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Career Profile: Sandra Yuter

Sandra Yuter. Photo courtesy of Sandra Yuter.

North Carolina State University at Raleigh

North Carolina State University at Raleigh is a university with graduate programs, including doctoral programs

Sandra Yuter
is one of the leaders of the 2012 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 Sandra Yuter '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.

1996 Ph.D., University of Washington, Atmospheric Sciences.
1985-86 Additional coursework, University of Southern California, Artificial Intelligence and Probability Theory.
1983 B.S., Brown University, Geology-Physics/Mathematics

After completing my undergraduate degree I worked for seven years as a software engineer doing work related to remote sensing. While working at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, I realized that the scientists were having more fun than software engineers so I decided to go to graduate school to get a Ph.D. in atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington. After completing my degree in 1996, I moved up the ladder at UW from staff to research associate professor with my own grants. However,as the grant funding environment got tighter, a research faculty position became a much more risky long term employment plan. I explored several avenues and decided that an academic faculty job looked like a reasonable option. I got a job at North Carolina State University in 2005 and have been there since. I became a full professor in 2011.

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

A typical week usually includes: mentoring graduate students, preparing for class, reviewing draft manuscripts from my students, teaching class, grading, meeting with my TA, communicating with my collaborators, one-on-one meetings with other faculty in the department, working as a journal editor, dealing with email requests for information, doing university paperwork, and going to meetings.

What do you like best about your work?

Working with students and those times when I can play with the research data myself.

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

Maintaining patience and focus.
I've read a lot of popular non-fiction books about how the brain works. This has aided both my time management and how I manage my students.

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

  1. Having an established grant funding record.
  2. Good presentation skills.

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.

I've discussed this topic with many of my colleagues. All of them think they work too much in terms of balancing work with family and many feel that they do not work enough in terms of keeping up with their field and staying competitive for grants.

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?

  • Once you become faculty perfection is out of the question. Learn to accept "good enough" from yourself and others. Time is your most precious resource.
  • The majority of the faculty voting on who gets the position will attend your job talk but will not have the time or inclination to meet with you. Take the time to prepare and deliver an excellent job talk.