Last week, I attended a career development seminar entitled,
“Optimizing your success as a new faculty member,” led by Dr. Catherine Alfano
at the National Cancer Institute. Not only had she herself successfully
navigated the faculty job-search process, landed a tenure-track position, and
earned a promotion to associate professorship, but she also mentors junior
faculty in getting grants through her current position as a program director at
[Note to self: Take advantage of post-doctoral fellowship at the NIH by
contacting appropriate program directors and set up a time to observe real-life
Dr. Alfano discussed life as a junior faculty member as a constant
juggle of multiple balls (ahem, responsibilities). Usually, a faculty position
requires grant writing, research, mentoring, teaching, guest lecturing,
supervising, administrative tasks, and service to institutional committees and
the scientific community. Add to this list the needs of a spouse/partner,
children, or elderly parents, and one can only wonder how any faculty member
manages to eat, sleep, or clean the bathroom once in awhile.
This image of the constant juggle stuck with me after the seminar.
[Another note to self: Take advantage of post-doctoral fellowship at
the NIH by exploring various research and non-research positions in the
government, i.e., would there be less to juggle?]
Dr. Alfano gave some advice to help us keep most of our balls in the
[Last note to self: Suggest to the NIH Career Symposium Planning
Committee that the “Work-Life Balance” session should be re-titled “Juggling.”]
To me, her most memorable tip was to work in small bouts. She claimed
that those who are able to work in small chunks of time (15 minutes to 2 hours;
whatever time you have in between meetings or during experiment incubations)
are less likely to experience burnout. Apparently, those who write a little
each day produce higher-quality work.
My goal for the next few weeks is to try this out; I will try to work
in consistent small bouts on multiple projects. Let’s see if that To-do list
gets shorter any faster.
The views expressed in this column are
those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the
Lin, PhD, MPH, is a fellow in the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program at the
National Cancer Institute. Prior to joining the Nutritional Epidemiology Branch
in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, Wenny earned her MPH
from the Harvard School of Public Health in 2009 and her PhD in Cell &
Molecular Biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008.