I do research. In fact, I consider it to be my primary activity in my job and lifestyle as a scientist (not the least because I hardly ever switch off that part of my brain), closely followed by teaching (my employer is also an educational institution), and then “other”, the latter encompassing a wide variety of things described (and to be described) on this blog, and including this blog itself.
I don’t get paid to do all of the above, but I certainly get paid to do research. The Department of Energy is the primary supporter of my research activities, and so every now and again I have to tell them what I’m up to and why, and what has come out of my activities. All such supported individuals have to do this from time to time, and it is part and parcel of an active researcher’s life. It also
ensures helps to ensure not just support for oneself, but for the young people in the group who may also be supported on the grant, such as students and postdocs.
Well, it’s that time of year. I have to contribute to a report. It came up rather by surprise, in fact, since it was only earlier this year that the funds from the group’s recently renewed grant began to flow again. I’ve been busily writing a paper this weekend, and so I had to drag myself away from this, break the mood, and try to create a more reflective mood. Basically, I had to sit and think about the following:
“What have I been doing over the last year?”
“What was the outcome of these efforts?”
“Where is this all going?”
“How does it fit into the program of research that my agency supports?”
Well, these are rather heavy questions (there are several subsidiary ones), and so to get into the mood, I relocated, as I often do when I want to change my mood. The sun came out (finally) and I so decided to pop over to the Huntington Botanical Gardens for a bit of a think and a scribble of the first draft of what I’lll write in my report. This involves driving to San Marino and being gently reminded of how the other half lives (it’s a very very very posh neighbourhood/city (forget Beverly Hills)- median household income is something like $134K, I saw in the newspaper today), and then arriving at the lovely grounds, housing the gardens, the Library (Newton exhibition on now, by the way), and galleries. Have a look at their website.
I’m actually a member there -merely a “sustaining” one, not a “sponsoring”, or a “supporting” one, nor a “patron” or “benefactor” (names of their membership levels!)- which means that for $100 per year, I can walk in for free and don’t even have to wait in line with the “great unwashed” (I reluctantly admit that this is not their name for non-members!), and I can even get in one guest -my mum this time- for free too. Given that it is $15 per visit for a non-member, and that I like to regularly pop into nice gardens for a look around or just to think, and that I have several visitors per year come by who will want to be taken there, the amount of money I save this way is clear, even by the reputed standards of string theorist’s computations of real numbers.
So I sat there for a while and reflected about how to answer the DOE’s question “what have you done for me lately?”. Of course, I left the card for my camera in my computer at home, and so could not take the pictures of the remarkable variety of palms I wanted to show you (see earlier post), but I did have my mediocre phone camera, and so you can see a bit of my view, and one of the benches on which I might have sat.
Well, best get back to writing about my raison d’etre. I know I’m still to do a post about what it is I’m up to in research. I’ve not forgotten.