Your circumstances are different than most everyone else’s.
However, we can learn from other professionals’ approaches
if we have a mind to it– that is remain curious, or make up
our minds to be curious.
I can not tell you how beneficial it is to be generous and
thoughtful to people who serve you. They may work for you
individually or be part of an organization. Took time to drive
with our daughter to do some quick shopping where each of
us had our own shopping lists. I watched as she hustled to
put items in our basket, but could not find “just” what I wanted.
Thought to myself, we could find a premium item as a takeout
from a suitable restaurant. So we stopped and purchased the
delectable salad for 2. While waiting we got into a idle time
conversation with the server. We asked if we might get a “short”
cup of coffee while waiting and she cooperatively brought it out
as we continued our conversation. So, as we paid our bill we
asked if we could write a thank you note to management for her
kind and thoughtful service. She did not exactly know, as she
was a summer hire…. She brought out her manager who informed
us how to perform the act online with detailed instructions. Then,
went on to say by doing this in a specific order, she would be
rewarded, he would be rewarded and we would receive a modest
gift certificate online.
Back in our ride home, we chatted about learning from others’
behaviors is such an adult way of developing and improving skills…
especially in an entrepreneurial world.
We used three of Travis Bradberry’s
9 Skills that pay dividends:
asking for help, staying positive and taking initiative. Six other items
knowing yourself (personal self assessment),
know how to say “no”,
knowing to pause and remain quiet, and
determining priorities to do the most important things.
These apply critically to entrepreneurs who either have too much time
on their hands or too little time.
an episodic income stream need to be mindful of:
a. formulate an exit strategy that propels your next direction– musts
and wants for yourself and your current employer as a win-win outcome
b. accumulate reserves and strategize how you can live lean should
events require ‘belt tightening’
c. Set up long term retirement, big purchase, and emergency insurance
accounts and make the necessary contributions (insure matching
contributions can happen and are accessible)
d. Know the rules and double check on the amounts about estimated
taxes. Use an accountant if you are new. Perhaps fall back on
Turbotax, if you have some experience.
e. Read the fine print, consult legal input on the fine print of signed
agreements and understand their implications and recourses.
One of the subtopics we cover in our Professional
Development course is LCA or Life Cycle Assessment
in our class on ethics.
This is a broad impact area that leading organizations have
adopted for processes, final products, side reactions and
Recently, a committed network
colleague, John Warner,
shared a pertinent article in Chemistry World
“better design of pharmaceuticals” that do no harm to the
environment when disposed. The article cites:
- birth control and antidepressant drugs persisting in our clean
water supply impact dependent animal life
- certain drugs remain present and active in vegetable irrigation
supplies and are found in consumable purchases (wash all food
As a result, certain first world countries have implemented extra
cleaning steps to scrub water before it enters water supplies.
The article, however addresses an alternate approach I know
John has been pursuing for over 30 years and is gaining more
supporters… designing active molecules to decompose when
When we encounter people and when people encounter you
and I, initial impressions are made. It is subconscious and
as the old saw goes, ‘first impressions are lasting
impressions.’ This entry offers some tips of things to avoid.
Yesterday, we had a successful appointment with a trust
attorney with a firm we had vetted 15 years ago to update our
Revocable trust. It is useful to share why you should consider
creating a trust for your family to manage your assets and
affairs. It is your chance to spell out your desires while you
have the faculties.
During our meeting with the trust attorney, several things
tipped me off to look a little further into the attorney we
met. I learned several things that should be no surprise but
piqued my curiosity…the attorney was a temporary contract
attorney, we met in a “branch” office in a LLC professional
building with a collection of small firms, and there were no other
firm members and staff. What questions should I ask and how
should I professionally explore this “gig” economy reality
in the legal field?
MISTAKES THAT SPOIL A FIRST IMPRESSION
Humblebrag, Hubris, Hypocrisy, [Back-]Handed Compliment
The British Psychological Society listed these four behaviors
that can knock a person down a notch –
(1) humblebrag– ‘I am to busy…’ in a way to avoid or shift
away by implying self importance.
