I was traveling Keck Observatory with my collaborator and friend, Josh Winn, this past April. We were standing at the rental counter and he was trying to downsize his car to a cheaper model. We had the following exchange when the agent stepped aside:
Me: "Why worry about a couple bucks a day? You're charging it to your grant, right?"
Josh: "Because there's only a finite amount of money in my grant and it has to last 5 years. This is something you'll learn when you move out from under your advisor's wing."
As is usually the case, Josh was spot on. I was used to working for a famous astronomer with deep, deep pockets. Chevy Cavalier? Why not get the midsize? Hell, go for the convertible.
I thought I had been fairly careful with my advisor's money while I was a grad student. But now, a mere 7 months later, I'm on my own and I can recognize that I could have been more thrifty in the past. I now rush to get rental cars back by the appointed check-in time. I book plane tickets well in advance to get good fares. When on the road I shop at the grocery store for lunch, rather than eating out every day. Josh was right, grant money is finite in the real world.
So that brings me to my latest adventures in applying for research funding. At the moment, I'm writing a grant proposal for the National Science Foundation Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Grant to cover some publication charges and so I can go to more than one conference per year. The research funds provided by my postdoc fellowship are nice, but flying to conferences from the middle of the Pacific Ocean is pretty expensive and it costs about $1500-$2000 to publish a paper.
So check it out: the NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Grant. AARG. Yes, the pirate grant! Batten down the hatches, the deadline is Nov 15!
Unfortunately, it turns out that the NSF calls it the AAG. Talk about a missed opportunity. Or perhaps they did it intentionally to avoid the association with plundering and eye patches. Ah well. Wish me luck in going after that research booty.