A Look Behind the Scenes of the Project

Last week, two fellow students and I attended NSF’s PIRE Principal Investigator (PI) meeting Arlington, VA. – just across the river from Washington DC. The two-day workshop was aimed toward sharing updates from the PIRE 2012 grants and providing insights and suggestions to new award recipients.

The sessions started with a student led poster display from the 2012 cohort. We  got a lot of strong feedback for the projects we presented. Some of our work looked at policy scenario testing for low-carbon development throughout China, and another project at explored the discoloration of the Taj Mahal. I think a real appeal toward some of these projects stems from the practical nature of this work – it’s stuff that people hear on the news and may be able to relate to on an everyday basis. It was also pretty cool actually presenting in the NSF main headquarters.

Over the course of the next day and a half following the poster session, we listed to various talks from the PIs ranging from successful tactics in their projects to suggestions to new PIs from challenges they faced. Some that really stuck out to me were the importance of making sure that all international PIs feel an equal part of the projects. PIs also referenced how successful social media accounts have encouraged more discussion and project development. In fact, one group had a class that was done entirely on Twitter!

All the students only had one evening together, but we took the METRO to the mall and explored the area, played catch, learned about the history of the monuments, etc. before having dinner in Foggy Bottom (close to where we stayed in August for the PIRE workshop).

We heard project manager and student feedback, with an emphasis on what the NSF can do better for the PIRE. We also heard NSF speakers give their thoughts on the program as well as statistics about the effectiveness of the program compared to other “similar” programs. It was a really neat tidbit that they shared and findings from the methods — briefly, the PIRE program is doing well J!

All in all, this was a great experience – seeing more of the logistical side that allows us to do the projects we do. I don’t think any of us ever question how much time and effort the faculty devote to these projects, but seeing it from this side (with all of the administrative work that goes into this on top of understanding all the science and formulating project ideas) reaffirms our appreciation to Prof. Ramaswami and all of the faculty who make this all happen.

Playing catch by the Washington Monument

Photos by Zakai (student at UNLV)

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