Dec 302012

I tried to have New Year Resolution every year. Looking back at the 20 resolution from last year, I only managed to (partially) fulfill a few (start my blog, start Aaron on violin and Alvin on maths, travel no more than once a month, submit > 2 grants, seriously write > 4 papers, publish corresponding author papers total IF > 100), although it was still a decent year.

This year, I decided to have some theoretical rigor in the new year resolution process, so I read the book How to Set Goals. It is a very easy read, and the process is interesting:
1. Goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.
2. First make 4 life goals: Wealth, Health, Social, Personal, (I added 2 more) Career, Family. For each, think of the ultimate long term goal, E.g. have $20M when retire, active living at 80 yo, etc.
3. For each of the life goal, think of ~3 process goals. E.g. to have active living at 80 yo, need to sleep 7 hours / day, exercise 30 min daily, keep weight below 110 pounds.
4. Sharing your goals, with friends or write it on a blog. Friends or blog followers will offer support and also help hold us accountable. I am not going to share all the goals, but want to mention some most important goals here: 7 hours sleep / day (H), read 1 hour of papers / day (C), improve course rating to 4 (S), have discipline to keep schedule (P), weekly family meetings (F).
5. Visualize your goals. This provide motivation why these goals are important.
6. Review progress weekly or monthly.

And most importantly, “everything you do takes you closer to or further away from your goals”, so stay on course.

Dec 162012

In the most recent issue of Science, a study showed that “Airn Transcriptional Overlap, But Not Its lncRNA Products, Induces Imprinted Igf2r Silencing“. Intriguingly, they found that “silencing only required Airn transcriptional overlap of the Igf2r promoter, which interferes with RNA polymerase II recruitment in the absence of repressive chromatin.” The world of lncRNA is really fascinating, and we are just learning about it like “blind men and the elephant”.

Dec 112012

Behind every successful man, there is a woman. Actually behind every successful woman, there is often a man.

Recently a women friend and colleague of mine mentioned an interesting phenomenon: many of our female faculty colleagues met their future husband and established stable relationship early in their career. Indeed, many female faculty I know stayed single, and the rest mostly found good spouse early in life. Some met their future spouse at the beginning of graduate school or college, some married their high school sweetheart, and most recently I knew someone who married their elementary school classmate :). When women have emotional security and stability, it is much easier to devote more time and energy on career and science.

Not only do these women settle family early, they also often have very supportive husband. I often smile when I hear male colleagues or friends say, “I am very supportive of my wife. If she wants to stay at home, I am fine; if she wants to work, I will be OK too.” I think many of my female faculty colleagues will say that truly supportive spouses mean taking on a good share of family duties in house work and child care, sometimes sacrificing their own career for their wives’, and most importantly believing and encouraging their wives to try harder and achieve greater goals.

Dec 092012

I am always hot in the head and cold in the feet when working late, and it is very difficult to fall asleep when my feet are cold. Over Thanksgiving, we bought an Xbox and the fitness program, and I have been using it right before bed for both exercise and warming my feet for bed. The exercise has been great, but I often get too excited to fall asleep :(. So I searched the web about the best time of the day for exercise, and found this interesting article on the best time of the day for many things. In summary:

    Sleep an extra 20 minutes in the morning.
    Weigh yourself in the morning (most accurate).
    Slather on sunscreen year round.
    Bask in the morning light will boost energy.
    Eat breakfast if you’re watching your weight.
    Take a power nap in the afternoon.
    Skip “lunch” in favor of two mini-meals.
    Get exercise in late afternoon (time with best body temperature).
    Down a glass of cranberry juice at night to reduce urinary infection.
    Invite the night and do not eat / exercise right before bed.
    Take a shower or foot bath before bed.
    Take your allergy medications at night for maximum effect.
    Pop an aspirin if you’re a candidate for high blood pressure .
Dec 032012

Today at the AAMC training, we did the TKI test which examines how we resolve conflicts. There are five types:

Competing (assertive and uncooperative):
Goal: Win, “My way”
When to use:
Limited resources that can not be divided
Issues of vital importance or high stakes
Time constraint or emergency issues
Danger: Discourage participation and dampens relationship
Skills: Assert your opinion and feelings, state position clearly, stand your grant, ability to argue or debate, ability to use power and influence

Avoiding (unassertive and uncooperative):
Goal: Delay, “No way”
Unimportant issues or not your problem
Winning is impossible, cost outweighs benefit
Temporary use for “cool-down” period
Danger: Delay resolution, excite others into competitive mode, regard you as weak
ability to withdraw and sidestepping, sense of timing

Compromising (in the middle):
Goal: Middle ground, “Half way”
Time urgent but moderately important issues
Both issues and relationships are important
Strongly committed mutually exclusive goals
Temporary settlement of complex issues requiring long-term management
Sometimes as a back-up strategy when collaboration fails
Danger: Might leave important issues unaddressed and undermine trust
Skills: Assess value, make concessions, negotiation

Accommodating (unassertive and cooperative):
Goal: Yield, “Your way”
Preserve harmony and create good will
The issue is much more important to the other
To build social “chits” …show reasonableness
Proactive strategy when you anticipate major competition with another individual
Useful strategy when you discover you are in error or you can’t win
Danger: Lower esteem both from colleagues and self
Skills: Ability to yield and refined sense of self

Collaborating (assertive and cooperative):
Goal: Win-win, “Our way”
Builds understanding of complex problem and find common goals
Increases possibility of sustainable change
Builds and improves relationships
Danger: Time consuming, ineffective, taken advantage of by distrustful individuals (say collaborate but not really)
Skills: Ability and curious to listen, interact in non-thretingway, analyze and discover common interest and invent solutions

It is a surprise to me that “avoiding” which is my dominant mode is unassertive but also uncooperative! The key is to learn to use all 5 different modes, depending on the situation. In another session about conflict management, my team helped me identify the solutions: clearly define your objectives then be proactive in finding an innovative solution.

Dec 022012

At the AAMC Mid-Career Women Faculty Seminar, I heard another talk about leadership visibility. A slide was particularly interesting, which is about credibility busters. I couldn’t help feel a little remorseful for many of my actions before.

    Failing to do what you say you’ll do
    Breaking appointments/being late
    Being messy or disorganized
    Being “too busy” to pay attention in meetings
    Putting yourself down
    Giving too much personal information
    Keeping your team in the dark
    Blaming/bad mouthing others
Dec 012012

I am attending the AAMC Mid-Career Women Faculty Development Seminar at Austin. Heard three interesting talks this morning, and here is a summary.

Stephan Abbuhl from UPenn

    1. Have a plan, but be open to opportunities. Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.
    2. Don’t confuse being busy with being productive. Spend time on the important not just urgent matters (Covey’s Habits).
    3. The power of teams, none of us is as smart as all of us.
    4. Find work-life satisfaction however you can, ask for what you need to make it happen.
    5. If there is something you can’t say “no”, put a limit from the start. “It is really difficult, but has to be done. Can I do this for just one year?”

Darshana Shah from Marshall University

    1. Aligning your work with your passion & purpose.
    2. Take the road less travelled
    3. Every close door is an opportunity.
    4. Stay away from energy drainers. Surround yourself with people who uplift you.

Anne Wright from Univ AZ

    1. Pretend you are in the field
    2. Find your passion and identify where it fits.
    3. Data can be a powerful instrument of change: Could be part time when you first have kids, many later become very successful. Actually there are equal number of male and female part time, men later in life, but women earlier.
    4. Bring people along.
    5. You can have it all, just not all at once.
    6. Attend to non-verbal behavior, watch your vocalization.
    7. Build networks through grooming, catch people when they do something right (praise).
    8. Double duty: Are there something you do that serves multiple purposes?
    9. Take a little more time before you take on a collaboration project. Make sure they value your unique expertise.
    10. Continue to find new mentors as you advance in career.