Practical Advice for New and Retiring Professors Responses

Practical Advice for New and Retiring Professors


Fenton Heirtzler

Title

Formerly Assistant Professor

University/College and campus

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Is this advice for starting a lab or shutting down a lab?

Starting a lab

Words of Wisdom

Linda, I wish that you would instead start a discussion which is more relevant to a larger audience, namely EMPLOYMENT for PhDs, whether they are "newly minted" or mid-career. You are glossing over the facts of life for the vast majority of PhD chemists (also those who, given a choice, would be faculty members). I was faculty until being given the boot for doing research in organic chemistry.



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Credit: Yan Kung
Credit: Yan Kung

Yan Kung

Title

Assistant Professor

University/College and campus

Bryn Mawr College

Is this advice for starting a lab or shutting down a lab?

Starting a lab

Words of Wisdom

Although it's great to save money and shop around when setting up your lab, don't let penny pinching consume you. I somehow let purchasing major equipment drag on for months, which not only meant that some of my research was kept waiting, it also added unnecessary items to the rapidly accumulating pile of things I needed to do. Not getting ripped off is important, but don't let it go too far!



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Credit: selfie
Credit: selfie

Matthew Sheldon

Title

Assistant Professor

University/College and campus

Texas A&M University

Is this advice for starting a lab or shutting down a lab?

Starting a lab

Words of Wisdom

I have just started my assistant professor position in Chemistry, and my head is still spinning with the new responsibilities suddenly thrust upon me. Despite deadlines, meetings, grants, purchasing, teaching, and etc. …, I was told to remember to make time to think quietly, alone, about science. It seems obvious, yet, right now, so easy to forget.



Kevin Kittilstved

Title

Assistant Professor

University/College and campus

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Is this advice for starting a lab or shutting down a lab?

Starting a lab

Words of Wisdom

Find out if the office of research at your institution has early career workshops or seminars. If possible, try to setup one or two day trip to DC to visit with Program Officers that will be likely handling your proposals. Some nstitutions will cover the expenses for the trip for junior faculty.



Zachariah Heiden

Title

Assistnat Professor

University/College and campus

Washington State University

Is this advice for starting a lab or shutting down a lab?

Starting a lab

Words of Wisdom

Try to find out how purchasing at your particular university works as soon as possible. Orders, especially big orders, will take much longer than anticipated.

Try to learn the deadlines of the funding agencies you plan to target as soon as possible, as writing proposals will take longer than expected.

Have a notebook designated only for ideas, preferably with a numbering system. This will help with organization when you would like to access them later, especially when writing proposals.



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Credit: A diverse group in the JRL lab - courtesy of Joaquin Rodriguez-Lopez
Credit: A diverse group in the JRL lab - courtesy of Joaquin Rodriguez-Lopez

Joaquin Rodriguez-Lopez

Title

Assistant Professor

University/College and campus

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Is this advice for starting a lab or shutting down a lab?

Starting a lab

Words of Wisdom

Build a diverse and energetic group of scientists interested in sharing knowledge, life experiences and the many acquired skills that you have not even thought about as important for setting up your new lab. Invest your time in empowering this group by actively sharing your skills and resources, and teaching them how to collaborate. Then fully trust your empowered students to tackle the challenges you’ve had years to think about. Developing openness, collaboration and trust has not been an easy and smooth ride, and I hope I can tell you in a couple of years the final outcome, but for all the reasons I wanted to become a scientist and educator, I think only good things will come out, and is definitely worth the experience!



Thomas Mullen

Title

Assistant Professor

University/College and campus

University of North Florida

Is this advice for starting a lab or shutting down a lab?

Starting a lab

Words of Wisdom

One of the most useful pieces of advice I can offer for new faculty starting up an independent lab is to take pictures of all of the equipment and supplies around your graduate and post-doc laboratories. Digital pictures are cheap and will save a significant amount of time when you are ordering the materials and equipment for your new lab. If there a piece of equipment you will be purchasing and/or building take pictures of it and make sure to include the part numbers. Take pictures of supplies and equipment that maybe useful for future experiments. Include the pictures of the boxes so you know how many to order. It is important that you get the permission of your PI prior to taking the pictures.