(2) hubris– downward social comparisons; [I recall a post-doc
doing this to me while I was in grad school]
(3) hypocrisy– pointing out someone’s failure that you might be
caught duplicating; politician’s seem to reveal this in a
(4) back-handed compliment– complimenting others puffing
up personal importance.
TRUSTS: LEGAL ENTITIES PROFESSIONALS SHOULD
CONSIDER TO MANAGE YOUR ESTATE
After your professional education and your career begins
other responsibilities accrue to you. Your future, to be sure,
is not certain. You need to think through and provide wisely
for unexpected situations. Trusts are set up for you by
legal counsel to provide for you and your family in cases
where you are not able.
There are several estate planning
vehicles for different
circumstances. We are working on an update to a 15 year
old package that needs to factor in family, law and practical
implementation changes. (we had a simple will at 35,
first revocable trust at 52)
Financial trust attorney recommend providing your choices
LEGAL ADVICE: CONTRACT ATTORNEYS
Legal advice that we pay for is important and requires that
we perform due diligence. To provide legal services to clients
at competitive costs firms substitute contract attorneys
for staff. In many instances I have read people have obtained
the services they sought.
Nonetheless, we need to look into any situation which might
It is important to document the formal employment arrangement
of your attorney and liability insurance coverage at or right
after the first meeting.
Fortunately, I learned our attorney is formally listed at the
firm and covered by all liability and malpractice insurance.
How are you doing? I would like to ask if you have any
experience using electronic labbooks in an R&D lab?
and if there is any in particular you could recommend.
Thank you for any advice you can provide.
When I regularly attended several large conferences I tried
to look into this emerging field by speaking with vendors about
their market penetration and features for different user
Interestingly my deepest learning at this time involved
ensuring legal advice was following in purchasing, training,
and compliance. Maintenance and regular updates for eLN were
essential as this is a emerging and evolving field. Years have
past and eLN are essential tools.
- at least 16 countries are represented as vendor developers
- open source vendors are included in the list
: Different fields and operations will have different requirements
It is nice to have a big picture for what customers, users, legal and
regulatory applications are provided.
- basic functionality
- quality, security and compliance
- data management
eLN decision makin
- The system needs to organize and be able to tag, filter and search entries.
- all entries, imported data, and links can be exported to a generic format
(pdf, zip, xlm, etc.) for backup and reporting as well as allowing a bailout
in case the maker of the software stops development, or your funds to pay
for licence fees run dry.
- support of your IT department at an early stage (selection of particular eLN).
- hidden costs (hardware like server, backup; on-site support and user training, )
What are your customers using? How frequent are updates?
What are the computer requirements and robustness of the system?
These days, eLN are essential to compete
A recent seminar on Overcoming Fears Uncertainty and
Doubts pointed out things you should learn to do while
in graduate school. Two leading ones the group pointed
knowing how to speak with your boss
knowing how to have difficult conversations with people.
These are no doubt situational things and depend on several
factors. That is part of the learning that we need to do. It is
important to develop this understanding while in graduate school.
our conversation about how to speak to a boss
- for a raise and at review time
- after making a mistake
- challenges at home
- have a major health issue
Flipboard shared a creditable piece about having hard conversations
- begin with a perspective of respect and curiosity
- avoiding conversations does not make problems go away
- listen intently, respond with the other’s ideas first, and avoid
partial listening while planning to say what is on our mind
- recognize cultural differences and determine how to be
direct (clear statements, not circular logic).
What do we do when we face a major risk or possible
catastrophe? It is not something that normally comes up
in any but exceptional situations and is the “elephant in the
room.” That is, is not spoken about.
Here are some thoughts to ponder. A following comment
lists some situations and Casandras from Clarke and Eddy’s
book that is good reading, especially if you are interested in
cyber-security, global warming, CRISPR technology and
nuclear weapons and disarmament.
: Sentinel intelligence experts
who sense something
catastrophic before anyone else does, before disaster happens
Whistleblower: popularized by Ralph Nader for informing about
illegal or unethical actions picking up on a much earlier term used to
alert the public about a commission of a crime or a breaking of rules.
