Career Profile: Martin Wong
Department of Geology, Colgate University
Colgate University is a liberal arts college.
Click on a topic to read Martin'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 BA in Geosciences from Williams College, a small liberal arts college in Massachusetts. I worked at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland for a year after graduation using laser altimeter data from Mars to study volcanic and impact crater processes. I then received a PhD from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2005 in structural geology and tectonics. My work focuses on continental extension/rifting, understanding both ductile and brittle deformation and the application of geochronology/thermochronology to these problems.
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?
Like most new faculty members, I often felt torn between focusing on teaching and my research projects/goals, as well as balancing this with my personal/family life. Establishing clear and achievable goals on short and medium time-scales was helpful to me in prioritizing how I spent my time. I also worked hard to resist the urge to make everything "perfect," as one can quickly move into a place of diminishing returns with regards to time invested.
How did you make the transition from your Ph.D. research to your current research program?
I work on similar types of problems now as I did for my Ph.D. work. However, I work with a lot of undergraduates on research projects and one important shift was figuring out how to break up larger projects into smaller pieces appropriate for undergraduate work, but still having the sum of the work fit together to meet my broader research goals.
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 attended a small liberal arts college and that was the kind of environment I was hoping to end up teaching at. As a result, I was fortunate that I did not need to adjust my goals in major ways to fit the expectations of my institution. Both teaching and research are valued in equal measure and this is broadly consistent with my priorities.
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.
Setting time limits for how long you can/should work on a particular project is important (e.g. revising a lab, grading, etc.). Many of these tasks can fill all of your available time if you let them. I also try to schedule time for tasks that tend to fall off the radar. For example, teaching time and meetings are scheduled events that must be attended, so I also schedule recurring blocks of time on my weekly calendar to work on grading, writing or other research tasks. Similarly, scheduling personal/family time as events during the week that can't be changed or shifted helps ensure that work obligations don't invade your personal 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?
Be intentional about how you spend your time and bring your passion and excitement to your teaching and research endeavors! If you are in the right spot, things should fall into place after that.