Justin Mohr

Title

Assistant Professor

University/College and campus

University of Illinois at Chicago

Is this advice for starting a lab or shutting down a lab?

Starting a lab

Words of Wisdom

Don't hesitate to make big equipment purchases that will help your lab to be productive. The price tags may seem daunting, but getting results is what matters most. Get a lot of quotes and shop around for the item that best fits your needs! It is also important to set clear expectations and policies from day one. It is very difficult to change routines later on and any inconsistent messages will be only lead to more problems later on. Lead by example!



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Sean Barry

Title

Associate Professor

University/College and campus

Carleton University

Is this advice for starting a lab or shutting down a lab?

Starting a lab

Words of Wisdom

Start a lab slowly, and have a calendar for "phasing in" grad students. I found starting one per term was a decent pace.

The size of your group is not a measure of your scientific ability. Starting too many people too fast is a recipe for disjointed, inefficient research.

Work like your own post-doc for at least the first year. It helps with training grad students as well as with productivity.

Ask for first term teaching release, even if it means doubling up in the second term. You don't get what you don't ask for.

Pick a faculty mentor, and talk to them weekly. Try to pick somebody who might be a collaborator, and certainly somebody who's group works well.

Never, ever sleep.



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Credit: Courtesy of Jared Delcamp
Credit: Courtesy of Jared Delcamp

Jared Delcamp

Title

Assistant Professor

University/College and campus

University of Mississippi

Is this advice for starting a lab or shutting down a lab?

Starting a lab

Words of Wisdom

Get in there and get that first experiment set up! Many of us are hired for being very good experimentalist, but quickly find there are a lot of other facets to the position which we have limited experience in. Getting that first experiment set up is key. It gives the position a very familiar feel, and is a good reminder you are an expert in at least one facet of the position. Take the other tasks in stride but always set aside time to be in lab and help students develop proficient technical skill set. Having a "sure fire" project lined up for new students is a great strategy during technique training times where the results are more expected for the first experiments. It helps students get their bearings in lab without spending time wondering if the experiment or technique was flawed in the event of a failed experiment. Most important though is getting those first experiments going as soon as you can!



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Credit: Xiao Tan
Credit: Xiao Tan

Jennifer Roizen

Title

Assistant Professor

University/College and campus

Duke University

Is this advice for starting a lab or shutting down a lab?

Starting a lab

Words of Wisdom

(1) Advice comes from many sources, and is often contradictory – collect whatever fits you. (2) Know your priorities. (3) Schedule time to develop ideas. (4) Figure out what you need to run that first experiment, and get it ASAP. Ebay and a local auction have saved me money. (5) Can you trade grant drafts with someone? (6) Put up a website. This is how students know what you do. Also, reviewers google you. (7) It is important to me to identify students and postdocs who fit my fledgling lab. You’re Hired! Now What? includes questions to ask when you meet with prospective lab members. (8) Students won’t be exactly like you. (9) Students may enter lab and class with wildly varying content knowledge and expectations. Set the starting point after getting a sense of how students relate to background material. (10) Get previous course notes, problem sets, exams and grant drafts from generous colleagues. (11) Do you know about the Cottrell Scholars Collaborative? (12) Have you heard of an individual development plan? (13) With some tasks, the perfect is the enemy of the good (Voltaire). (14) Communicate expectations clearly. (15) Respect people. (16) Have fun!



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Credit: Tai-Yen Chen
Credit: Tai-Yen Chen

Jixin Chen

Title

Assistant Professor

University/College and campus

Ohio University

Is this advice for starting a lab or shutting down a lab?

Starting a lab

Words of Wisdom

I haven’t had much experience with starting a lab, but I have received a lot of advice from my previous advisors, Dr. Batteas, Dr. Landes and Dr. Cremer. Just to list a few:

1. Write down every idea that comes up from reading a paper, listening to a seminar, or just having a daily talk or a brainstorm session. These can be the main materials for future projects.

2. Write and submit as many proposals as possible every year and find every opportunity to support the research. The minimum number I have been given is six per year.

