Top Powerball winner fantasy (of academic scientists)

Jan 11 2016 Published by under Academics

"If I win the Powerball, I can afford all kinds of new domestic help and maybe even figure out how to issue grants to my lab so that I can spend more time publishing papers."

37 responses so far

  • boehninglab says:

    Just had this discussion with my wife last night. I would start my own research institute/biotech company. Much simpler than dealing with academia.

  • drugmonkey says:

    HAHAHAHA. We are so classic.

  • shrew says:

    When the reward sizes have been smaller, I typically say that when I win, I will endow the Shrew Chair of Biopsychology at a prestigious yet welcoming university (?exists?? TBD), and I will be the inaugural holder of said Chair. My postdoc mentor once confided she had precisely the same idea.

    Of course with the kind of dough up for this drawing, I definitely would consider founding an institute, although I may just go Simons Foundation route to avoid paying overhead. The Shrew Foundation would of course always see fit to renew a modest ($2M annual direct cost) award for my laboratory.

  • The Other Dave says:

    I know two recently retired professors who had a lot of family wealth and completely financed their own relatively successful labs.

  • radscientist says:

    HA, I also have the same dream! I have thought I would start my own institute, driven almost entirely by nepotism in order to give jobs to my many friends who are great scientists. And obviously to self-fund my research so that I can investigate all the cool things I am interested in without having to write grants. Of course, the normal path is for me then to remember how much scientific research actually costs and how an average lottery winning therefore wouldn't make a dent in this goal- which I suppose makes this one worth buying a ticket for!

  • dr24hours says:

    It's easy to issue grants to yourself. Start a foundation. Issue grant to university with self as PI.

    Also: take a salary for administrating your foundation.

  • SidVic says:

    20 million endowment. negotiate 10% indirects with university to keep them happy. hire 3 PD at 100k each and 2 techs at 60K.
    Teach 5 lectures in a graduate course. Private institute has drawbacks and inefficient. infrastructure of uni might make it worthwhile to stay associated.

    Oh i plunked down my 10$, notwithstanding that i consider the lottery a tax on stupid people.

  • drugmonkey says:

    The lotto ticket is not just a stupid tax, it is a fee paid for service rendered. The things you are purchasing are the pleasant day dreams of Endowed Chairs, lab slush funds, graduate fellowships and the like. Oh, and of course the fantasy of that bathroom renovation you've been thinking about.

  • Philapodia says:

    Had this conversation with my spouse several times over the last week. The spousal unit said that because she is the one that buys Lotto tickets (I'm too big of a cheapskate) that I would have to write a grant to a foundation that she will set up to get any money for the lab, for tax purposes. As I sleep with the only reviewer, hopefully it's not a conflict of interest...

  • drugmonkey says:

    I thought that most states would consider a Lotto ticket community property? no?

    Other thought: If you take the 30+ (?) year payout option you are betting you won't die. So it seems like what you'd want to do is quick set up a trust and turn that ticket over to it. Then if you die, the inheritors of your trust still get the continued payments, right?

  • Dave says:

    Other thought: If you take the 30+ (?) year payout option you are betting you won't die. So it seems like what you'd want to do is quick set up a trust and turn that ticket over to it

    My tax accountant wife tells me it's always better to take the lump sum and the one-time tax hit and invest rather than get the installments.

  • shrew says:

    Dave is right, based on the Time Value of Money, which every accountant and every rat in a delay discounting task can tell you about:

    http://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/timevalueofmoney.asp

  • Philapodia says:

    "I thought that most states would consider a Lotto ticket community property? no?"

    I'm sure that it is, but I like to keep the spousal unit happy. And avoiding gift taxes will make her happy.

  • becca says:

    We are scientists. We understand relative and absolute risk.
    As a *relative* proposition, you can't fantasize about winning the lottery if you don't buy lottery tickets. As an *absolute* proposition, the odds of winning the lottery from buying the winning ticket are virtually indistinguishable compared to the odds of winning the lottery from having the winning ticket land in your lap when you pick up a banana on the side of the road. Therefore, you can reasonably fantasize about it, while *actually* spending your $2 on a delicious chocolate bar. /happiness maximization strategy

    Also: mathematically, you should play powerball at $490 x 10^6 payout. That's when the ROI peaks, because it's prior to the excess buying due to excess media frenzy (and thus, decrease in ROI due to ties).

    Also, only 9 states are community property states, and I'm pretty sure the same rules apply for cars and lotto tickets. And setting up a trust is great for your heirs, irrespective of whether you are talking cars or billions.

  • Baltogirl says:

    I am waiting for the day a scientist actually wins and does this (sets up their own institute). It is certainly on everyone's mind. I bought a ticket just to salivate over the idea, but I will be almost as happy if one of my colleagues is able to do this. Sadly I suspect too few tickets are sold to this cohort to ever make my dream a reality.

