2003-2004 Professors for the Future Fellows
Workshops in Business Skills
Today’s reality is that fewer than half of the current crop of PhD graduates will find academic positions. The remainder will most likely find employment in industry or government positions that require a broader range of career skills than typically offered in the traditional PhD program.
Graduates who do find academic positions, especially in the sciences, will often be responsible for hiring of lab staff and students as well as managing multiple projects and budgets; skills in which little or no training is offered during graduate studies. The objective of this project was to organize workshops on key management and leadership skills that graduate students and postdoctoral scholars could apply to enhance success and productivity in future academic or industry positions.
The first workshop focused on patents and intellectual property basics every academic should know and was attended by over 60 graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members. Guest panelists Scott Hervey and Audrey Millemann from the law firm Weintraub Genshlea Chediak Sproul and Clint Neagley from the UC Davis Technology Transfer Center defined patents, trademarks and copyrights and explained rights and obligations of employees from both university and industry perspectives.
The speaker for the second workshop was Eric Douglas of Leading Resources Inc ®, an internationally recognized expert in leadership and strategic management. The workshop was a compact version of the management training often given to senior executives and boards of directors and provided insight into the characteristics of successful leaders, as well as effective decision-making and communication techniques. The workshop was filled to capacity with almost 80 in attendance; an additional 20 reservations were turned away due to lack of space.
Workshop co-sponsors included the UC Davis Biotechnology Program and UC Davis CONNECT. Their generous support provided funding of refreshments at both seminars. Time was allotted at both events for networking and participants were provided handouts, brochures, and web site addresses for additional information. A follow-up survey was administered after each seminar utilizing the Zoomerang® web-based survey tool. Respondents gave the workshops outstanding reviews and indicated a strong need for more seminars on similar topics. Sincere gratitude is extended to Nora Moore Jimenez of UC Davis CONNECT and Judy Kjelstrom of the Biotechnology Program whose advice and guidance was instrumental to the success of this project.
Science Writing for the Public
Elena C. Berg
In the face of dwindling public funds for scientific research, the future success of scientists lies increasingly on their ability to garner public interest and support.
The aim of my project was to provide training to graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in the written communication of their research ideas and experiences to a general audience. A common complaint outside of (and even within) academia is that science is intimidating or inaccessible to those who are not specialists. Scientists often become isolated within their professions, communicating only with fellow experts through talks or journal articles. Although some research makes its way to the public in the form of newspaper articles, popular books, or documentaries, most of what scientists do remains a complete mystery to the public.
Most scientists see the tremendous value in sharing their ideas and helping to foster a more dynamic interface with the public, but many do not know where to begin. During Winter quarter, I organized a weekly seminar that was designed to introduce graduate students and postdocs in the sciences to the various forms of science writing. I invited a diverse array of local scientists to talk with us about their experiences writing for and otherwise communicating with the public. In preparation for each meeting, we read various articles written either by the speaker or about a particular topic that the speaker addressed.
Six wonderful speakers visited our group. David Robertson (English) brought examples of his artwork and described his efforts to integrate photography, ecology, and writing. Peter Moyle (Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology) discussed his experiences writing online textbooks on fish ecology and conservation. Rosie Woodroffe (WFCB) talked about some of her controversial research on threatened mammal species and the media’s coverage of her work. Peter Klimley (WFCB) discussed some of the articles and books on sharks that he has written for the general public. Kelly Stewart (Anthropology) shared her experiences writing a regular science column for the Davis Enterprise. Finally, Sandra Aamodt, the editor of Nature Neuroscience, discussed her role as an editor and provided us with examples of the media’s reaction to a recently published article.
The students and postdocs that attended the seminar were enthusiastic and insightful, and I received very positive feedback. At the end of the quarter, several participants decided to form a writing group, with the aim of meeting each week and helping each other improve their writing skills. I hope that future seminars continue to encourage scientists to think more effectively about different communication styles and the impact of their work to a broader audience.
Health and Well-Being During Graduate School
Graduate school is physically, mentally, and psychologically demanding. For senior graduate students, this situation is compounded by the added stress of finishing one’s dissertation and entering into the job market. As a result, students often feel anxious, burnt out and/or disconnected from the University and healthy habits such as exercise and eating a balanced diet often fall by the wayside.