3. Balancing research, teaching, and life can be difficult, but it is the key to surviving in the first few years, and you have to learn how to do it very fast.

4. Buy your instruments quickly and start to collect data ASAP. This is critical, because some proposals require preliminary data.

5. Recruiting good students is the first and the most important thing to do when starting a lab. Students are definitely the most important treasure of the group as time goes by.

6. Never refuse the opportunity to share your experiences and learn from others. That means you should go out and attend more conferences and give more presentations.



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Credit: myself
Credit: myself

Orion B. Berryman

Title

Assistant professor of chemistry

University/College and campus

University of Montana

Is this advice for starting a lab or shutting down a lab?

Starting a lab

Words of Wisdom

Good advice that was given to me:
You will always have too much to do. Make sure to dedicate some time to the work activities you enjoy most.



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Credit: Taken by my friend, Dallas Matz
Credit: Taken by my friend, Dallas Matz

Scott K Shaw

Title

Assistant Professor

University/College and campus

University of Iowa

Is this advice for starting a lab or shutting down a lab?

Starting a lab

Words of Wisdom

The best advice I have received regarding the start of a career in academic research is this: Focus on the students. Recruit the best students, give them the best support you can offer, and everything else will be that much easier.



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William Pomerantz

Title

Assistant Professor

University/College and campus

University of Minnesota

Is this advice for starting a lab or shutting down a lab?

Starting a lab

Words of Wisdom

Starting up the lab was exhilarating and daunting at the same time. I felt prepared for the day-to-day after participation in the ACS’s Postdoc to Faculty workshop, devouring resources “Like at the Helm” and aggressively dealing with vendors as I laid out my vision for my future lab so that I would have a fresh pallet of supplies waiting for me upon arrival. There’s nothing more satisfying knowing you have a flask and stirbar at the ready to start your first set of experiments! However, above all else the biggest help for me was identifying the many helpful colleagues in and outside my department who were willing to selflessly share their wisdom and experience as early as possible. Recruiting graduate students, was arguably the most stressful time my first year. These would be the students who would establish the lab culture and set our future path. And what if no one came?! Opting to teach the first semester, and having a colleague defer his first year graduate class to me, was the best thing that happened and a clear sign I had arrived in welcoming supportive department. Those first students and that supportive professor helped get us that first grant!



Harry Bermudez

Title

Associate Professor

University/College and campus

University of Massachusetts

Is this advice for starting a lab or shutting down a lab?

Starting a lab

Words of Wisdom

Remind yourself that life is more than your job.



Al Denio

Title

Prof. Emeritus

University/College and campus

Univ. of Wis. -Eau Claire

Is this advice for starting a lab or shutting down a lab?

Shutting down a lab

Words of Wisdom

I retired in 1996 and rented office space downtown to do some consulting. It was a nice place to do some writing and thinking. We did not get rich but I enjoyed the experience. In 1998 we returned to Delaware for milder winters. I taught for 2 more years at UD and cofounded the Del. Academy of Chemical Sciences.



Steven Maguire

Title

Chemistry Research Associate

University/College and campus

Sudbury Neutrino Observatory

Is this advice for starting a lab or shutting down a lab?

Starting a lab

Words of Wisdom

Establish from the start which sizes of joint you'll have on your glassware, and then never buy a different size. 14/20 and 24/40 work well: a big one and a little one.



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Jorge Almodovar

Title

Assistant Professor

University/College and campus

University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez

Is this advice for starting a lab or shutting down a lab?

Starting a lab

Words of Wisdom

As a new faculty member I quickly learned to ask for help and/or advice from other faculty member (both junior and senior), administrative and support staff, and from students. All of them have more experience in the university, and know how to work the system. I was also advised to be patient. Things tend to work at different paces in different institutions, and most of the time they are out of your control. I was advised to work closely with my graduate and undergraduate students as I am setting up my lab. The first year can be a struggle setting up a laboratory while preparing and teaching multiple courses, it can be very time consuming. However, the best advice I received was to not let that all of that fully consume you. Take time for your family, friends, and hobbies. In doing so, you'll be well balanced and become more efficient in your academic career.