Whistleblowers are motivated to do their reporting or announcing by
wanting to do the right thing, or to make right a decision that went
Large federal agencies record whistleblower complaints and are
able to substantiate only a small fraction. Because of the limited
confirmation rate and going against the culture or leadership or actions
of an organization, whistleblowers have a generally poor reputation.
So despite positive ethical motivations we may have going into a
situation, it does not always work out for the best.
concept of warning where an individual strongly feels certain
decisions should be made or certain situations should be avoided.
In Warnings: Finding Cassandras to stop catastrophes they assert
the Greek concept of Cassandra. Cassandra was graced by the
gods to be able to predict the future however cursed with the
response that no one believed or listened to her predictions.
A dozen past and current case studies were discussed in some detail
in a format that provided a view of classifying four features of each
case. They were: (1)nature of the threat or risk,
(2)is the person who needs to act known, knowledgeable, able to sort out
conflicting data and biases,
(3)is the predictor, or Cassandra, well-trained, highly creditable, respected
and confident in their findings and conclusions,
(4)what do the critics rely on and assert about the threat’s imminence.
While preparing for a seminar on Overcoming Challenges and
Adversity, several items are worth highlighting for our blog.
book by the same authors, 2012]
The original idea [for this seminar topic] resulted from
this year’s class suggestion and a seminar by
Think about it. 100 years ago people lived, on average, to
48 years, whereas now it is beyond 78. The length and nature
of careers has and continues to change this life span and equally
important our values and goals.
People seek much more control over their career paths, seek
personal satisfaction [over organizational], pursue advancement
[over organizational commitment] and realize multiple careers.
The seminar will discuss how we need to encourage
- adapting to adversity
and challenges by seeing them as
opportunities to learn useful skills
- developing critical habits, including listening
effectively managing technological tools.
Publication is a critical focus in the scientific world. Societies
have publication wings. There is a large commercial publication
business that earns nearly $20Bn/year with a third being
profits. The Guardian published a revealing article about the
publication world which this blog has offered comments.
and critical thinking when reading
This blog is on record for supporting the idea of “open access”
and questioning the viability of “rating” journals based on
citations in the internet age [it is like mindless “likes” in
Been following of Deming’s articles on Applied Statistics
for decades. He is in the middle of an important series on
limits of detection. I just received a water analysis report
and have received blood and urine medical reports that refer
to one or another of these. These articles are important and
significant for all of us. We should know and use these terms
One of the types of questions I ask in some interviews
concerns gas cylinder set-up and use. Articles in LC/GC
often reveal solid scientific thinking to answer questions
in this area.
ROBERT MAXWELL AND PROFITING ON SCIENCE
Although the ACS continues its efforts to
profit center, most of the members do not realize what
is going on in the publication business. This Guardian
article goes into details what the ACS publications
division might be emulating.
Should we not ask questions to make more science, often
paid for via taxes, available free online?
SCIENCE AND THE LIMITS OF DETECTION
SOURCE: S. N. Deming, Amer. Laboratory June/July 2017
Deming teaches in this article L(D) the limit of detection, which
he points out is different than the smallest amount of
analyte that can be detected or the limit of quantitation (appearing
in future articles.).
He points out:
- false positive risk needs to be appropriate for the application.
[drug testing example]
- in a plot of a calibration curve with a non-zero intercept, L(D)
the limit of detection is the amount of analyte that yields a
signal outside the error of the false negative.
These comments are often not brought out in many classes.
SOURCE: J. V. Hinshaw, LC/GC North America 11-2016, P. 41
What I like about Hinshaw is that he does a fishbone diagram
to assess a wide variety is issues that could come up in
working with a common analytical tool.
After our formal technical training, which may be experiential,
[non-academic] but most often involves the academic realm–
BS, MS, PhD and post-doc, many in government, industry and
entrepreneurial career paths find business certification a very
positive growth dimension.