  • A Salty Scientist says:

    Definitely thought about the self-endowment. I'd also start doing "real" science right next to my minions.

  • Craig says:

    I've always fancied buying a large house with a modern lab facility either in the basement or adjacent to it if I won one of these massive jackpots. I'd enjoy life like one of the "gentleman scientists" of past eras--investigating questions that I found interesting without external pressures or a need for funding.

  • jmz4 says:

    For all the crap we give our chosen career path, it is good to see that most of us wouldn't rather be doing anything else if we suddenly became a billionaire.

    I'd set up the Fund for Disgruntledocs, where any postdoc can write an application to have their salary increased to 75k....
    ...but then I'd put CPP, DM, and Ola in charge of picking the winners. Because I'm a bastard.

    In reality, the best thing you could do would be using your new-found social cachet (and cash) to influence high society into forming an even bigger foundation for your research cause. Grab a couple other billionaires and set up a new HHMI, even.

  • dr24hours says:

    Dave (or Dave's wife) is dead right on the math. But the annuity assures you can't blow through it and declare bankruptcy like 95% of windfall cash recipients do.

  • Ola says:

    I'd set up a charity, fo sho, but I'll be damned if NIH type biosci research of the type we all participate is gonna get a penny. Far too many other important problems that need foundation funding - global warming, 3rd world hunger, water cleanliness and availability. Fix those and then you can have your HHMI like glamor club.

  • UCProf says:

    Dave (and wife), when you retire will you take the lump sum payout, out the guaranteed monthly payouts? It's a similar problem.

  • Philapodia says:

    "I've always fancied buying a large house with a modern lab facility either in the basement or adjacent to it if I won one of these massive jackpots. I'd enjoy life like one of the "gentleman scientists" of past eras--investigating questions that I found interesting without external pressures or a need for funding"

    Doc Brown from "Back to the Future" is my hero and what I aspire to be when I win the lottery.

  • Dusanbe says:

    I'd buy NPG and order them to only publish my papers or my buddies'.

  • DJMH says:

    I would choose to do a Zuckerberg / Newark, but successfully, obvs.

  • Dave says:

    The problem with the home lab is getting supplies. I mean you can't get radiation delivered to your house, surely.

  • dsks says:

    Seriously? Nobody here would buy an island and set up a glass floored laboratory over a shark tank in order to study how bring back the dinosaurs? Is there nobody here with any VISION!??!?

  • The Other Dave says:

    Dusanbe: That would be Cell Press, except instead of buying it, the proper procedure is to stack the editorial office with your postdocs.

  • becca says:

    dsks- have you TRIED to get the sharks with frickin laser beams past the ICAUC?!?!?!?!

  • DrGriff34 says:

    I've got a friend who is mid-career in a legendarily great department at a good State U. However, he is having trouble with a funding slump. Since I'm already needing to move my lab (tenure blues), I'd probably just plop my projects into his lab with a nice chunk of cash to tide us both over (I've already fantasy-shopped several microscopes). Since I have a few other friends in the same place, also having funding issues, I might end up as the departmental sugar daddy, kind of like Ross Perot at UTSW.

  • Zuska says:

    A thousand years ago, as a postdoc, a bunch of us had the "what if you won the lottery" fantasy talk. Two of us said: bye-bye science, hello life of leisure in sunny climes + charitable donations + all the books we ever want + personal chef. I think the rest of them were lying to themselves.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Certainly would increase the odds of telling the Dean to take your job and shove it the next time you got mad....

  • Philapodia says:

    "The problem with the home lab is getting supplies. I mean you can't get radiation delivered to your house, surely."

    Doc Brown "obtained" plutonium from Libyan terrorists, so there are ways...

  • Luminiferous aether says:

    @Zuska "Two of us said: bye-bye science, hello life of leisure in sunny climes + charitable donations + all the books we ever want + personal chef. I think the rest of them were lying to themselves."

    Truth.

  • jipkin says:

    fwiw DM everything I've read suggests that if you take the annuity it doesn't matter if you die (well, except for the being dead part) because the payments just keep coming to your estate at that point assuming you haven't made any other arrangements. The annuity is a guaranteed payout no matter what.

  • The Other Dave says:

    FWIW, I think I would stay in my job even if I won the lottery. I like doing science. I like running a lab. I like doing education. I like changing the world.

    I think having millions of dollars would just make me more ambitious, because I would have nothing to lose by being particularly audacious. No more dopey incremental proposals. Fuck NIH and their small minds.

    Being PI is not the sort of job you do just because it puts food on the table. You have to really love it. Because you're competing with people who do.

  • Lincoln says:

    I did not buy a ticket because I rationally calculated that I would not win. I was correct.

    I did click on this because I would do exactly what most everyone has mentioned - set up my own institute! Money (grants) has always been a means to an end, the ability to do more good stuff.

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