For my Professors for the Future Project, I addressed this issue by developing a six seminar series given by graduate students for graduate students. This series discussed how to lead a healthy, well-balanced life during the final stages of graduate school. Six graduate students from multiple disciplines across campus, including nutrition, sociology, and physiology, were asked to deliver a one-hour seminar on how to reduce stress and promote overall well being in one’s life during times of stress. Seminar topics included The Use of Complementary Therapies, Healthy Cooking During Graduate School, and The Importance of Exercise. In order to evaluate the success of this program, lecture attendees were asked to complete a short questionnaire at the end of each seminar asking how informative and enjoyable they perceived the lectures to be.
From the survey results I found that this project benefited UC Davis graduate students in a variety of ways. Presenters had the opportunity to reconnect with the University by discussing areas of personal interest with graduate students outside of their home department. Also, the lecture itself allowed student instructors to practice their presentation skills and should be an excellent addition to their resume. Finally, students attending the seminars learned how to reduce stress in their lives and how to better enjoy the remainder of their time at UC Davis.
In addition to benefiting other students, this project allowed me to grow both personally and professionally. It taught me how to recruit for, advertise, and facilitate a lecture series; how to develop clear and informative handouts; and allowed me to meet and work with other graduate students across campus in a variety of interesting fields. In closing, I would like to thank all the graduate students that participated in the project.
Teaching Partners Program
As the TA Consultant Coordinator for 2002-2003, I had the opportunity to visit with TA training coordinators across campus throughout the year. From these meetings I learned that while many departments offer their teaching assistants a great deal of training and continued mentoring, other departments rely primarily on the one-day annual TA Orientation program provided by the TA Consultants in conjunction with the Teaching Resources Center.
In order to address this imbalance and to offer even more concentrated mentoring by the TA Consultants, with Will Davis’s guidance I designed the Teaching Partners Program, which I administered during Winter Quarter 2004. The program was designed to pair two or three teaching assistants with one TA Consultant for a quarter-long mentoring program during which each TA would be provided all the TAC consulting services—mid-quarter interview, class observation, and videotaping—to help them improve their teaching. Additionally, the members of each group were invited to visit each other’s classes and to meet throughout the quarter to discuss pedagogical issues in order to learn more about teaching from their peers. At the quarter’s end all the Partners had the opportunity to evaluate the program and to offer their suggestions for improvement.
When we began the project four TA Consultants were paired with two teaching assistants from a wide variety of disciplines, ranging from Physics to Cultural Studies. At the quarter’s beginning each group met and established a set of goals to pursue during their partnership. By the quarter’s end all the Partners had had mid quarter interviews, visited each other’s classes, and were observed and videotaped by their TA Consultant mentors. The evaluations reveal that the TA Consultants benefited from the opportunity to work closely with a group of teaching assistants over a longer period of time, developing their skills as mentors even as they learned more about teaching from their group. The Partners benefited from the extensive mentoring as well as the opportunity to talk about teaching with other instructors from different disciplines. The most common remark from the Partners is that they appreciated the feedback about their teaching from their groups, feedback they had not previously had the opportunity to receive.
Because this was the first time the program was implemented, we discovered that even more careful planning is required to make it as successful as possible. While we established a clear timeline for all the events, we did not set many more guidelines for each group leader. In the future inviting the TA Consultants who serve as group leaders to plan in more detail what they would like to accomplish would make for a stronger program. We did find that the Teaching Partners in its pilot run proved valuable enough to continue in the future for its many benefits, which include establishing networks of teaching assistants across campus and providing mentoring for TAs from departments that lack such resources.
Making Campus Seminars Accessible to the UCDMC
There are over 130 seminars related to biological sciences each quarter on campus. However, the scientific staff at the UCD Medical Center is often unable to take advantage of these seminars due to travel time and parking availability. A round trip from UCDMC to main campus to attend a seminar usually takes 2.5-3 hours. My project focused on making seminars more accessible to UCDMC.
Originally I looked at video conferencing through IT, however, the cost of video conferencing would be $1500 per hour and only reach a limited number of people, so I concentrated on how to webcast the seminars over the internet. Fortunately Media Works was able to help me out. For $200 per session their service includes videotaping the seminar and setting up a live webcast that can be viewed from any computer. They also archive the seminar to be viewed at anyone’s convenience. Since Media Works is a service, I needed to come up with funding. To reduce costs I decided to just concentrate on one seminar series which would comprise 10 seminars. The Medical Center and the Cancer Center graciously donated the funds necessary to cover the costs.
