Impress us with your grit: apply for small grants when you are a student


Philip Queller studying frogs in Ecuador on his gap year before college.

Grit. It is what matters, along with some altruism, intelligence, creativity, and enthusiasm. But grit is what it takes to get the paper out the door. It is what it takes to finish that Ph.D. It is what it takes to get through all the tasks we have with a smile. It is the hidden element on that CV that you send so hopefully to search committees. There has been a lot of discussion of grit and character strength lately, so you can search the term, and look at this interesting article. Interesting and confusing, really. If you get seriously interested in this, find a social scientist, not me.

But there is no GRE or GPA that measures grit, though it certainly helps for attaining high numbers in each. Grit is not something that gets talked about enough. If I had to pick two characteristics that characterize successful academics from struggling academics, I think they would be grit and collegiality. Oh, and creativity, of course. The best kind of creativity involves a fair amount of risk taking. Collegiality is made up of friendliness and trust, both crucial for having others willing to risk collaborating with you. But at the end of the day, and the beginning, it is grit that gets the job done.

IMG_3005You may wonder about intelligence. Doesn’t that matter? In some ways I would say no, it does not. It is not an explanatory variable of much power among people who have already passed so many intelligence hurdles. So of course it matters, but it doesn’t sort people out much at this point. I hope that doesn’t sound too snobby. What I’m trying to say is you are smart enough. Focus on your ability to concentrate and work hard.

One way you can show us your grit is what this post was supposed to be about until it got hijacked by the grit demons: applying for grants. Even grad students with adequate funding should get out there and apply for small grants that will let them pursue specific projects. To do this you have to be organized, to plan in advance, and to fill out all the forms. The more you do this, the better you will learn the skills researchers need. Oh, and you might get some money as well as some advice from people you don’t know.

IMG_3010Animal Behavior has a deadline coming up soon, so send in your proposals, following the rules and the deadlines, then prepare for the next proposal deadline. Here is the link. Unfortunately it is really confusing as to what the deadline is, when you have to be a member, and other things. Email them.

About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
This entry was posted in Graduate school, Grant proposals, Grants, Managing an academic career and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Impress us with your grit: apply for small grants when you are a student

  1. µ says:

    Grit (= resolve, perseverance despite frustrating hurdles & setbacks), collegiality, and creativity are important to succeed in academia, no question. To this I would add good/efficient writing (for grants & publications) and a knack to focus primarily on problems that suit one’s personality and natural inclinations (natural obsessions?). It is so much easier to do science and muster perseverance if our mind naturally gravitates to – and naturally spends time with – the problems we choose to work on. That is why students tend to produce better science (and develop into better scientists) if they get to choose their own research problems, rather than be handed pre-fabricated projects that are choreographed tightly by an advisor.

  2. µ says:

    Are those erotylid beetles? On Pleurotus?

    • Erotylid. I was so happy when I found them how quickly I got an expert to tell me what they were. I even posted a picture of pleasing fungus beetles on my Rice office door. What a great name that is. I was in insect paradise at Jatun Sacha in Ecuador, loving the wasps first, of course.

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