March 21, 2013, 12:38 pm
The other day, a colleague asked me if I would help her with a writing task. I declined, saying that I had to focus on the grant applications that had to be reviewed in the next two weeks for my National Institutes of Health study section. She sighed and said, “It seems as though you’re always doing grant reviews.” (In truth, I do them about three times per year.) Then she asked, “Why do you do them? They seem like such a huge time investment for such a little payoff.” Since she asked, I answered. (That’ll teach her, eh?)
I review grant proposals, in part, because I see it as an important service to science. There’s a constant need at government agencies for experienced reviewers who understand a particular area of research; when the NIH’s Center for Scientific Review first invited me to be a reviewer, many years ago, I was honored to be considered eligible. I still feel that way and …
January 30, 2013, 1:44 pm
Over the years I’ve been asked to serve as a mentor or adviser to several new faculty members or to pre- or postdoctoral trainees who hope to embark on a faculty career. For those who are fortunate enough to obtain a full-time position, the immediate (and continuing) challenge is one of balance: making sure that everything gets done and that the right things get done in the right amounts.
It’s not easy. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, promotion-and-tenure criteria are often vague about how much teaching, publishing, and service work is enough. But one issue has come up often with mentees and has been a topic of discussion among many others who have interests in faculty development and success—the allure of service work.
For academics with a deep love of the profession, it can be hard to resist the many service opportunities that arise: students ask us to advise them,…
January 7, 2013, 12:38 pm
Occasionally, I receive e-mails advertising workshops that provide grant-writing assistance. Those e-mails usually say something about how good grantsmanship “isn’t something they teach in graduate school.” Perhaps I was fortunate, but I actually learned a lot about grant writing in graduate school and my early postdoctoral years, and that training has yielded results throughout my career. What I really wish I’d gotten in graduate school, however, is management and supervisory training.
During my career I have served as director of a clinical-psychology service in an academic health center, as a principal investigator of grants with 10 to 15 staff members, and as an associate dean with several staff members who report directly and indirectly to me. All of those positions require supervisory and project-management skills.
While the organizational and interpersonal skills that I…
September 7, 2012, 12:59 pm
Last week I met with a colleague who will probably become my collaborator on a new research idea. We’ve been on the same campus for a couple of years, but until recently we never talked about our work. He does basic psychiatric research, studying brain-behavior relationships, and I focus primarily on sexual risk reduction, especially in high-risk populations.
During our conversation we found some common ground not only for our research but also for a training program that he administers, and I felt the familiar excitement that comes when myriad ideas for new projects start percolating all at once.
As sources of money continue to shrink, and interdisciplinary research is given a high priority by many large agencies, finding new collaborations is not only a good way to stretch as a scientist, but also a necessity for many. The emphasis on translational science at the National…
August 15, 2012, 3:18 pm
The knock on my door didn’t sound different from any other knock, so I had no idea that my day was about to get much better. My mentee walked in. She had been my doctoral student and was now my colleague, thanks to an unusual set of circumstances that had led her to start her academic career at our university. As a result, she had been working hard to diversify her experience and her scientific network. She was also submitting grant applications and multiple manuscripts to journals. That day she walked into the office, emitting a kind of radiance that made my heart leap.
“I got the grant,” she said with a giddy laugh.
As I leapt from my chair and shouted, “Yes!,” she hugged me, exclaiming, “I got it! I got it!”
Only several years before, she had been a first-year doctoral student and had hit the wall that so many doctoral students do when they realize how little they know, how…
August 2, 2012, 2:57 pm
Search committees often place a great deal of importance on cover letters when they’re reviewing candidates, but I’ve yet to meet a job seeker who has received much training or mentoring on how to write one. So what differentiates good cover letters from weak ones? I’m sure readers of The Chronicle have a lot of wisdom to share on this topic, but here are a few suggestions to get things started.
1. Be specific. Generic cover letters are a no-no. Tailoring your letters to particular positions sounds daunting when you’re frantically applying to a lot of jobs, but it is worth taking extra time to address the desired qualifications listed in each job advertisement. Talk about how your experience matches the specific courses or areas of research listed in the ad; describe what fund-raising (or faculty-development or curriculum-planning) work you have done, if the job requires that kind of …
July 27, 2012, 1:19 pm
Some people, on hearing that I am a university professor, ask me if I’m enjoying my summer break. I always try to resist the urge to snort audibly in response. As is the case in many schools, including a large proportion of health-professions schools, my college’s faculty all have 12-month appointments, and I notice no reduction in the pace of work between May and August.
This summer semester (which just ended this week), I taught a three-credit doctoral course and co-taught two one-credit doctoral seminars, worked with a junior colleague on her career-development grant application, advised a doctoral student through the final stages of her dissertation and its defense, revised a few manuscripts for publication, reviewed grant applications for the National Institutes of Health, and worked with several staff members to develop a data base that our college needs for its educational…
June 18, 2012, 2:56 pm
One of my favorite meetings each year (and, not coincidentally, one of the most professionally helpful and productive) is the Association of Schools of Public Health Annual Retreat for Associate Deans. Over the years, one topic has come up frequently at meals or after hours: how those of us who were associate deans and also associate professors were going to reach the rank of full professor. Substantial administrative roles — such as department chair, program director, assistant or associate dean — are often reserved for full professors. Occasionally, however, a more junior faculty member will be called on to serve. Whether this occurs because there’s a shortage of senior faculty, or a more junior faculty member has a particular talent for — or interest in — the role, giving such assignments to a faculty member who is still climbing the academic ladder toward the rank of full…
June 7, 2012, 2:28 pm
Given a choice between being busy or bored, many of my colleagues would, I’m sure, choose busy. Certainly, most of us in faculty roles or in combined faculty/administrative roles have more experience with the former, and except on really bad days, we’d be reluctant to give up many of the things we do. We love teaching, mentoring, research, community service, and maybe even sitting on some of those university committees, so we probably say yes more often than no. But when saying yes gets in the way of our productivity or satisfaction (or even sanity!), saying no becomes important.
Taking a cue from the principles outlined in Getting to Yes, by Roger Fisher and William Ury, when someone asks me to take on a new assignment or task, I consider the following key questions first:
Do I have the time? It’s important to develop the ability to estimate how much time a given task will really …
May 3, 2012, 2:03 pm
You did it! You made the first (or even second!) cut of applicants for that faculty job, and you’ve been invited by the chair of the search committee to come to campus.
“We’d like you to meet with the department faculty, some students, and the chair and dean. We’d also like you to give a talk about your area of research,” she says.
Ah, the job talk. I’ve seen many of them. Some have been cringe-worthy; others have been so impressive it’s been hard to resist cheering loudly at the end. We all know the things that can sink a talk: e.g., “death by PowerPoint,” which occurs when a speaker reads text-dense slides to the audience; a monotone delivery that makes even the most interesting topics seem dull; or a defensive or hostile response to questions. But what makes a job talk rise above the rest?
1. Be tech-savvy. Your talk doesn’t have to incorporate the latest-and-greatest tech…