink). But I actually like the rough version; it captures the frenzy.

For nonacademic readers: NSF, DOE, AFOSR, and ONR are federal funding agencies that fund research in the physical sciences (NSF also funds biological and social sciences).  SPO stands for Sponsored Programs Office, the university staff that work on grant administration. The F&A rate is the so-called overhead rate and is anywhere between 40 and 70%, depending on the institution. It means that on top of every dollar  you request for research, you need to request an additional 40 to 70 cents, which go directly to the university in order for it to help you do research (at least in theory). PRL, PRB, APL are reputable journals in the physical sciences (PRL is very prestigious and publishes papers across all physics). Nature is a high-profile magazine that publishes research across all fields of science.


  1. Dear xykademiqz,

    Can I ask you a question? I understand for DoD agencies, you need to submit a white paper first. If the PM likes you and your idea, he/she may invite you for a full proposal. My question is: when (like which month in a year) is the best time to submit a white paper? Thanks! Good luck to all your proposals!

  2. Emily, that really depends on the agency and program manager and how much they really want to fund you. If they really want to fund your work but are out of money, they will tell you when to submit the full proposal (usually a few months before they get their agency budget, which I think is in the spring), or you might be able to get small starter grants from fringe money that they may have in the budget.

    The key is to establish a good professional relationship with a DoD program manager, find someone whose interests and portfolio needs are well aligned with yours. However, that takes some doing. First email, then schedule to talk to them on the phone or offer to see them when you travel to DC, tell them about your work and interests, ask about the stuff they are interested in. Then if it seems like they are generally interested in funding the stuff you work on, discuss specific projects and send them a white paper (or papers). But brace for rejection, as most of them have the in-crowd they fund and it’s not easy to get on board. Still, keep doing it, as it only needs to work once or twice, but once you do get in, it’s a great source of funding if you keep the productivity up.

    Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s