Archive for the ‘meetings’ Category

Bumping Meetings

Do you have a general rule of thumb when it comes to holding or bumping meetings? What type of meetings do you feel okay bumping? What kinds of things do you bump meetings for?

Noncommittal

So, I had my meeting with the department head yesterday to discuss the future of the observatory. I was hoping for an indication of whether or not I can still push ahead and develop an education/outreach program for the facility. As you might guess from the title of this post, I did not get an answer either way.

During the meeting, held with another professor in the department who is supportive of the program, the head brought up a few of his concerns. Each time, either I or the other professor had a reasonable answer. Yet, by the end of the meeting the head was still not convinced the initiative is worthwhile, and I got the feeling he will never be convinced but doesn’t want to be the one to say “no”.

Where does that leave me and the program, then?

Well, he wants to discuss it more in another month or so. Before then, he wants us to come up with a proposal that outlines what outreach can be done at this observatory that can’t be done on campus, how it can be tied into the priorities of the department (research and student recruitment), what we need in terms of support, and what our plans are to prove the viability of the program.

If you’ve been keeping up with this particular sub-plot of my life, this might sound familiar. About a year ago, I was asked to write a very similar document.

In addition to the proposal, the head also wants us to prove the viability before he commits any funding to the project. This is a Catch-22, because we’re not allowed to use the facility before December 31st. But, if we wait until after this date there is a whole host of issues that arise: I’ll be on maternity leave; the weather is awful until about the end of March; the telescope won’t be maintained (and so will basically degrade); etc..

So, here I am again – I have to decide whether to jump through another hoop, or just give it up already. On the one hand, writing the document won’t be too difficult or time consuming. So, jumping through that particular hoop won’t be particularly onerous. On the other hand, a year ago I told myself I would give this project a year, and if nothing comes of it, then I should move on.

I have put a lot of time and energy into this project (for free), put together a draft of a business proposal, put together a steering committee, ran two very successful events this summer, and still haven’t been able to convince anyone to give me the full go ahead. I’ve done everything that’s been asked of me, and still no progress.

Is it worth it for me to jump through yet another hoop? Maybe after this, I’ll actually get backing from the head; or maybe another hoop will appear and I’ll have to rethink this whole thing again.

Lots to consider (but nothing at the same time). I’m not going to rush into any decisions right now. I’ll just sit on it and see how I feel in a week or two.

Meeting

Tomorrow (Tuesday) I’ll be meeting with the department head to discuss the possible future of the nearby observatory slated to shut down at the end of the year. Two other professors, who are big supporters of the program, will also be there (which I am grateful for!).

I’m not really sure how it will go. The head seems to be supportive of outreach stuff in general, but I think he’s hesitant about this particular project for various reasons (funding, technical support, etc.).

In the end though, all I want is either a yes or no to go ahead with the program after December 31st. If he says yes, then that’s great, and we can start going to other university VIPs with the knowledge we have the backing of the department. If he says no, then that’s honestly fine by me too. I know I have done my best to create awareness of the observatory, the two open houses this summer were a success, and I did all I could do to keep the facility open. No regrets.

Stay tuned for an update!

PS: It’s our two-year wedding anniversary today! Happy anniversary, honey 🙂

The Perimeter Institute

Yesterday, I went to visit a fellow blogger at the Perimeter Institute. For those of you unfamiliar with PI, it’s a theoretical physics research institute that was created by the founder and co-CEO of Research in Motion (RIM), Mike Lazaridis. RIM is famous for inventing the BlackBerry.

Anyway, after getting lost along the way, having to call DH to guide me to PI (there was construction all over the place!), parking in a random lot, not being able to find an entrance to the building, and being an hour late, I found Bee!

She took me on a tour of PI, which was very cool indeed. Definitely the nicest physics building I’ve ever seen! They had a gorgeous library, little nooks with seating and blackboards everywhere (I wish I took photos of the boards, as they were all filled with equations and diagrams – much like you would expect at a theoretical physics institute), and people talking physics in the hallways.

We also talked much about the paintings put up around the modern, airy, building – some were gorgeous, some were…well…I didn’t know what they were until Bee told me! Again, I should have taken photos. She also showed me the gym (empty), the children’s play area (empty) and the racket-ball court (also empty). I’m sure they get used more in the winter!

