Saturday, January 31, 2009

interests and advisors

I originally applied to UBC to work with Leo at Big Natural History Museum. In order to do that, I had to have someone else at UBC willing to co-advise me (Herb). My intention was to bridge their research interests and work closely with both of them. As my project ideas have developed, however, my research becomes more and more like Herb's and less and less like Leo's. When I met with Leo to discuss my prelim proposal, he pretty much said, "Well, you're conceptually out of my realm of expertise, so I'll contribute what I can to the big picture and taxonomic advice."

This revelation is a little bit sad for me because I really like Leo and I think he's a great advisor. I wonder how my project ideas might have developed differently if I had spent most of my time last year at the museum instead of Herb's lab.

Then, there's Sam. I don't think I've written enough about what a tremendous influence and resource Sam has been. Last year I want searching for a field site to do what I wanted to do, and I was introduced to Sam. After an hour of talking with him I was completely sold on working at his site. Not only does he have tremendous knowledge of the area's natural history (stuff you just can't find in books about East Africa), he has similar research interests, is a native Ukenzagapian, and has tons of contacts. He could just tell me things that I spent weeks trying to read about a different African field site. Working with him is the difference between scrounging for natural history crumbs in 50 year old articles and having the answer (or at least an educated guess) just an email or phone call away.

Sam also happens to be one of Herb's students (have I explained this before? I can't remember), so his research ideas are well within Herb's realm. The fact that I am working at Sam's field site, not Herb's, means that Sam's advice is extrordinarily important. He is effectively a third advisor, though technically he is an outside committee member since he's at another university. But the extent to which Sam is involved in my research endeavours begs the question of who should be the PI (Principal Investigator) on the DDIG or DDIG-like grant that I submit after my prelims. Normally it would be Herb. It could also be Leo, but that doesn't make sense for my project. Can Sam and Herb be PIs with me as a co-PI? I need to talk about this with Herb.


Albatross said...

My first thought is Herb. Since they go through research offices and Fastlane, I would think that it has to be at *your* institution. You can have Sam write an additional letter of support though.

Keep in mind that you have a section to explain how your research contributes to the PI's research plan and but also how it is independent. I got docked on mine because my research had very little to do with my advisor's major long-term projects.

Shannon said...

You probably won't qualify as a PI since you aren't faculty. I would agree with commented #1 on who to choose and letters of support.

Karina said...

Hi Shannon! Welcome to the blog. It's my understanding that graduate students are listed as co-PIs on DDIG-type grants. The grants are written entirely by grad students (with advisor editing and support) but a faculty member must be listed as PI.

I think Albatross is right about the PI needing to be at my institution. I just wonder if Sam should be another co-PI.