Career Profile: Ashanti Pyrtle

University of South Florida

USF is a public research university.

Ashanti Pyrtle
is one of the leaders of the 2006 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 Ashanti Pyrtle'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.

  • B.S. in marine science in 1999 from Texas A&M University
  • Interned at Texas Instruments as a polymer chemist for 5 summers and Christmas breaks
  • Bypassed the M.S. and received a Ph.D. in chemical oceanography from Texas A&M University in 1999
  • Interned as a geochemist at Exxon Production Research Co.
  • Held postdoctoral, research scientist and research professor positions at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Savannah State University for 4 years while my husband completed his Ph.D. at the Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Interviewed for positions at a major oil company and two universities in 2002
  • Accepted assistant professor position at the University of South Florida

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

I am an assistant professor with several funded projects: 2 aquatic geochemistry and 2 diversity related projects. I currently advise/co-advise eleven graduate students. My college does not have an undergraduate program. The average teaching load is 1.5 graduate level courses per year. Maintaining an active research program is expected. Attracting funding (federal, state or private) and publishing papers are mandatory. I spend roughly 65 % of my time writing and submiting proposals, writing/revising and submiting papers, and managing funds. I spend another 20 % of my time working with my graduate students. The remaining 15 % of my time is spent on instructional-related and service activities.

What do you like best about your work?

Helping students achieve their academic and professional goals.

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

[The biggest challenge is] keeping up with all of the paperwork and remaining motivated when it comes to submiting proposals in a time period when acquiring research funding is becoming more and more challenging. In an effort to tackle all of the paperwork, I try to devote 1 day every two weeks to catching up on everything. Regarding securing funding, my strategy is to propose a variety of independent and collaborative projects.

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

  • Previous postdoc and research scientist experience
  • Federal funding record
  • Science and diversity research/scholarly work
  • National service record

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.

In August, 2007, my husband and I will celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary. We've been a couple for almost 16 years. We started dating as undergraduates and made joint decisions on graduate school, internships and job choices. We've always been active in church ministries. We both have tenure-track assistant professor positions at the same institution. In 2005, the day before Thanksgiving we became proud parents of a beautiful and healthy son.

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?

Take full advantage of the time you have now to publish and flesh out research ideas. Write white papers for potential research ideas that could later serve as proposal topics.