This can happen when we choose to continue formal academic
work with an MBA or 13-week MBA certification. When we
explore this option we find 2-year and 3-year MBAs where the
longer term allows developing specialization skills. The 13-week
in-residence programs had prerequisites of solid business experience
and tighter admission and stronger longer term career commitment
from a sponsoring organization.
One clear strength of the MBA programs is the networking, both
formal, through the university, and informal, through connections
and associations (alumna, alumni).
In the 1980s formal business certification programs were developed
in parallel to MBA programs. These should be of interest to many
people since they may be more specific to certain aspects and
more broadly respected as providing necessary background and
organization useful in certain fields. These are the PMP Project
Management Professional and Six Sigma “Belt” programs.
I am surprised that ACS has not incorporated both of these in
career continuous education plans.
Six Sigma asks about understanding customer requirements and
mapping a process to identify and measure defects, losses and waste
using statistical methods, measurement systems and data analysis.
The training in each seem to differ and it is worth noting PMP
An objective comparison of PMP and Six Sigma appears in this chart
Recently a colleague reported his experiences he observed
during his job search. It points out the importance of networking
 , doing After Action Reviews, knowing that you can build your
career by taking related positions, where you learn and practice
applicable skills productively. After all, a career is a process of
growth combined with continuous learning.
applied online and got a personal contact of mine to forward my resume
to the hiring team…he felt comfortable to refer me.
it was too late, they had already considered a candidate.
This year they contacted me. So as you have so many times emphasized,
networking is key to getting one’s resume noticed.
Career is a Process:
A senior level manager:
- Asked about my industry experience and was probing about my interests,
strengths and ability to work in a team. We really clicked in the interview.
It was a pleasant conversation about various aspects of manufacturing, QA,
QC , work ethics, and honesty. he was very pleased that I was familiar with
Quality Management System. I felt we were already colleagues in the interview.
Among questions asked:
- what I do not like, and what I like.
- given a situation what do I prefer: perfect and late, good and on time, or quick
and early…something like that. I elaborated on each as it all depends according
to me. For example, I recall saying it depends on how critical it is. In a situation
where you are looking at an API, it is critical to be within the acceptance
criteria/specifications, better be late but safe. But for a report, as long as all
the important information are there, I won’t delay it for perfection. I recall also
talking about how in a team, different people have their own preferences - in
terms of how to present a table. I personally don’t like to delay output for these
things (as long as it is not wrong).
Another Interviewer/non-technical manager:
- were able to relate a little as I had previous experience in the finance
department when i was in accounting.
- ended up in a conversation about the market, competitive advantage, pains
of month/year/quarter ends.
- Talked about SAP and Oracle.
- He actually appreciated that I knew about science and financial side of the
After Action Review:
- if I run into a situation like that again, I should transition my mindset into a
“sales pitch”- meaning, I should do the best I can to use facts from my
experience to support each criteria they are looking for.
- asked to visit the lab and areas of interests. I found it odd they did not propose.
Herbert Simon is credited with recognizing that in a
data rich world what is critical is managing audience
attention. Combined with the attitude that audiences
prefer A I D A, the digital media promoters code…
we lose our focus, disturb our direction and slow our progress.
Leaders of the digital and media organizations realize this
and take advantage of the uninformed. It is critical that
technical professionals understand this and improve the
way we manage ourselves, our colleagues and teams.
The technical world including the chemical enterprises is
dominated by the “attention economy.” Earlier this blog posted
prescribes actions we can take to contain the outside influences
that digital media and devices introduce in his web site:
managing our attention and careers.
We have brought up Mlodinow’s book, Subliminal, that offers
that human’s memory faculties are faulty. One suggestion is to
create a research notebook for yourself– it could be new business
ideas, new research projects, new and improved products…
We cannot sit still in this fast evolving world. We have minimal
memory resources, until computers evolved, and we can easily
store ideas, links and lists.
This entry offers two trends worth noting that you may incorporate,
even if you are not currently engaged in fields. Things are bothchanging and unpredictable
and it helps to try to be open-minded
both to new directions and opportunities.
