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Office of Research and Sponsored Programs News and Events

Recent Awards

Join us as we celebrate the success of those faculty and staff who have recently received awards!

Eric Hamilton, GSEP 
Peter Thompson, Seaver
Lee Kats, Seaver
Jeff Baker, Law


  • Interview with Dr. Eric Hamilton 
    • How would you describe your first experience seeking external funding?
      • I was working on my PhD, so it was at Northwestern in Illinois. I think it was a $300,000 or so, and I was the main writer of it, though two faculty members were the main investigators and I was a co-investigator. The project was related to mathematical cognition and problem solving.
    • Was your first proposed project funded?

      • No, but that is when I learned what I guess we all learn – proposal writing requires a lot of concentrated attention. The next proposal I wrote was a solo document and received perfect scores and was funded. I'd like to say that was the beginning of perfect scores for me, but I think that was the last time I received perfect scores. That was well over a hundred proposals ago. Alas.

    • How have your academic interests changed/developed through your experiences with seeking and receiving external funding? Did you feel a need to adapt your interests to meet the goals of the funders?

      • I sought funding from, and then worked for, and now seek funding from, one of the world's most respected government agencies, the US National Science Foundation. It is respected around the world because it seeks to support field-initiated research and has a careful peer review process. Although it requests proposals through RFPs, of course, it seeks to understand the direction of the field and it provides a mix of both followership and leadership. It is responsive and it leads. The first proposal I had funded was in response to a beautifully written RFP, that happened to give words and guidance to things I was doing and encourage me to go in certain directions. I deeply admired the way the document was written. It elicited and guided and helped the applicant optimize their ideas. There is a healthy equilibrium in this use of tax funded research, and no exaggeration to say that it is sublime. Yes, I adapt, but yes, the funders adapt to the community.

    • In your opinion, what has been the largest challenge in seeking external funding?

      • That's a good question. A proposal, especially a large one, has many moving parts and the collaboration of a lot of people. Pulling people together and eliciting their best intellectual effort entails understanding how each piece can fit together and finding the partner's win-win conditions. We need to do that on the smaller proposals, too, but larger proposals need great care in collaboration, logistics, and planning.

        More esoterically, the biggest challenge is to find and experience the dyad of yourself and the words you are writing. For me, a good proposal experience is one where the writing process forces me to dig deep within to bring noble meaning to the text, and put pieces together that are already in my mind. Psychotherapy is discovering, connecting, and expressing feelings that you have, at least in part. Proposal writing is discovering, connecting, and expressing ideas that you have. It is hard work. And it is not devoid of emotion. I have wept on more than one occasion when the words finally made sense and spoke life to me after I put them on paper.

    • You recently received a large award from the national Science Foundations to support your project Research on an International Network for STEM Media Making and Student Led Participatory Teaching. Could you describe how you developed the initial concept for this proposal?

      • We submitted the proposal in November, 2015. The initial concept was first shared in a video conference from my home in January 2007 over a primitive skype-like tool, with African educators seated in my former office as a Visiting Professor in Japan's Hiroshima University. The technology worked for about 30 seconds of a planned twenty minute meeting – the last 30 seconds. From that 30 seconds, we had enough to go on to win a modest grant from Microsoft Research, and the core ideas of that project wove in and out of all my work in the following years. Every new project added some social and intellectual dimension and depth to what was coming. When it came time actually to write the proposal to NSF's Informal Science program, I was not even going to apply, planning instead to go to a different program at NSF. A close colleague and Pepperdine collaborator, though, was already applying to that program, so I decided to try the Informal Science – knowing it is very hard to get funding from it and that I had no experience with the program. The program director was more skeptical of the core ideas than I have ever experienced in a meeting where I ask about the viability of a potential proposal. The proposal was going to be unorthodox, yes, but after nine years of intermittent percolating and preparation, the ideas and vision and moral case for the proposal were well-formed so I was going to go forward, even if he looked askance at the whole thing. In retrospect, his skepticism made me more scrupulous in defending every point in the document, and if he had been cheer-leading from the outset, I doubt we would have been funded. Everything has to break the right way to win these sub-10% success rate competitions against people who have much more experience than I had. His reservations pushed me to be as meticulous as I could. And in the end, he defended the final proposal as vociferously as anyone.

    • Now that you have received this grant, what are your plans moving forward? How might you expand on your current research? 

      • This project is a dream come true, as I have said to many. The main plan is to make it as successful as possible. I have sworn off new proposals for a little bit of time, anyway, to focus on this one. In this project we are setting up collaborative media-making operations in Finland, Kenya, Namibia and the US, studying cultural dynamics when kids communicate across continents on serious science and mathematics. There are so many intricacies in making this work, We must get this project to fly properly and then do the underlying research on it that is the reason for our funding. But we know in the future we will expand the network to more sites and countries, and we have some new plans percolating deeply. Social and economic emancipation, in both wealthy countries and in low income countries, require education and engagement in science and math in ways that have not yet succeeded. The needs are crucial – indeed desperate - and in our projects we are trying to develop and test tools and models to make help make serious progress in that quest.

    • What advice would you give to colleagues interested in pursuing public funding?

      • Sponsored work is extremely gratifying, and proposal writing can be highly rewarding even if not funded. I say go for it. But do it in a stepwise fashion. For newbies, join other projects that are funded or proposals that experienced writers are developing. Work with small funding amounts before going larger. Work closely with the experts at RSP - I know sponsored research offices in universities around the country and we have a truly great one. Talk to the funder and remember that the funder needs you almost as much as you need the funder. Understand what the funder is seeking. Inventory your professional passions, and if what the funder is seeking intersects those passions, write like your life depends on it.

    • Do you have any other comments or advice regarding grant development and research?

      • Make sure each new step learns from the previous step, and don't give up.

  • Expose on Dr. Gary Cobb
    • Grants will take you far. They fund academic dreams and scientific passions. At Pepperdine, grants help build the doors to the new Payson Library. They open the doors to safe, meaningful futures for at-risk youth in the Foster Grandparent Program, and they deepen humankind's understanding of the world.

      Most noteworthy are Pepperdine's internal grant opportunities which not only offer lucrative funding in their own right, but also serve as springboards to external funding opportunities.

      With the support of the internal Seaver Dean's Research Grant, Dr. Gary Cobb, Professor of Music at Seaver College and world-renowned organist, will present three significant recitals during the month of June.

      In celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, Dr. Cobb will perform his first two recitals at the historic Schlosskirche in Wittenberg, Germany, where Martin Luther nailed his famed 95 Theses. He will join other internationally acclaimed artists to pay homage to the Protestant Reformation, honoring Pepperdine's own rich Christian heritage.

      Following Germany, Dr. Cobb will present his third recital in Great Britain at the sacred Coventry Cathedral. Although destroyed during World War II by a German blitzkrieg, the cathedral has since been reconstructed using original pieces recovered from the wreckage, and now serves as a symbol of peace and reconciliation. In honor of these themes, Dr. Cobb commissioned Dr. Lincoln Hanks to write an organ piece, which will premier at the recital at Coventry. Poignantly, the debut of his piece echoes the great Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem", which premiered at the consecration of the Coventry Cathedral in 1962. Dr. Cobb's recitals in Germany and Great Britain honor his musical eminence and share Pepperdine's talent with an international audience.

      In a commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther mused that "we are nothing with all our gifts be they ever so great, except God assist us." May God assist Dr. Cobb as he shares his gifts this June.