On Mentorship and Ownership

A postdoc’s funding typically lasts 2-4 years: just enough time to start and finish a project and push it through to get published. In an ideal world, the postdoc who wants to become independent would then write a grant on what they have become an expert on. This, presumably, would be based on their most recent publication. However, it is rare that supervisors let postdocs take their projects with them, an issue which is most often not openly discussed before the start of the project. Here, a comment by Professor Ben A. Barres on what PIs, funding agencies, and young scientists should do to support a culture of good mentorship that enables young scientists to choose the right lab and to flourish in their chosen field.

Gender Diversity and Equality in Academic Science

A few weeks ago, while discussing the issues of unequal opportunities for women in academic science, one of my guy friends said:

“I honestly don’t get it. I know a lot of women who are successful scientists, work seven to four, and then go home to be with their children. And they tell you that’s what they want and that they’re happy. Women have different goals and perspectives, and when a baby comes along it just changes what they want.”

The conversation that followed, along with others, has led me to some interesting insights which I hope to share, especially with my other male colleagues.

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Emotional Vulnerability

Recently, the NIH OITE Careers blog published a post on revealing vulnerability in the workplace. While the article and linked study are definitely worth a read, the vulnerability I wish to discuss in this article is what Dr. Brené Brown describes as being powerfully and intrinsically human. We live in a fast-paced, competitive world that wants us to “suck it up” and keep going whenever things don’t go our way. It is a world and culture that for the most part perpetuate the myth that we have no time to understand or work on our emotions. In fact, revealing our emotions in the public sphere is seen as a weakness and something that will negatively impact our lives. This continuously perpetuates the stigma of seeking help on emotional and mental health and strengthens the myth that anyone seeking help is fundamentally broken beyond repair in some way. I’m writing this post to help break that stigma. I, Juan Pablo Ruiz Villalobos, successful PhD student and emotionally-balanced human being (happiest in my lab by the subjective opinion of my colleagues and an online psych test we all took), needed help, and sought out counseling.

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