DRUG DISTRIBUTION: MALDI-MSI
offered an keen review of an approach yielding new
insights into risk assessment of pharma candidates . Matrix-
assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectral imaging is
used to visualize where in samples chemicals and metabolites
are distributed in model system sections.
Cornett indicates that this tool might be required to
inform decisions on regulatory submissions, as it offers
deeper understanding of pharmacology and toxicology.
NOVEL CHEMISTRY: COMMERCE
Novel chemistry is found in patent literature, chemical journals
and offered by custom chemical firms. If it were one and
done, it would not be so special.
The idea is to open up our resource notebook to various inputs
for continuous learning.
So often articles and blog entries talk about hiring trends
for recent graduates. When I peruse them, it seems most
are either anecdotal (few specific examples highlighting
certain concepts) or statistical summaries that are often time
a year or more earlier than the date of publication.
This entry looks at your second and subsequent positions. So,
in another perspective, we can take a longer, career view.
A career is a process, not an outcome, with many transactions
-learning new skills,
-defining your strengths and building on them, and
-articulating your values so that others will understand
and appreciate you and your contributions.
As scientists, commenters
bring up the discussion of being
that of an occupation formed by setting up formal qualifications
offered by education, internship/apprenticeship and examination,
a regulatory organization which admits and restricts and has a
code of behavior.
Honestly, however, scientific disciplines, like chemistry, may not
be bound by discipline tracks when thinking about job markets.
This may be less important when we look at markets for
wrote a remarkable article on career mistakes
that hinder personal growth and happiness that we obtain from
careers. I contend these apply to advance degreed scientists.
Let me highlight five frames of mind that restrict the “real job market:”
1. hold off pursuing positions of interest due to <100% match to
musts and wants [lack of confidence, weak in resilience, fear of
failure; be willing to learn on the job and seek help]
2. lack of self assessment knowing your strengths and what makes
you thrive and be constantly challenged and engaged. [engage
psychological and economic instruments outside of your employment
chain of command]
3. fall behind in your learning curve of new skills and experiences
to those who extend themselves [could be in work environment and
professional/ volunteer organizations]
4. fail to take an outsider’s perspective of your industry, organization
and department. This can be a situation where you ‘coast’ for a while.
It is important to continue connecting and keeping up with your
5. miss opportunities to learn about branding your skills and abilities
and be visible in more than one organization. In the information era,
this can seem to be trying things that are not immediately rewarded
in one organization, but opens up opportunities in another.
[no funding to attend a professional meeting; become a volunteer,
offer to assume organizational responsibilities, show that you can be
Mlodinow, in Subliminal, delivers a clearly written book that helps
us understand Listening and Remembering. He explains that it all
comes from William Carpenter’s book “Principles of Mental
Physiology” in which he told that human brains carry out three
things simultaneously– autonomous functioning (without formal
thinking), conscious mental actions, and unconscious processing.
When we listen we hone in on specific utterances and fill in the
gaps with our unconscious. It is similar to the way computers
capture images and store them as thumbnails. Taking in certain
‘pixelated’ data, allowing us to reconstruct by filling in the details.
Our memory on the other hand is known to be “faulty”. We are
almost always never right with our recollections unless we take
special precautions to capture details. People try to maintain a
story’s general form, drop and change others to make us be able
to tell stories “confabulating” choices we make in the dropped
Thus, false memories and misinformation is a common human
frailty. With time we drop more and more information.
Mlodinow offers several examples one of the most striking is
James Dean, President Nixon’s personal attorney, in his responses
in the Watergate hearings. Mlodinow writes that Dean misstated
and mixed up nearly every detail of the affairs in which he was
involved based on a comparison of actual tape recordings from
the Oval Office and the Watergate hearings. At the time, we
were informed that Dean had a nearly perfect memory.
