As you may or may not know, I recently spent three months of my pre-tenure sabbatical doing math research in Paris. This was, in large part, thanks to a grant I received from the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM). In this short blog post, I just wanted to advertise the AWM travel grants, and in particular the AWM Mentoring Travel Grant, since the deadline to apply is quickly approaching (February 1).
The Mentoring Travel Grant is ideal if you have a specific mentor (established, senior mathematician) in mind. This is a perfect opportunity to work closely with someone for an extended period of time (the travel grant is intended for one-month stays). I got the grant to work with Leila Schneps at the Institut de Mathematiques de Jussieu on a brand new project (for me). I had met her many years ago at an Arizona Winter School and was still interested in the material we had discussed. When my sabbatical was coming up I approached her about a possible collaboration and was very lucky she was interested too. The travel grant allowed me to pay for my plane ticket, one month’s rent, and a per diem. I was able to add two more months of rent thanks to an internal grant from Bates College.
The experience was what I imagine a (very short) postdoc would be like. Because I was there for three months, we met once or twice a week and the rest of the time I would work on my own. This allowed me to be independent but also gave me the chance to get in-person feedback and have fruitful discussions. We sometimes figured out more on the board in one meeting than during the whole previous week. I guess that the big difference between a “mentoring” experience and a regular collaboration is that you are not just working on research with someone, you are also learning to be a more confident and independent mathematician. As someone who skipped the postdoc and now works at a small liberal arts school, this was certainly something I needed. I am no longer in Paris (alas) but I am still working on the project we initiated there, and feel very confident that we are going to get good results. A caveat: the mentee has to be female (although the mentor does not).
The AWM has other travel grants, intended for specific things like attending a conference or a workshop. It also has two travel grants focused on mathematics education.
In short, since this grant allowed me to have an excellent research experience, I thought I would spread the word. You still have about ten days to apply if you’re interested. But beware, the application is pretty involved so get started right away.