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Career Profile: Margot Gerritsen

Margot Gerritsen. Photo courtesy of Margot Gerritsen.

Stanford University

Stanford is a university with graduate programs, including doctoral programs

Margot Gerritsen
is one of the leaders of the 2010 Preparing for an Academic Career in the Geosciences Workshop. Prior to the workshop, we asked each of the leaders to describe their careers, for the benefit of workshop participants, by answering the questions below.

Click on a topic to read Margot Gerritsen 's answer to an individual question, or scroll down to read the entire profile: Educational background and career path * Current job responsibilities * Best part of the job * Challenges and strategies * Qualifications * Balancing work and life * Advice

Briefly describe your educational background and career path.

  • '90 MS in applied mathematics
  • '96 PhD in computational maths and mechanical engineering
  • '97-2001, Faculty position University of Auckland, NZ
  • 2001-present, Associate Professor Stanford University in Energy Resource Engineering

Briefly describe your current job responsibilities, perhaps by describing a typical day, week, or semester.

Mixture of instruction (mathematics, energy processes, computing, at undergrad and grad level), research (energy processes, computational mathematics) and service/outreach (serving in university committees, diversity work, public speaking, open university courses, podcast show)

What do you like best about your work?

The incredible wealth of problems I can work on, quite independently. The close collaboration with students and colleagues. The excitement of the energy area. And the fact that I learn something new every day.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work? What strategies have you developed for tackling that challenge?

Work never stops, never ends. There is always more to be done. It's difficult to let go and focus on personal life instead for a while. Family/work definitely the biggest challenge. Also, the environment is very competitive so brings stresses with it.

What qualifications do you think made you competitive in your job search(es)?

Passion. Willingness to jump in the deep. Good fundamental background in maths and physics that allowed me to diversify research areas and be flexible in teaching.

Many of the graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in these workshops are interested in balancing a family and career, in dual career couple issues, and in how other personal choices affect the search for a fulfilling career. Please share information about your situation, your ideas and experiences.

Balancing work with personal life is definitely a challenge. I am a part-time single mom. My marriage did not survive the tenure-track years, but the work stress was only partly to blame. I personally do not think there is an optimal time to have children in an academic career. It will always require strength to deal with the additional stresses. What helped me is that I made a pact with myself that I would not feel guilty one way or another: not guilty about not being the perfect mom, and not guilty about not spending all my time at work either.

What advice do you have for graduate students or post-docs preparing for academic careers in geoscience? What do you know now that you wish you had known as you started your career?

Enjoy the learning process every day. Passion will carry you through the stressful times. Be open for new challenges and dare to jump in even if you feel in over your head.