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Other Short leaves of absence with the NSF GRFP?

  • Thread starter Dishsoap
  • Start date
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Hey fellas!

I'm wondering if anyone here has experience taking a short (~1-2 month) leave of absence while being funded by the NSF GRFP.

The longer version is that I'm eligible for a medical deferral, as I'm taking care of my mom while she is in home hospice, 800 miles away from my (experimental) PhD program. However, I'm also in the middle of my tenure (my last funded year will end May 2020). My advisor has informally let me take time off (when her life expectancy was days-weeks), but at this point I've been gone for a month and the poor guy is still paying the portion of my stipend/tuition that the GRFP isn't covering, and my mom is still alive but needs my help. In order to take a leave of absence from the program (so my advisor can stop paying me), I need to change my GRFP status.

My university has a particular person appointed to handle the GRFP students, however they're being pretty unhelpful, telling me that I cannot change my tenure status in the middle of the year.

After talking to an administrative person at my university, it seems like one option is to leave the program (which is apparently different from a leave of absence?), which will then cancel the remainder of my GRFP. However, I have two non-NSF nine-month fellowships which I will forfeit by doing so.

I can guarantee I'm not the first person to be in these circumstances, so I thought I'd reach out to see if anyone knows of a solution. Unfortunately, when I left I didn't know that I wouldn't be returning (her cancer spread incredibly quickly), and so I wasn't able to sort these things out in person.
 

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The unfortunate answer is "medical deferral" is your only option for staying in the program. NSF is part of the federal government, and the government sure loves its rules - it is more important to be "fair" than just about anything else.

Worse, your advisor is taking a bit of a risk in continuing to support you if he is doing so on research funds. The federal government is paying him to hire a student and if the student is doing research, that's not good. If it's weeks, nobody cares. If it's months, his PM will see this in his progress report.

Some universities keep a pot of money on hand to deal with these issues. It would usually involve going up the chain: department head, dean, provost or VPR.
 
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I understand that medical deferral is the only real option, but by the time I am able to change my tenure status to medical deferral, I will have been back at work for months. Frankly, I'm shocked that there's no way to change my tenure status in the middle of a "tenure year". I would expect that I would forfeit the rest of my tenure, but not that I would be literally unable to change it.

I didn't know if it would be worth going up the chain, but I will pursue that, first by contacting the DGS. Thank you!!

Edit: Your point about my advisor being at risk is a great one. He doesn't seem to be concerned about letting me have time off "for free", but I suspect that he should be, which is why I'm exploring these options.
 
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I don't know much about grants and stuff and how they work since I've never applied for one myself, but is it possible for you to work on some software stuff while you're away and attend your weekly group meeting via zoom or something? I would expect your research to require some data processing which you probably can do remotely. If you need someone to take data in your lab, maybe you can ask other students in your group to help you out?
 
1,001
299
I don't know much about grants and stuff and how they work since I've never applied for one myself, but is it possible for you to work on some software stuff while you're away and attend your weekly group meeting via zoom or something? I would expect your research to require some data processing which you probably can do remotely. If you need someone to take data in your lab, maybe you can ask other students in your group to help you out?
Unfortunately, being a hospice caretaker doesn't lend itself well to accomplishing much else. My available free time, ability to focus, and amount of sleep are all in short supply. Also, I would never dream of asking my labmates to take data for me, and the data processing I have to do is minimal.
 

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