This goes to point out the importance of having and maintaining
a calendar, a professional daily diary, an ‘idea notebook’ and records
of key goals, accomplishments, master resume, and personal
The C&EN article on (+) and (-) sparteine, which had an
origin in “In the Pipeline,” talks about shortages of specific
chemicals. Interestingly, this unresolved shortage is a
business of chemistry concern and something, as the C&EN
article portrays, that can be of interest to many scientists for
It is an inventory and supply chain concern and thus there is
an overlap with Economics that is the focus here. Economics
characterizes how a business is run, whereas proverbial
‘business’ characterizes how to run a business. In a discussion
, Economics uses algorithms to maximize profits,
determining the quantity of a commodity that should be made
and its cost to consumers.
While the end users focus on delivery and quality, there is
more to the economics
side in terms of storage lifetime,
competing product lines for the same equipment, regulatory
and legal (patent) requirements and LCA
. [lifecycle analysis]
Meeting with many Ph.D. candidates who fret about
not having accomplished a series of publications in
peer reviewed journals is confounding these days.
What is the criterion for being granted a degree?
Can you publish just anywhere, not just in high impact
Is peer review of a journal article a justifiable measure?
What do we do in controversial topic areas when bias
can enter into decisions?
What do we do in the digital era which has replaced
RESEARCH AND HALF LIFE OF FACTS
Further enlightenment about the pursuit of “truth” is
that, as Uri Alon
so elegantly described, research invites
a fruitful path. The write up glosses over the learning
by failure and describes the “obvious” positive direction,
showing how novel and precise the idea is.
Samuel Arbesman looks back on the search for “truth”
and finds most being only half-correct as time moves
So why is getting published in a journal so crucial?
I get it that graduate degrees are conferred by judging
work being of such quality meriting publication. Martin Paul Eve
nicely describes the fuzziness of this
criterion since it could be published just anywhere after
rejections. As we know, rejection
does not mean lack
of value either.
As we are into the third decade of the Internet era of
publication providing OA Open Access there are many
ways to both read and access articles and publish our
This raises questions about what is a valid way of
demonstrating the level of expertise for a degree, even
for granting tenure and promotion.
You know, I am a strong proponent that scientific professionals
have a strong understanding of working with statistics and
perceive the hazards in our environment, that have good and not
so good effects on humans.
So in our final class we talked about three features we should
look for in evaluating statistical data. [I am always amazed that
their relevance is not emphasized in classes.] variation, shape
and central tendency.
In our daily lives we are faced with statistics for nearly everything
and given “selective” interpretations to sell or convince us of various
- insure the data provides its sample size and range and variability
[small sample size, limited range, no measure of variation should
not be basis of a general position.]
- If the data is presented with many significant figures, it should
raise “red flags” in your mind. [10,234,511.39 ?]
- The shape of the distribution of measure reveals critical insight.
[power law, normal, bimodal, skewness…]
- What is the appropriate central tendency representation? Mean
if it is normal distribution…Other than that, questions are needed.
There are two radioactive species in our environment that we
should be aware of some things. One I encountered when I was asked
by a middle school student about a science project on radioassays.
That is when I learned about technetium. Technetium-99 is most
useful as a radioassay measure for imaging internal organs.
published a short factoid recently about this lightest, artificially
produced element. ”Technetium cows
” were developed by BNL
researchers and have been in use for more than 50 years in
medical diagnostics and research. In addition, technetium is a
by-product of U-235 decay and thus can be a valuable monitor
for nuclear reactor spent fuel rod decay and storage.
A second radioactive element is the gas, radon. Radon is naturally
occurring in the environment and is attributed to be an effector of
. Radon decays naturally producing alpha
of the prevalence of radon in the US point to where
it is. This should be a point of reference for us where we live
Many articles we find about requesting for salary
increments overlook the need to do three things–
* perform consistently well in meeting and exceeding your’s
and your team’s goals [time in grade is often insufficient],
* gather critical information about pay, time in grade and value
to the organization, and
* have a proposal for your continued growth plan and how it
contributes to the organization [it is helpful to have mentors
who are knowledgeable about the organization, policies and
- separate salary conversations from performance review meetings, so
that you demonstrate you are not focusing as being money-driven.
- know that a timely one-on-one can be helpful in supporting the
value you provide to the organization with a successful project
- ‘plant the seed’ for an increase before the organization’s budget
planning (article indicates 3-4 months, is that too early?)
