The challenges opportunities of transitioning from phd student to junior faculty
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The Challenges & Opportunities of Transitioning from PhD Student to Junior Faculty. Michael Lindsey, PhD, MSW, MPH Assistant Professor, School of Social Work University of Maryland, Baltimore Email: [email protected]

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The Challenges & Opportunities of Transitioning from PhD Student to Junior Faculty

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The Challenges & Opportunities of Transitioning from PhD Student to Junior Faculty

Michael Lindsey, PhD, MSW, MPH

Assistant Professor, School of Social Work

University of Maryland, Baltimore

Email: [email protected]

Presentation at the 12th annual meeting for the Society for Social Work Research, San Francisco, CA, January 11, 2007

Let’s Contextualize This Dialogue: This is Michael Lindsey’s Perspective!!!

  • The transition is tailor-made

  • Not a rational, linear process

  • Dr. Robert Joseph Taylor: “Being successful in academia is an Art, not a science”

The Transition Includes…

  • Mentoring

  • Predoctoral Awards and Training

  • Successful defense of dissertation

  • The Postdoc Route

  • The Academy and finding the “Right Fit”

  • Years 1-3 of the Academy: Scholarship, Teaching and Service


  • Questions, questions, questions!!!!!!!!

    • Why am I here?

    • What do I want to get out of this experience?

    • What does success mean at this point/during this process?


Someone who has something to offer

  • Achieved some level of success in their own right


Wants you to exceed their success


  • Pragmatics of successful mentoring at the PhD level

    • Appreciate the value of mentorship

    • As a PhD student, you should be writing papers with your mentor

    • Solid advice on developmentally appropriate next steps

Predoctoral Awards & Training

  • Federal and foundation dissertation grant awards

    • NIH Dissertation Grants

    • Foundation Grants: Hartford (Aging)

    • Listservs can be invaluable (E.g. [email protected])

  • Very competitive, but yield is ENORMOUS

  • Training programs (NIH Predoc fellowships)

My Experience: Dissertation R03

  • Concept paper was reviewed by a NIMH program officer

  • Tough, but invaluable feedback

    • Tough feedback means that you have a really great, fundable idea!

  • RELATIONSHIP WITH FEDS: They follow your career and want you to come back!

Postdoc or Assistant Professor

Which way should I go?

Why a Postdoc?

  • Need more training in a particular methodology

  • Need time to WRITE

  • Need new mentors, new exposure, and protected time

  • Need time to reflect on next steps

A Successful Postdoc

  • Sit in front of a dataset and write

  • Should be about YOU

    • Negotiate rules of engagement very early

  • Make a strong connection with mentors

    • The relationship is everything!

  • Always think at least 2 years ahead

Products of a Successful Postdoc

  • Manuscripts in review and/or paper in press

    • 1 year: 2 papers

    • 2 years: 2-4 papers

    • 3 years: 4-6 papers

  • Very good draft or strong outline of a grant

    • K series

      • K01 Mentored Scientist Award

      • K99 Pathway to Independence Award for New Investigators (

    • R03

Ending Your Postdoc…

  • Have solid 5 and 10-year career plan

    • If you focus on your career plan, everything else will fall into place

    • Professional, personal goals?

  • How do you intend to advance the knowledge base relative to your research area?

    • Tenure should not be your focus, rather advancing the field in your research area is most important

Assistant Professorship

What’s the right fit?

On The Market

  • Can I carry out my research agenda at this institution?

    • Infrastructure to support research?

    • Formalized Mentoring: Scholarship, Teaching

    • Teaching load?

  • Your early success is contingent upon your negotiation

You’ve Arrived on Campus!

Balancing It All

Professional and personal

Not as difficult as walking a high wire… more like gymnastics!


Helpful Tips for Years 1-3

  • Identify the manuscripts you will write in Years 1-5 years, including key collaborations

  • Write the manuscripts!

  • Establish grant activity in Years 1-3

  • Successfully manage time toward PRODUCTIVITY

Helpful Tips for Years 1-3

  • Formalized mentoring is vitally important

  • What has worked successfully for others?

    • Talk to as many people as possible

    • Develop an identity for success

  • Avoid over-involvement in committee work

    • Contributions to the school community?

    • Service to your area of interest

  • Don’t fight losing battles – Focus on the BIG Picture

Helpful Tips for Years 1-3

  • Negotiate course reductions

  • Teach courses that highly interest you

  • Negotiate for research assistants

  • Attend grant workshops offered by federal agencies or foundations

Helpful Tips for Years 1-3

  • Attend summer programs for data analytic development

  • Develop relationships with Program Officers

  • Rejections are blessings: Every rejection gets your manuscript/proposal closer to where it really should be

Helpful Tips for Years 1-3

  • Take time for personal interests

  • Family (esp. children) let you know what’s really important

    • Parent-teacher conferences

    • Involvement in extra-curricular activities

    • Visits to the doctor

    • Trips to Disneyworld

Uncle Michael

Lawrence Gary, PhD

Richard English, PhD

E. Aracelis Francis, DSW

Wynne Korr, PhD

David Epperson, PhD

Ed Mulvey, PhD

Sandy Wexler, PhD

Carol Anderson, PhD

Larry Davis, PhD

Phil Leaf, PhD

Nick Ialongo, PhD

Ann Hohmann, PhD

Alan Green, PhD

Diane Depanfilis, PhD

Donna Harrington, PhD

Lee Cornelius, PhD

Waldo Johnson, PhD

Jesse Harris, PhD

Geoff Greif, DSW

Lisa Dixon, MD

Mark Weist, PhD

Robert J. Taylor, PhD

Kimberly Hoagwood, PhD

Richard Barth, PhD

I am because of my mentors!

Michael A. Lindsey

Email: [email protected]

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