Career Profile: Eugene Cordero

San Jose State University

San Jose State University is a 4-year college with MS/MA graduate programs.

Eugene Cordero
is one of the leaders of the 2009 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 Eugene Cordero'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.

I have a BS and MS in physics from California State University, Northridge (in the Los Angeles area) and a Ph.D. in Atmospheric science from U.C. Davis.

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

Our university has a high teaching load (4 courses per semester) so teaching is a big part of the day. I currently teach 2 courses and have three grad students, so my week is a mixture of teaching, preparing to teach, meeting with my grad students, and about 1-1.5 days to do my own research.

What do you like best about your work?

Interacting and working with students. The reason I came back to work in a university was the realization that I wanted to work with people who were interested in learning. The university setting is a very fun and inspiring place to be especially when I realized that it's my job to spend time with students and to help encourage and inspire them to want to learn.

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

The very high demands on time is a challenge for all faculty. The pressures to publish, get funding, serve on committees, and to teach all make a balanced life challenging. Personally I skimp on some things - committees for example - and put more time on others: teaching and some research. I've also accepted that I can't get everything done that I'd like and that my research productivity may not be as high as my colleagues' somewhere else.

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

I had some reasonable and somewhat unique teaching experience. Not only had I taught a few courses, I completed a program in college teaching - 1 year, part time - from Monash University in Australia.

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.

Balance in life is pretty important. I would suggest, although I don't have the data to support this, that maintaining a healthy balance in life - having time to spend with your family and friends, spending time outside in nature, etc. - will ultimately improve your scholarship and benefit both your students and the university. Although it may seem the best thing is to work, work, work, we should at least entertain the idea that this might not be the best way to become a true scholar in your field.

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?

I see a fair number of faculty overcommitted and it can affect their personal lives. There are so many interesting and fun opportunities in a university that one has to be able to say 'no' sometimes. I'd also say to give yourself time to think and reflect. It has been suggested that 60 hours per week may not be more efficient than 40 hours of well thought out work.