- practice what you are going to say, plan for interruptions, and
have a back-up plan
Our Professional Development class is interesting because
we can use feedback from class members for future discussion
items and exercises in class.
One feedback card read: Could we engage in networking
conversations and elevator speeches from each person in class?
It is better than describing them.
>In subsequent classes we asked people to deliver elevator speeches
to their team mates [which should be done in all team situations].
Then when we brought in guest speakers, we asked each class
member to deliver an elevator pitch to the guests.
A couple of other situations that are intriguing. One class member
met privately and said she did not know what to do as her team
was unresponsive to requests to work together and complete tasks
on time. We talked about it and in class performed an exercise.
What can you do to work better as a team? There are many excuses:
too busy, lazy, procrastinate, think the assignment is dumb….
- plan ahead; discuss the work assignment
- know yourself; study your teammates behaviors, values, likes
- keep in touch; communicate, even over-communicate
- offer help if others have trouble understanding/solving the assignment
- Team formation usually follows easily recognizable stages, known as
“forming, storming, norming, and performing.”
YOU ARE EXPECTED TO GET TO NORMING QUICKLY
- learn about your team-mates: their values, behavior, goals, time lines,
honesty, promptness, caring; strength and weakness
- When do you report to higher Ups?
- Influence: consistency, scarcity, authority, trust worthiness,
- Work together, share ideas and don’t just divide up the work.
- Use people’s strengths and interests to produce something that
- Become familiar with due dates, put buffer between team
deadline and final deadline alert people in advance
- Givers succeed most, reciprocators are a close second
- Adam Grant’s book “Givers and Takers”
A second class exercise was inspired by an incident where a class
member forgot an attachment when sending an email. It happens to
all of us.
The class came up with several and discussion ensued about how
some recipients might feel it revealed lack of attention to detail or
how you perform under pressure. There are technological solutions
that we should know and use.
This is a story about two conversations. The first is
one with a very accomplished senior grad student.
The second conversation is one of a series with
a department of chemistry chairperson.
Ph.D. LACKING NEEDED SOFT SKILLS
Almost Dr. Smith (not his or her real name) wanted
to talk about a situation in which she finds herself. She
has received several promising offers, only to be rejected
after providing references. She has learned from a reliable
source that the reference supplied the information that her
writing skills were not up to acceptable standards, whereupon
the offer was pulled.
She asked what can she do now? Learn by various means–
reading for style and formatting, specialized training to write
for specific audiences, and practice, of course are several
possibilities. Shouldn’t the grad school provide that for her?
The answer is generally, not in today’s climate.
Second conversation, now.
PROPOSAL TO CHAIRMAN TO OFFER PRACTICAL
[Bring a solution, when you ask about a big concern you
When the new chair was installed I went to her with the
concern that many graduates do not have essential writing
skills and other “Soft skills” that we need to be successful.
What are some courses, programs of study, and tutoring
assignments (shadowing, draft writing, editing, reading)
that are offered or can be offered? We will bring it up to the
dean, was one response.
Another time, post-docs are people without support,
representation or a voice. What can be done to help their
case? That is up to the individual PI was the response. I reflected
on several national labs, medical schools and NIH programs
and received the feedback. That is not something I can do.
I pursued: Why not? some of the ideas are nice, but I would
be stepping on people’s [departments] toes and it is imprudent
to do here.
Another reason is that I can not impinge on the time they are
working in the lab. They have so many distractions and
commitments as it is. To add another requirement would take
time from the research work that needs to get done.
So, it goes. Outside speakers emphasize it is important to “get
out of the lab” and learn extra-curricular skills through different
activities, internships and volunteer roles. Most students immediately
reflect that their boss would not like them doing that. Most say
they feel pressure to be in the lab 7×12 getting results.
While I receive consistent support for Professional Development
activities in summer and both semesters, I am only one and
so much more could be done to make a difference. What we
do is as much or more than is offered in other R1 institutions.
Please send in ideas and concepts working in other institutions.
I look forward to them.