Career Profile: Susan Lozier
Earth and Ocean Sciences Division, Duke University
Duke University is a private research university.
Click on a topic to read Susan's answer to an individual question, or scroll down to read the entire profile: Educational background and career path * Early teaching challenges * Research transition * Institutional fit * Balancing responsibilities * Advice for new faculty
Briefly describe your educational background and career path.
I received a B.S. in chemical engineering from Purdue University, worked in industry for three years before heading to graduate school at the University of Washington in Seattle. I received an M.S. in chemical engineering at UW and then enrolled in the School of Oceanography's graduate program where I received my Ph.D. in 1989. I conducted postdoctoral research at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for two years following the receipt of my Ph.D. and then was hired at Duke University as an assistant professor, where I have been for twenty years. I am currently a full professor at Duke and just completed a five-year term as chair of my department.
What were some of the challenges you faced in your early years of full-time teaching? Could you briefly describe how you overcame one of those challenges?
When I first starting teaching, my department chair told me repeatedly that I was spending too much time with the students. He wanted me to severely restrict my office hours so that I could focus more on my research. How did I overcome this challenge? I didn't take his advice and never offered an excuse or explanation. I just decided that I was in control of how I spent my time. Now, when I look back, the time that I invested then as an instructor has paid dividends over and over again to my research program. Why? I believe that my success with graduate students, grantsmanship and publications is linked to my effectiveness as an instructor and this effectiveness was gained "on the job" during my early years at Duke.
How did you make the transition from your Ph.D. research to your current research program?
My postdoctoral experience was instrumental in my transition from a Ph.D. student , where I focused on one project, to a university professor where I had a research program. This transition was also aided by the collaborations that I gathered during the early years of my research career.
An essential component of achieving tenure is finding or making an alignment of your teaching/research goals with the goals of your institution.... How do your goals fit with those of your institution? Did you adjust your goals to achieve that fit? If so, how?
I have always been interested in both teaching and research and, as such, my goals are consistent with those of my institution. Adjustment of my goals through the years has been in response to opportunities that have come my way, rather than in response to shifting university goals.
Many of the new faculty members in these workshops are interested in maintaining a modicum of balance while getting their careers off to a strong start. Please share a strategy or strategies that have helped you to balance teaching, research, and your other work responsibilities, OR balance work responsibilities with finding time for your personal life.
When I started my faculty position at Duke, I had a 2-year old and a 6-month old and, as such, was determined to find a manageable and enjoyable work-life balance. Thus, I set a limit on the amount of time that I was willing to spend on my work and I stuck with that limit. I decided not to pay attention to the hours that others were working or to anyone's expectations about the hours I should be working. I put on blinders and kept taking one step at a time.
What advice do you have for faculty beginning academic careers in geoscience? What do you know now that you wish you had known as you started your career in academia?
My advice: work on problems that keenly interest you, work with colleagues with whom you feel free to say something "stupid", gather mentors, become a mentor yourself, build community, work with colleagues with whom you can share a laugh, make commitments, keep commitments, and remember that the most important measure of your work is your integrity.