being a scientist right now...sucks
I have been thinking a lot about long ranging planning, the funding situation, etc. I have had some good talks with my mentors and sr. faculty. Given how bleak things are right now, it is clear to me that I will have to have a small lab. There just isn't enough money to keep a large lab going. This is unfortunate because I have several ideas that I think are really good and I know that I can handle a larger lab, but I just can't keep it funded.
The way that NSF grants are right now one grant will only fund one student (100k/yr including overhead). NIH grants are better, but the average age to receive an NIH grant is 42 (I am 32) and it frequently requires several revisions. Since I am only on round 1...well...it is unlikely. Even the young investigator awards are extremely competitive right now, probably because no one can get funding anywhere else.
This decision makes me a little sad. I probably won't take any new students for 2-3 years. But I think it is the right one, for my sanity at least. My senior colleagues are by and large doing the same thing. Many of them are downsizing to 1 or 2 students. I am told that this can work well because you have more time with each student, and I certainly hope that it turns out to be a good thing. Right now, I think that is just where we are.