Finally, I got approval from the Faculty Coordinator of the seminar series, as well as approval from the seminar speakers to be taped. Webcasting of the Joint Seminars in Molecular and Cellular Biology commenced spring quarter. Along with e-mail notices and handouts, I set up a website that contained all the necessary links to the live webcast as well as archived versions, that was updated weekly. A counter was also included to track interest in this project, and after 7 weeks, over 250 people had viewed the site. There was a lot of positive feedback and interest in this project and an expressed interest in other seminars being available through this medium. I am currently looking into other means to cut costs so that this program can continue next year and possibly be expanded to other seminars.
I thoroughly enjoyed being a PFTF fellow and found it very rewarding, from the implementation of my project, to the professional development discussions, and above all the opportunity to meet and interact with my peers from discipline other than my own.
Seeing Past the Present: Helping Graduate Students Through the First Years of a TAship
The first few years of graduate school can prove uniquely challenging, especially for humanities students whose TA ships often make them the primary instructor for a course during the first year.
At UC Davis, Foreign Language Graduate Students typically begin their graduate program as Foreign Language TA’s, where they teach French, German or Spanish language five days each week. The first year teaching at the university level can be thrilling, of course, but it can be daunting also, and many foreign language graduate students are international students themselves, negotiating the American educational system and culture for the very first time. Add to this experience a heavy teaching load and the fact that new graduates attend two departmental seminars and a pedagogy seminar each quarter, and you can understand how some of these students may become isolated, overwhelmed and potentially disenchanted with their graduate experience.
As a graduate student in French and Italian, myself, I wanted to develop a project that focused positive attention on the teaching experience of TA’s. I wanted to highlight how their commitment to teaching could benefit their careers now as well as in the future. To this end, I designed a series of workshops that concentrated on fellowships, awards and grants for which Foreign Language TA’s are particularly suited. The workshops, Fundamentals of Successful Fellowship Proposals and Awarding Teaching featured guests who had served on fellowship committees and who could offer directed advice to teachers of foreign languages. They featured a segment on fellowship and proposal writing for international students, and highlighted teaching awards, stipends, RA ships, and campus wide opportunities for the graduate students whose teaching loads can make it impossible for them to explore the greater world of the UC Davis graduate community. I held a panel on preparation for the first year of an academic appointment which addressed how to prepare ones self for the foreign language job market. Through discussions with my department Chair, a new departmental teaching award was also instituted this year for the French graduate TA’s.
Ethics and Guidelines Governing the Conduct of Research Involving Human Subjects
As mandated by the federal government, all research projects involving human subjects require approval by Institutional Review Board (IRB). In addition, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and research staff intending to undertake such studies are required to undergo training on ethics and guidelines governing the protection of human subjects, as well as submit research protocols to the Office for Human Research Protection (OHRP).
Unfortunately, ethical principles and guidelines on human research protection are not adequately covered in graduate and postdoctoral training programs.
The main goals of my Professors For The Future (PFTF) project were two fold: first, to develop and provide a comprehensive training program on ethical issues governing the conduct of research involving human subjects; secondly, facilitate an orientation program for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows on the IRB review process.
During the 2004 winter quarter, I organized two workshops in collaboration with OHRP and Office of Graduate Studies. The first workshop was entitled “Ethics and Guidelines Governing the Conduct of Research Involving Human Subjects: Overview of IRBs”. This workshop provided an overview of the history, ethical principles and regulatory issues governing the protection of human subjects in research. The second workshop entitled “New submitters Orientation” was a hands-on, in-depth review of the IRB process including submission and review of research protocols.
Forty-five participants, mostly new faculty, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows enrolled for the first workshop while twenty-two new submitters attended the new submitters’ orientation. Graduate Studies and OHRP have agreed to co-sponsor two human subjects workshops as part of a new Professional Development Series for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. It is anticipated that these workshops will be held annually.
Participation in the PFTF program has provided me with invariable experience in preparation for a career in academia. In addition, I have enjoyed working and sharing ideas with colleagues from diverse disciplines.
Integrating Our Personal and Professional Selves
Academics are renowned for being consumed by work—and feeling guilty when we aren’t. However, an unbalanced professional and personal life can lead to conflict, pressure, and sacrificing the things that make our lives fulfilling, such as friendships, children and family, and community involvement.
Work/family conflicts are especially acute for women faculty with children, who are much less likely to achieve tenure than their male counterparts. I was drawn to this topic because I saw few examples of content professors in graduate school and I want to excel as a scholar and devote myself to the non-academic pursuits that make me a whole person.
