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Season 1 Highlights
Dr. Jonathan Cornett is a biology professor at Lee University in Tennessee. He gave insight into how to enter into teaching at a small university.
"We are undergraduate only, so one of the challenges was learning how to strike that balance between high expectations for my students and recognition of their skill level, knowledge level within the discipline. I guess a better way to say it is that you lose sight of what it was like as an undergraduate the further along you go. I had spent all these years in graduate school and postdoc and very focused setting, thinking about particular questions in science and surrounded by other graduate students and postdocs and faculty members and re-reminding myself of what it was like when I was 19 and just taking my first course in genetics. I think that is an easy thing to lose sight of, so realizing and remembering what students are coming into class with already is a challenge.
Another challenge is limitation of resources. Coming from a place like Yale where you’ve got great lab resources and almost anything you could want, so that is sometimes a challenge [at a small liberal arts school]…
Another limitation is access to journals. At a place like Yale or Emory, you’ve got access to whatever you want immediately, whereas [at Lee University], you have to go through an indirect route that through the library we won’t necessarily have journal subscriptions to immediately access journals and will have to request that, which takes a bit of time…"
Dr. Beth Luoma is the director of the Helmsley program at the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning. Her focus is on developing aspiring educators on their teaching skills.
"I remember our now graduate school dean, Lynn Cooley, mentioning that the best advice you can give a graduate student is to be okay with the indefiniteness, which someone did tell me before I started grad school, but I don’t think that I had internalized that to the extent that I needed to. I think one of the biggest challenges in grad school is, at least in the sciences, is not knowing when it is going to end, is not knowing when you are going to have that breakthrough, and so, getting yourself to the place that you can be at peace with that, the best that you can, to know that grad school might take longer than you expected, but that it may not be due to any fault of your own.
So, to internalize the ability to work hard, but not to internalize all the failures because some of them is on you, sure. I accidentally threw water on my cells once instead of my buffer, and they all exploded. That is a true story! We have human errors built into the process, but sometimes there is a little bit of luck involved, like that you happened to be on the project that was the right one. As a graduate student, you take on a project that already exists and go with it. Well, you are really dependent on what’s been there before you. So you do the best with what you have, but sometimes that might not be enough and you need to go to a new direction. So, stick to what you have done that has gotten you here: the ability to work hard, the ability to use the tools around you, to solve problems, but don’t worry about internalizing all the failures that you will encounter along the way. Know that there is another experiment, another angle, to try to get you where you need to be."
Dr. Ben Haley is a group leader at Genentech.
"….As it turns out, the way that I was able to get my foot in the door most strongly at Genentech was the individual I shared my postdoc bench with. She went off and joined Genentech. She was the one who put my name in the internal reference pool. And that is absolutely critical to have that inside connection to put you on that pile…So in terms of hiring, and I have now hired multiple people and served on different interview committees at all different levels, by and large, most of the candidates that come in for interviews have some connection to someone at the company. And that is not nepotism, per se. It’s to me, familiarity, and I am going to take the advice of someone that I know and trust and have built a relationship with in the company who will then provide me with that recommendation or CV over just a blind CV that has somehow made it into the system based on a number of keywords. A critical feature of this is the sheer number of CVs that we get for each position. Typically, we receive dozens if not hundreds of CVs for any given positions and it is really hard to spend enough time to get to know the individual through the CV when you have so many to look through. Having that personal connection somewhere in the company or having a mentor make that phone call is extremely helpful. "
After getting his PhD from Harvard, he worked at a VC firm and is now at video game startup FACEIT. He has a lot of wisdom about the differences between academia and startups and how to enter into startup culture.