Chairing the workshop: career advice to last a lifetime

March 18, 2015

By Val Fajardo

The Ontario Exercise Physiology (OEP) 2015 Conference took place February 27-March 1. Terry Graham, editor of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, presented a workshop on publishing and careers. This is the second in a series of guest posts by students who attended the workshop. Canadian Science Publishing sponsored the workshop.

This year at OEP 2015, hosted by the University of Waterloo, I was blessed with the opportunity to chair Dr. Terry Graham’s workshop in which covered how to handle rejections/revisions (part I) and touched on how to get hired (part II). To be completely honest, I was pretty darn nervous standing up there welcoming someone with such vast accomplishments.  Nevertheless, I managed and the show was all Terry’s.  

As Terry began his workshop, he told the all-student audience that part I of the workshop would likely take the majority of the time especially given his 14 year experience as the editor of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. And for all of the students attending, there were no complaints! This was clearly evident with the amount of student participation and involvement.

It was tremendous. It was fantastic. However, it ran 50 minutes long and looked like it was going to go for the whole time. That is where I cleared my voice and spoke with as much confidence as I could muster: “Terry I think we need to get moving onto the next part of your workshop.”  I admit, as a 4th-year PhD student nearing the end of my studies, I was really keen on the "how to get hired" part of the workshop; but with only 10 minutes remaining, I didn’t know if I would have enough time to ask my questions. I also had to chair the next session titled “Musculoskeletal Structure and Function” at 2:00,  so I had to get Terry’s workshop wrapped up in time for me to head on over there.  

With all of this on my mind, I never ended up asking any of my questions. Despite this, I managed to extract quite a bit of information from Terry in those last 10 minutes. The very first point he made was referring to the proverbial grapevine that exists among faculties. That is, they are watching you, and they are gossiping about you! I was certainly surprised to hear this, and Terry must’ve thought - Val is so naïve! After coming to terms with the grapevine, I thought to myself, everyone could benefit from the Hawthorne effect!  Now that I know I’m being’s my time to shine!.

The second point he made was to learn from the mistakes and successes of others. I understood this as 'seek advice from others and try to be more observant of your surroundings and the people around you'.  You never know what you will learn.

The next few points Terry managed to squeeze in were about the CV and the interview process and possible questions.  One important tip that I learned, and one I will certainly carry with me as I move forward, is to keep your CV dynamic. Direct it and design it depending on the job you are applying for. Do not keep it static! Terry then listed a few questions on his next slide that, personally I find very useful:
  • What do you bring to the job?
  • How would you fit?
  • Why do you want the job? What would you do?
  • What are your experiences?  How have you learned from them?

I think all of us could benefit by reflecting on these questions prior to an interview.  In addition to these, Terry also brought up a few very important points to consider:
  • Brilliance is not expected.
  • Be prepared. Know the job and the Department.
  • Try to relax. Be open and broad.
  • Do not fake it!
  • What are your questions for them? Know when to ask what!

Finally, as Terry got to his last slide for part II of his workshop he asked us “what do we want to be remembered for after the interview?”.  He advised us to dress properly, be professional, do not bad mouth, remember academics love to gossip, and don’t chew gum. As I contemplated swallowing my gum at that moment, the time had reached 2:00, and I again had to interrupt Terry’s workshop.  I stood up and thanked Terry for such a wonderful workshop, and before I knew it, I was off onto my next session.

So all together, I had to cut Terry off twice during his workshop and this should only be reflective of the great amount of knowledge and experience that Terry has to share and is willing to share.  If only the workshop was longer!  

With all the questions I had left, I decided to email Terry a couple days after OEP to (a) follow up with him on what I believe was a fantastic workshop, and (b) ask him a couple of my remaining questions. His response was truly admirable as he welcomed my questions. In fact, Terry welcomes any other questions from any of the students out there. So if you’re reading this and still have a few questions left for Terry, go ahead and email him (or comment below).

In short, through our email conversations, Terry gave me some great advice on how to direct my goals (i.e., don’t try to get the Nobel right away and instead focus on being a competent student and, hopefully, a competent Faculty member) and how to pick a post-doctoral position (i.e., defined a good one vs. a bad one). I can say without a doubt that his advice will take me a long way during my travels on Academia Road. Thank you, Terry!

Val FarjardoAbout Val
Val Fajardo is a 4th year PhD Candidate with Dr. Russ Tupling at the University of Waterloo.  His research focuses on the dysregulation of calcium and it's effects on various muscle diseases such as centronuclear myopathy.  Specifically, he works with the SERCA pump and two of its regulators, phospholamban and sarcolipin.

Terry GrahamAbout Dr. Terry Graham
Dr. Graham has been a journal editor for 14 years. A professor emeritus in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences in the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Guelph, his research areas are muscle glycogen regulation and postprandial responses to carbohydrate ingestion. He is an active member of both the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology, the Canadian Physiological Society, and the Canadian Nutrition Society. Dr. Graham held an informal workshop at the Ontario Exercise Physiology conference in February 2014 and again in 2015. Here, he had the opportunity to speak with a number of grad students on writing and publishing as well as other important career considerations and opportunities.

Filed Under: Science Careers Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism

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