To address this need, I planned five seminars on work-life balance issues during the Winter and Spring quarters. The target audience was post-doctoral scholars and graduate students planning on academic careers. I met with Cristina González (Chair, Work-Life Balance Committee) and Peg Swain (Co-Director, Women’s Resources and Research Center [WRRC]) to elicit their ideas about the project. After PFTF fellows rated the potential seminar topics, I asked faculty colleagues to suggest speakers. The seminar topics included parenting in academia, dual-career couples, balancing personal and professional life (e.g., making time for others), University of California work-life balance policies, and being a scholar and active citizen. The WRRC and the Office of the Provost—Academic Personnel co-sponsored the seminars on parenting and work-life policies, respectively. The speakers included 15 faculty, staff, administrators, and graduate students (60% women, 40% minority) representing different disciplines and life situations (e.g., parents). I will share the list of speakers, topics, and suggestions with the WRRC.
Over 141 people (two-thirds women) attended the seminars (8 to 60+ per seminar), including graduate students, faculty, staff, and postdoctoral scholars. The standing-room only attendance at the dual-career couples seminar shows that this is an urgent topic which universities should address. I evaluated the project by administering a brief survey after each seminar. On average, attendees rated the seminars an 8 on a 10-point scale. Participants reported that they gained information and ideas (83%), inspiration (41%), emotional support (21%), and other benefits from the seminars (e.g., commitment to social change). For instance, one person wrote, “It gives me a feeling of hope that I can continue with pursuing a Ph.D. and still have a fulfilling life after obtaining the degree. I do not have to work as a ‘traditional’ faculty [member] to be successful.”
Planning this project introduced me to inspiring faculty and staff; broadened my knowledge of research and policies on work-life balance issues; and strengthened my commitment to creating university structures that foster gender equity and support faculty, staff, and students’ well-being.
Acquiring Funding from Traditional and Non-Traditional Sources in the Biological Sciences
One of the major challenges facing graduate students and post-doctoral scholars on the U. C. Davis campus is securing funding both in the form of grants for research and fellowships for tuition and living expenses.
The majority of extramural funding has traditionally come from federal agencies such as the NSF and NIH. Recently, decreases in available federal support and increased competition for what funding does exist make the need to find alternative or non-traditional sources of support of paramount importance. The goal of my PFTF project was to produce a weekend workshop covering both traditional and non-traditional sources of potential graduate support.
The workshop, held on May 22nd 2004, covered three major topics:
- NSF Graduate Fellowships - featured a presentation by Eric Iversen, Outreach Manager for the NSF. In addition to a comprehensive look at the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship this segment also included a question and answer session with a panel of UCD graduate students who have successfully received NSF funding
- Corporate Funding and Scientific Collaboration - presentations by Lynne Chronister from the Office of Research and Dr. David McGee, Executive Director of Business Development. This segment focused on effective ways to foster relationships with private corporations/companies for funding and scientific collaboration.
- Web page funding - presentations by Robert Avalos, Associate Director of Development, Division of Biological Sciences and Dr. Andy Jones, Coordinator of Computer Aided Instruction, Department of English. This session focused on using web pages as a means of raising private research funding and the nuts and bolts of web page construction.
The event was a major success, attracting over 100 participants for the various presentations. Attendees were a mixture of graduate students, undergraduates, faculty, staff, and post-doctoral students. All of the featured speakers, including the NSF outreach manager expressed an interest in participating in future seminars on graduate student funding.
Creating a Successful Graduate Student and Faculty Relationship: A Faculty Response
As the Graduate Student Assistant to the Dean of Graduate Studies and Chancellor, this project was envisioned as a method to bring to the forefront of the mentor/mentee relationship, the needs, expectations, and desires of UC Davis faculty.
The goals of this project are to advance the continuance of and provide enrichment for a productive and healthy rapport between faculty and those that they advise. This study follows a 1999 PFTF project by A. Ortolani, entitled Mentoring of Graduate Students, which sought out the perspectives of UC Davis graduate students. This project, Creating a Successful Graduate Student and Faculty Relationship: A Faculty Response, seeks to bring balance to the equation of the mentor/mentee relationship by understanding the expressed perspectives of faculty.
