Help me make my grad student status good to the last drop.
March 20, 2013 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Graduating with an MS in May, an independent historical research project on my brain, and time. What should I do NOW while I'm still a student?

I'm about to graduate with an MS in biotechnology and regulatory affairs, and there's this fascinating pre-FDA history/bioethics/food safety topic that I can't seem to shake my interest in. Historical research is outside of both my normal field of expertise and the focus of my program, but right now I have seem to have the resources, the expertise, and the time to tackle it... whether the end result turns into a journal article, a publication for a magazine, a book manuscript, or some combination of the above.

My MS program has been part-time and not research-oriented, so while it's a great institution to name-drop, I don't have advisor relationships to leverage (and I'm not on site). Buuuut, even though I'm just getting started on this project, I'm wondering if there are some smaller grant, fellowship, or essay prize type opportunities that I should look into during the next two months, while I'm still officially affiliated with a university as a grad student. I know we've got tons of academics and librarians in the hivemind, so... what should I be doing NOW to put me in the best position to really dig into this project in more detail after I graduate?

Other, possibly relevant information:
* Project will involve building some personal profiles of bit historical players from a human interest side - but everyone's dead, so no oral histories required
* Will likely require some digging in the national archives/congressional record/FDA or USDA historical files (not yet sure how much from this era is digitized)
* While I'm not a historian, I do a lot of ferretting out of information for a living - that said, all my previous research/manuscript writing/grant chasing involves scientists and experiments
* I'm located near the University of Michigan (where my husband's a grad student), and can keep on using their library resources for the next 12-16 months
* I will be talking to some archivists and research librarians, as well
* I've read this AskMe already (useful, but all about post-graduation resources)
posted by deludingmyself to Education (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can comment on the Congressional Record/National Archives part of your question. (Gov docs librarian here.) The Congressional Record is digitized before your time period through American Memory and significantly after your time period through THOMAS. If you have access to the subscription database ProQuest Congressional, now's the time to use it: PQC fills in the huge digitization gap for the Congressional Record, as well as for hearings, reports, bills, and other legislative materials. (Depository libraries will often have the Congressional Record and hearings in print, but they're so much nicer when they're keyword-searchable!)

With NARA materials, you'll probably find that a research trip will be necessary; while some documents and collections have been digitized, there's just so much stuff there, and what's online is often, you know, the Big Important Documents of American Democracy or whatever, not the stuff that researchers will want to dig into. (I'm oversimplifying a bit.) But you can start with NARA's online finding aids to sift through the appropriate record groups; here, for example, are the Records of the Food and Drug Administration, 1877-2002.
posted by 2or3things at 1:05 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm not a researcher or a grad student or anything like that, but I love historical books about food safety, science, etc. (I read The Jungle as a kid and I'm still fascinated by that sort of thing.

I also think that a bunch of the GMO/HFCS additives in the US food supply are incredibly suspect (although I'm on the fence about Golden Rice.)

I have no idea if your book would be up my alley, but I suspect that if you keep it mass-market enough, that it would be.

So...write that book and when you're done, let me know and I'll buy it.

k. thx. bye.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:18 PM on March 20, 2013

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