Friday, April 3, 2015

How to distribute funds to students?

Since I am new at this, I have been thinking a lot about this: how do I make decisions to distribute funds to students?

My sociopaths brain says that I should just look at  their progress: more number of papers, more successful projects, more funds from my side.

My compassionate brain says: I have to look for other factors as well; for example if some one has 4 kids to support and they are lagging a bit I should still support them with whatever funds I have. I don't want their kids to suffer.

I am sure there are other factors that people take into account when making funding decisions for students. Since I am new at this it took me more than 2 weeks of thinking before I could make summer appointments for my students.

How do you make your funding decisions? and what are the factors that you take into account. Do you listen to your sociopath brain only? compassionate brain only? both?


  1. Noncoding ArenayApril 8, 2015 at 8:32 AM

    The current environment of academia promotes sociopath(etic) thinking. As a junior PI, it is swim or sink for you. Therefore, the same applies to your trainees. However, it isn't always black and white. It is possible to be empathetic toward a decently performing, but maybe not powerhouse, trainee while still keeping your boat afloat. OTOH, if the trainee is not at par, what choice do you really have?

  2. I have only once had a grad student with kids and at that point he was fully funded on my grant, so luckily I didn't think about anyone's kids going hungry... That would be a tough one.

    But now that my group is larger and funding is unstable, I do face the issues of who teaches and who gets a full RA. I have two students from a department where there are plenty of TA-ships, and others are from mine, where TA-ships are rare and cover an ever-decreasing portion of a student's stipend, tuition, and fringe benefits.
    So one thing I consider is that, when push comes to shove, the students from the other department can easily get TA's and I tell them that I make them do that because they can and the others cannot. I am blunt about it and it is what it is. I try to make it fair by having the other students TA perhaps longer term but at a smaller percentage appointment.

    Also, some students are simply more capable than others and can be very productive even when they TA or do something else. For some, perhaps many, having the structure of TA helps break up their days (when they no longer have coursework) and actually helps productivity. Others can barely maintain productivity even while free of all other distraction. If I am strapped for money, I often send those who can take the load to TA or do something else, because I know their progress can take it. It is perhaps counterintuitive, but I think it helps the group progress overall not to strain the weakest links to breaking...