At present UC Davis employs approximately 1074 ladder ranked academic personnel serving an estimated population of 4100 graduate students. The request to participate was submitted to 1069 faculty members across all disciplines and representational of junior, mid-career, and senior instructors and researchers. The survey asks a sequence of both quantitative and open-ended questions that inform us on individual faculty approaches to mentoring, as well as, initiate thought and process on their roles as mentors. This report examines the responses of 296 faculty members who replied to the survey, A Faculty Perspective on Graduate Student Mentoring. The participant returns represent a 27.6% response rate. This substantial rate of return is indicative of the level of concern that faculty at this institution hold for their roles as mentors. The findings of this survey are examined and juxtaposition to the 1999 survey results, seeking the parameters of mentor/mentee mutually analogous relationships and where disjuncture may lie.
A copy of the findings and a full report can be obtained from the Office of Graduate Studies.
Creating an Outstanding Achievement Award for Postdocs at UC Davis
Albert van Geelen
Postdoctoral scholars occupy a unique place in the University community. We are neither fish nor fowl, having completed advanced degrees and no longer being true students. We are hardworking professionals, training for independent research careers, but not yet fully independent.
The institutional recognition of postdocs as a group culminated this year with the implementation of the university-wide postdoc policy, APM-390. Currently, UC Davis employs approximately 700 postdocs. Although it is widely acknowledged that postdocs are a critical force in the research mission of UC Davis, there is no tangible recognition for this. In this important aspect of University Life - rewarding excellence - they are a neglected group. UC Davis has been hugely successful in attracting extramural funding for research. Postdocs, along with graduate students, have largely pulled the cart of hands-on experimentation, data collection and reporting, thereby facilitating the success of the UC Davis faculty. Like students, postdocs are temporary tenants, but the average term of employment for postdocs is almost four years, nationally. Most likely this is similar at UC Davis.
Our plan is to secure funding in order to establish an annual award, with 5 to 10 Outstanding Postdoctoral Scholars as award recipients, selected by a committee of faculty and postdocs. Several alternative award mechanisms have been formulated, but first we need the commitment from the administration to allow us to develop and implement a plan for an award. I have formulated a funding proposal, where an award for postdoctoral scholars was included, together with a travel award mechanism for postdocs. This proposal was presented to Graduate Council, where it was discussed, but deemed not a priority for financial support. Subsequently we met with several high-level administrators, most of whom were supportive of the idea of a postdoctoral achievement award; however, to date no financial commitment has been made by the administration. We realize that the postdoctoral achievement award will cost $5,000-10,000 annually, but this is a symbolic amount of money, considering the hundreds of millions in research dollars that postdocs help secure for UC Davis on an annual basis.
I have enjoyed the discussions with various administrators about postdoc issues in general and have detected a positive attitude and appreciation for postdocs as a group and the contributions that we make to the UC Davis community. It is our heartfelt conviction that rewarding excellence for postdoctoral scholars will pay for itself in multiple ways, by increasing recognition for UC Davis as a national leader in postdoc policy, by recruiting more competitive postdocs and by further elimination of the stepchild-status for postdocs in the UC Davis family.
Creating and Delivering Effective Poster Presentations
Student and professionals in academic science are increasingly required to give poster-based presentations, as opposed to traditional oral-presentations, at professional meetings and conferences.
The reasons behind this gradual change are many, although the systemic continual expansion of academic science is certainly a root cause. The growth of poster presentations coincides with a current shift in the technology used to produce the posters.
The goals of my PFTF project were to:
- Reduce the anxiety experienced by students faced with giving a poster presentation for the first time, via increased confidence and knowledge
- Engage participants in discussion of the purpose of poster-based academic presentations
- Provide design guidelines to maximize visual communication
- Provide suggestions for effectively delivering a poster presentation, since constructing the poster is just the first half of the process
- Provide other helpful suggestions, such as how to print and transport the poster
- Provide a step-by-step tutorial of poster design, using common computer programs
My objectives were met by producing a 14-page packet that covered each of the above points. A curriculum based on this packet was taught during two workshops held during the spring quarter. The larger of the workshops was attended by approximately 30 people. Based on evaluations distributed at the workshop: participants ranged from 1st through 5th year graduate students and postdocs, they came from a variety of scientific disciplines (including the natural, social, and physical sciences), all participants found the workshop helpful and felt better equipped to create and deliver a poster presentation. A suggestion from the first workshop was to include a tutorial for more than one software program; this was rectified for the second workshop and for the finalized packet. As a final extension, I am constructing a website in order to allow future students access to the materials produced during the course of this project.