2023 NYC Big Book Award Distinguished Favorite – Career

How you can combine character, compassion, and
productivity in your research career

So, here we are, now twelve years after my 2008 edition of Finding Your Way in Science: How to combine character, compassion and productivity in your research career. What has changed that requires an update.

Two things.

I have, and everything else has.

Since the 2008 edition, I hurdled through a twelve year NHLBI funded projects in cell therapy research, becoming team leader of a national coordinating center. That gave me new insight into leadership. Frankly, I was thrown into circumstances for which I wasn’t prepared and despite my best effort, lack sufficient coping skills. I had to understand how to both learn and engage simultaneously. I and my team made mistakes. I learned how to take responsibility clearly and unhesitantly. We had both national and international critics whose arguments had to be addressed.  Although I learned to build consensus I also learned lessons that I did not anticipate.  Now, having been retired for four years, I have had time to re-flect on my experiences. The Russians have a saying commonly quoted by Stalin; “Whoever looks backwards should have their eyes torn out.” Looking back only has value only if it can be applied to the future.

The second thing that has changed is everything else. We live in a world with more human beings facing existential, political, zoological, nuclear, and climate threats.

Finally, good people are under attack in our time. Public health authorities are spat upon and assaulted. Community leaders with public health mandates are shouted down at meetings. National science leaders are ridiculed. We will put ourselves in the shoes of these people, talk about a strategy that they can employ that combines genuine humility (being completely unafraid of the consequences to themselves) and directness. So, there is much to discuss in this second edition.

Think of it as a harrowing roller coaster ride in which Schubert’s Ave Maria is piped though your headset. It is either a scary or comforting. It’s up to you.