Ron Buckmire | Program Director
National Science Foundation
Department: Division of Undergraduate Education
Education: B.S. Mathematics, 1989, M.S. Mathematics, 1992, and Ph.D. Mathematics, 1994, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Career stage: Late—28 years post Bachelor’s
What He Does
There is no typical day in Ron’s job at the National Science Foundation. As a program officer, he spends a significant amount of my time interacting with the public. These interactions are either with people who have already submitted proposals for funding and have received a funding decision or those who are waiting for a funding decision. He also interacts with people who are thinking about submitting a proposal in the relatively near future. He also spends some portion of his day processing proposals that have previously been submitted. One of the most rewarding aspects of his job is being able to tell an investigator that the funding for their project has been approved.
Necessary Job Skills
In order to evaluate proposals that are geared towards improving undergraduate mathematics education Ron needs to have a firm grasp on the mathematics. This is where his 20+ years of experience as a faculty member teaching courses primarily in applied mathematics and conducting research in numerical analysis and mathematical modeling plays a valuable role in his job.
Pros and Cons of Her Job
The best part of Ron’s job is giving people positive news about a funding recommendation he has made. The worst part is realizing that he’s going to have to decline at least 80%of the proposals that are on his (virtual) desktop. Ron also enjoys doing outreach to the community at conference and universities to demystify the NSF and to help people get federal financial support for innovative ideas to improve undergraduate mathematics education.
The federal government has programs in place to try to help employees maintain work/life balance and there are many aspects of the job that help Ron be able to work for the National Science Foundation while sustaining a household in Los Angeles.
Ron’s career just fell into place. Being a professor just sort of happened after he received a postdoc at a small liberal arts college (Occidental) to expose recent PhDs to a teaching-centered environment.
Career Expectations and Advice
“There are jobs out there where multiple aspects of what you are good at can be combined for a rewarding career.”
Students who are interested in and good at mathematics but who are also interested in public policy and communication should realize that there are jobs out there where multiple aspects of what you are good at (technical facility with mathematics and clear expression of ideas in written and oral communication) can be combined for a rewarding career.
Federal government AD-4 salary range is $119,776 to $169,686
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