The PI is undergoing some massive renovations – well, renovations is an understatement. They’re basically doubling the size of the building to accommodate all the new students and researchers. Right now, there are random desks in the hallways for some of these unfortunate souls.

Fig. 1: A model of the current building (white)
and the addition (brown).

After the tour, we walked to a nearby Starbucks and had coffee (she has a “usual” – how cool is that?) and chatted about our careers, work places, and husbands. Unfortunately, because I was an hour late, I could only spend a couple hours there, but it was a great visit.

Thanks for having me, Bee!

It’s in My Hands

Well, the big meeting today went relatively well. Really well, actually. There was a lot of good discussion, and in the end it was decided to go for it. Better yet? That I should go for it. That, if I raise the money, this program will be mine (all mine!! Mwahahaha!!).

Ahem.

Of course, that puts the whole thing on my shoulders, but I’m willing to put in the effort to try and get this program off the ground. Education and outreach are my passions, so to be able to do that for a living is something that I at least want to take a shot at.

The first thing to do is to start finding sources of funding, and start applying like mad. Another idea I have is to get a private donor to buy the name of the observatory. Any takers?

A Big Meeting

Tomorrow afternoon I am meeting with a few key professors in the Physics & Astronomy department. I will be outlining my ideas for an outreach program centered around the university’s telescope (which is scheduled to be shut down this Fall). Then, as a group (hopefully), we will decide whether this program is worth pursuing.

I’m nervous, and for a few reasons:

1. There hasn’t been a ton of support to keep the observatory open. During a departmental meeting, when the faculty was asked if they cared about the observatory being shut down (in order to save money, of course), most people didn’t even flinch. The good news is the people that do care are younger, bring in a ton of money, and seem to have quite a bit of power in the department.

2. Two of the people that will be at the meeting have been using the observatory almost exclusively. Therefore, they pretty much have the reign over the thing, and it might be hard to convince them to convert the observatory from a research facility to an education & outreach one. The good news is one will be retiring this summer, and the other probably will in the next few years. So, it’s hard to justify keeping it as research-only just for them.

3. I seem to be the last line of defense for the observatory. If this program doesn’t go ahead, then the observatory will surely shut down. However, if the program does go ahead, I want to be in charge, and I have a feeling that will be met with some resistance (even though no one else is willing to step up to the plate). Not sure what the good news is here.

It will be interesting to see how this meeting goes. I have met with each of these people individually to discuss this project, but am getting conflicting messages: what they say to me and what they (apparently) say to others has been different. I figure if I get them all in one room, then there will be no mistake on who says what.

I will post an update tomorrow – keep your fingers crossed for me!

Like Day and Night

I apologize if the following isn’t as succinct as it could be. I am learning how to write in case people I know read my blog, instead of writing so that people don’t figure out it’s my blog. A whole different ballgame!

I had meetings with two people over the last two days. Both were to discuss a similar topic, but boy, were these meetings like day and night!

During one meeting, I felt that my ideas were no good, not relevant, and that I could not come up with a project without help from someone more senior than me (even if I know more about the subject at hand). The most frustrating part was being told that my idea was “okay”, but if I did what they wanted me to, it would be much better and more well-received. Plus, if I did the latter, I would have a better chance of getting funding* (because it would greatly benefit certain units at the university – not because it would be a “better” idea).

During the second meeting, I felt nothing but support, that I can be an independent researcher, and that my ideas are worthwhile. The most wonderful part was being told that it’s far more important to do something I love and that I’m passionate about, than to do something someone (higher up) wants me too, and that my ideas are relevant to many other people.

After I finished my PhD, I told myself that now is the time to find what I really want to do with my life. What am I passionate about? What excites me? What would get me out of bed in the morning with a smile on my face? There are a few things (which I’ll discuss in another post), and one of them is a new (non-astronomy research) project I’ve started to work on.

I finally started doing something I love, and I’m happier than I have been in months…maybe even years. I really don’t think I’m going to let someone dissuade me from continuing forward with it because they have ulterior motives, even if it means I can’t get funding from them!

Some big changes are coming, and hopefully soon. I’ll be able to pursue my interests with no time constraints and, best of all, no guilt and no one telling me what I should be doing.

*I don’t mean that I won’t be able to get any funding if I work on the project that I want – just that it would be harder to get funding from a particular unit at the university.

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