Primary job responsibilities:
I teach classes in general chemistry and nuclear materials. I also direct a research group that at present includes graduate and undergraduate students, as well as two high school students. I serve on various steering committees, including one that is helping to design a new science and engineering facility here at GW. I serve on committees that address funding issues, evaluate the curriculum, and make decisions on faculty promotions and tenure. It's what the university needs to keep the machine going.
Typical day on the job:
My work day varies, depending on my class and meeting schedules.
- On average, I spend about 15% of my time on teaching.
- Meetings take another 20%.
- Service and committee work for the university and my scientific community takes about 20% of my time.
- I spend about 20% of my time working with grad students, which includes editing manuscripts for publication as well as overseeing their research.
- About 10% of my time is spent helping my undergrad and high school students.
- The remaining 15% of my time is spent pursuing funding and managing my existing funding.
I spend almost all of my time in my private office, which has ample room for meetings and student interaction, multiple computers, and whiteboards.
I generally work 45–50 hours a week. The atmosphere here is fairly relaxed.
I spend a few days each month traveling to conferences, visiting research collaborators at other universities and lab facilities, and attending project reviews and other meetings required by my funding sources. Meetings at the national laboratories are useful for finding new sources of funding and for maintaining professional contacts.
Tools you can’t live without:
My research group focuses very strongly on characterizing solid-state compounds using X-ray diffraction. We use X-ray diffractometers in my lab as well as luminescence instrumentation to study structure–property relationships within our materials.
We use Mac computers and CrystalMaker software to process and analyze our data and to visualize the results. We also make daily use of the Cambridge Structural Database (CSD) and the Inorganic Crystal Structure Database (ICSD).
What you like most about your job:
I have a flexible schedule and diverse duties.
Best productivity trick:
Going to the office early on Sunday mornings or late on Saturday nights!
Best career advice you’ve received:
"You will always outlast an administrator." My PhD advisor told me this when a new administrator was doing some major restructuring that was hurting our department. If you can hang in there during the hard times, and have a diverse portfolio of activities, you can keep from going crazy and eventually things will get better again.
Advice you'd give someone just starting out:
You don't have to be a genius to succeed in science. Communication skills will help you find resources and opportunities. Attention to detail will help you produce solid research results and build a reputation as someone worth paying attention to.
If you're looking at a hybrid career, like science policy, it's best to get a good foundation in lab research first. On an academic track, a strong research program gives you credibility, and you can point to your accomplishments.
Skills or talents that make you a good fit for your job:
Communication skills and attention to scientific details.
Essential habit you wish you’d started earlier:
Exercise. It's great for mental clarity, reducing stress, and general well-being. I have a toddler at home, which is one source of exercise!
How you've benefited from being an ACS member:
Chemical & Engineering News. I look at the Newscripts and business sections to see what's going on outside my daily surroundings, and I check the job ads to see the trends in what companies and universities are offering. My group also uses SciFinder on a daily basis.