Typical day on the job:
As an academic, "typical" days vary ― one day I teach class, which involves lecturing, preparing for lecture, and interacting with the students in class. On another day, I may be attending a professional meeting out of town. I have routine meetings with my students (1–4 hours per day). I no longer conduct experiments myself, but I manage students and postdocs who perform the experiments. This includes a lot of mentoring, as well as applying for grants to keep everything funded. I also attend routine meetings related to administration of the department and university.
I am away from my workplace on travel from one to five days a month, on average. This may be as a guest lecturer at other universities, or visiting companies that are interested in my research. I attend several international, national and regional meetings, including Gordon Conferences and ACS meetings.
I work in an office, which I do not share with anyone. It has a computer, seated desk, and standing desk. I am often in a meeting with three or more people, and this may happen in my office, a conference room on campus, another office, or a coffee shop.
I work about 60 hours a week ― long hours are required. Email tends to be more or less 24 hours a day except when I am sleeping or on a plane (I still am unplugged on the plane).
Best productivity trick:
I make well-defined to-do lists. And I actually shut down the email sometimes.
Skills or talents that make you a good fit for your job:
I am a self-starter, I’m driven, and passionate about what I do.
Best career advice you've received:
I have had tremendous mentorship, and for that I am deeply grateful. Good mentorship is the best advice. When I was a student, I sought out a variety of mentors. Each one excelled at something different, so I learned different things from each one. I realized that it's my career, so I had to take the initiative to find people who could teach me.
Essential habit you wish you'd started earlier:
Time management ― I could work 100 hours a week and there would still be things to do. I had to learn to set priorities and make sure that the most important things get done. I also had to learn not to spend an excessive amount of time trying to achieve perfection on any one thing while letting other important things go undone. My do-list is my responsibility.
Favorite ACS resource:
Involvement in the ACS Division of Polymer Chemistry has been essential for my career. The division is a vibrant and tremendously supportive community. It also provides an engaged and interactive approach to the broader ACS community.