Mar 24

Designing a Better Boss

I’m hoping to start blogging here again, now that I’ve mostly settled into my academic job. In the mean time, here is a cross-post for an article that I just wrote for the Optical Society of America’s “Bright Futures” blog, entitled “Designing a Better Boss: Applying a Consultant’s Mindset to an Academic Job.”

Jun 08

Free SBIR Workshop at High Tech Rochester

Sorry for the short notice, but next Tuesday morning, June 12, I will be presenting and participating in a free SBIR Workshop hosted by High Tech Rochester. Full details, including registration information, is available here.

For my part I will be giving a highly-condensed presentation on how to craft compelling proposals entitled “45 Minutes to Impact.” I’ll also probably be on the panel of SBIR winners to talk about my particular experience funding my own research through DoD funds.

(I survived the first semester of teaching and have a backlog of posts… much more soon!!!)

Feb 23

Why I’ve been so quiet…

After a great deal of consideration, I’ve accepted the role of Coordinator for the Optical Systems Technology program at Monroe Community College (MCC) here in Rochester, NY. Rochester is an “optics” town to its DNA. It’s easy to point to the obvious players (i.e. Kodak, Xerox, and Bausch and Lomb), but optics is also critical to the University of Rochester (home of both The Institute of Optics and the Laboratory for Laser Energetics), the Rochester Institute of Technology, and hundreds of mid-size and small regional businesses. Last year I echoed the alarm that the optics industry is starved for talent, particularly skilled technicians. Accepting the role at MCC has allowed me to do something to directly address that problem. It is an honor to have been handed the reins of a program with a history that extends nearly four decades. It’s also a daunting responsibility. I have the advantage of the full support of the college administration and regional businesses, but even so, it requires more than 60 hours each week to prepare for the four different courses I teach while simultaneously working with the college, local businesses, and high schools to build an educational “pipeline” that attracts students, elevates their skills, and transitions them to careers.

Needless to say, DIEHL RGS is not accepting clients right now. Currently I’m directing people to my colleague Lory Hedges who, like me, is a grant-writer with an engineering background. I’m happy to introduce people to her, or direct people to other resources.

The good news is that I have summers off, and I’m hoping to do one or two proposal projects during those months. (If you want to be one of those projects, best to speak up now… ;-) )

Furthermore, I’m tentatively scheduled to teach a 4-hour intensive grant-writing workshop at SPIE Optics+Photonics in San Diego in August. We tested the course at Photonics West in January, and it went over well. It’s highly interactive and (believe it or not) a fun experience. If you’re planning to attend the conference, definitely check it out.

Thanks to everyone who supported me in making this decision. (And sincere regrets for the four projects I had to decline during January.)

Dec 31

Starting from “Why?”

My friend Len Bland at Concept Equity sent me a link to Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” presentation for the 2009 TEDx conference in Puget Sound, WA. The talk is inspirational (I’ve never seen a TED talk that wasn’t), and it’s particularly relevant to small businesses trying to secure their place in the market. Separate from that, it’s also great advice for writing successful proposals!

The core of Sinek’s message is that, before you can inspire someone to follow you or buy your product (or financially back your research) they need to understand why you want to do this thing. Grant-writers need to remember that proposals are not selected by software algorithms—they’re appraised by people. Yes, you need a solid research plan and a reasonable budget and excellent credentials and brilliant ideas, but frankly every decent proposal has those things. To really stand out from all the other exemplary research competing for the same pool of money, your passion for the work needs to seep into the words and push them off the page. That’s why, when starting a proposal, step #1 is always “Target the proposal to the needs of the agency.” To do this, ask yourself why do I want to do this work, why is it important, and why should this funding agency care? If you build your proposal outward from “why”, you will find that “how” and “what” will follow naturally.

 

 

Nov 21

Mars Needs Lenses

I just heard that some of my friends at Optimax are heading down to Cape Canaveral this weekend to watch the launch of the new Mars rover, Curiosity. To learn more about Optimax’s contributions to the new rover, check out their recent newsletter.

Oct 06

Steve Jobs: Live Before You Die

 

 

 

 

I promise not to get caught up in the deification of Steve Jobs, but anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been a serious Mac geek for decades. In 2005 Steve Jobs gave a speech at Stanford entitled “How to live before you die.” It’s wonderful.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 26

NAVAIR SBIR Advice: Part 3 of 3

Understand the Review Process

(Part 1 and Part 2 published previously)

The “SBIR Program” is not one thing. Each government department (NSF, DoD, NIH, NASA, etc.) has broad latitude in structuring its own version of an SBIR program. Furthermore, within large departments like DoD, each agency (Army, Navy, etc.) has its own rules. Even within an agency there are idiosyncrasies in how the proposals are reviewed, meaning that NAVAIR has different internal policies from NAVSEA. Dan was kind enough to share some insights into how NAVAIR reviews topics, and I’ve distilled those into three points. Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 16

NAVAIR SBIR Advice: Part 2 of 3

Be Brief

[Part 2 of my three-part interview with Dr. Daniel Harris of the Navy Air Warfare Center in China Lake.]

The title says it all, folks: Be brief! A clear and concise proposal will stand out from those that press against the length limit. Dan says he receives as many as thirty-five proposals for each SBIR topic; furthermore, he frequently has two or three topics in a solicitation round! Even after weeding out proposals that are obviously unresponsive, that’s a huge pile of proposals to review.

Dan’s advice is, “Say what is most important to know, and don’t go beyond that.”

Aug 16

See me at SPIE Optics + Photonics 2011!

This coming Sunday I will be teaching a grant-writing seminar entitled “45 Minutes to Impact: an intensive seminar on crafting compelling research proposals” at the 2011 SPIE Optics + Photonics conference in San Diego. It’s part of the free Professional Skills Workshop. For more information, click here.

I will be at the conference all week.

Hope to see you there.

Aug 08

Cool Tech: 2011 NASA Innovative Advance Concepts Fellowships Announced!

Back in May I wrote about the rebirth of the NASA Innovative Advance Concepts (NIAC) program. Today NASA held a press conference to announce the winners. NASA announced all sorts of cool stuff including fantastic science-fiction projects like:

  • deflecting space debris using pressure waves in the atmosphere
  • fabricating spacecraft using 3D printers
  • using metallic hydrogen as a propellent

Now, all of those things are reason enough to celebrate NASA’s re-entry into “innovative advance concepts” research, but what’s got me really excited is that my client Grover Swartzlander is on the list! Back in January Dr. Swartzlander earned a lot of well-deserved attention from the scientific community when he published the discovery of “optical lift” a new method for manipulating objects using light. Optical lift has the potential to revolutionize  micro- and nano-manipulation of objects in much the same way that the discovery of optical tweezers did forty years ago. On a larger scale, though, Dr. Swartzlander posited that the same principles might apply to steering and stabilizing enormous structures, such as solar sails. NASA agreed that the concept has the potential to solve a number of technical challenges faced by solar sails and granted him a Phase I NIAC fellowship. I need to let the dust settle, but you can expect a full “Cool Tech” article on this soon!

 

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