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August 10, 2015

Proceedings of the Natural Institute of Science | Volume 2 | SCI-NEWS 12

Desperate for funding, scientists try to include graphene in all their research

TUSCALOOSA, AL – University of Alabama professor Kyra Thompson knows that obtaining grants to perform social science research is difficult, to say the least. That’s why, in an attempt to attract more government funding, Thompson spent this summer brainstorming ways to incorporate one of the newest and most exciting technological advances—graphene, an atomic-scale 2-dimensional sheet of carbon atoms—in her own research on how indoor lighting affects the ability of strangers to enter a conversation. “All I was hearing from my colleagues that work in the hard sciences was ‘graphene this’ or graphene that’, and they were getting funding left and right,” said Thompson. “So, I thought, why not try to apply graphene to my research. Surely, it couldn’t hurt.”

Thompson’s sentiments may actually be correct, according to Science Fashion Consultant Rizz Landers. “Graphene is so hot right now,” said Landers. “The NSF [National Science Foundation] has been all about graphene for the past couple funding cycles. It seems like all you have to do is write ‘graphene!’ and they’ll give you whatever you need!”

That has many scientists, especially those in the soft sciences which tend to get the short end of the NSF budget every year, excited not only for the opportunity to incorporate a new scientific concept in their research, but also to actually get decent money to perform the research. “We’ve been telling all our faculty in Psychology, Economics, Sociology, and Anthropology to try to see if they could apply graphene to their research, even if they have no idea what it is,” said Doug Atkins, a grants specialist at Dartmouth University. “Just yesterday I reviewed a grant proposal that outlined a project looking at the effects of graphene on the ability of scientists studying graphene to say the word ‘graphene’. That one is a sure bet for funding.”

Despite this excitement, Landers is quick to point out that various scientific concepts have gone in and out of style for the past 50 years, a phenomenon that Landers calls the Calvin-Klein-Benson cycle. “Five years ago, you couldn’t get a grant unless you had 'nano' as a prefix or 'omic' as a suffix,” said Landers. “Now, those words won’t get you very far. Unless you’re studying nanographenomics, that is.”




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