Today I met a university instructor who works in the area of materials science and engineering. She is also a guitarist and a maker of guitars. These interests combine in the following way. Her students work on projects that involve, for example, curing of finishes on instrument-grade wood. Then they travel to the factory of a leading guitar manufacturer where they present their findings to engineers and designers. During their on-site visit they stay not at a hotel, but a rented vacation home where the bond that forms among students lucky enough to have this experience is strengthened by the shared living arrangement.

The university knows about this activity, it’s been written up on the website. What the university doesn’t know, it seems, is that this instructor has been unable to land any funding to support these trips. For five years she and a collaborator from another school have paid for travel and lodging — their own and the students’ — out of their own pockets. Which, in her case, is more than a bit of a stretch.

What do you do when you hear a story like this?

  • Rail against a system that does not recognize or support some of its truest heroes.
  • Point her to Kickstarter.
  • Celebrate the human spirit.
  • Give her a hug.

I’m going to skip a) because life’s too short and it’s boring. b) Done. c) Done. d) Flubbed my chance but I hope to fix that.