The New Year’s holiday is a great time to sit back and reflect on what you’ve accomplished in the past year, what you hope to accomplish in the coming one, and what you’ll need to do to make that happen. But finding a focus and figuring out an approach can be overwhelming. So, for some inspiration, we asked a variety of scientists one question: What are your career-related New Year’s resolutions?
- Benjamin Martin, doctoral candidate in biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada
In the competitive, fast-paced world of academia, I would like to remain authentic to myself while pursuing my research interests and fulfilling my career aspirations. As a researcher, I resolve to contribute to discussions about the pervasiveness of gendered discourses and how we can disrupt them. As a teacher and mentor in a post-truth era, I would like to contribute toward developing students’ critical thinking skills and nurturing and supporting the next generations of scientists and researchers. As a colleague, I resolve to be helpful and collegial—and to contribute to a friendly, supportive, and diverse workplace characterized by fruitful dialogue and constructive criticism. On a personal level, I resolve to enjoy work as part of my life but not live only to work; to protect time for myself and my beloved ones; and to stay healthy, physically and mentally.
- Charoula Tzanakou, research fellow at the University of Warwick in Coventry, U.K.
After I qualified as a Ph.D. candidate, I began investing time into career and professional development and had purchased some business cards. After 3 years, I have only given out 47! This year, as I enter the job market, I resolve to distribute the remaining 453.
- Tenaya Vallery, doctoral candidate in molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University
I’m doubling down on a commitment to address real-world problems. This starts with engagement—not just disseminating my science, but listening to people from across the spectrum and working together to develop scientific solutions. I need to constantly remind myself to be patient and perseverant as this mode of working can take years to bear fruit.
- Matthew Wallenstein, associate professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and co-founder and chairman of Growcentia, Inc.
My resolution is to get my first job beyond academia, ideally in the writing/editing world.
- Ian Street, postdoctoral fellow in plant science at Dartmouth College
2017 will be full of personal change: I will become a father in February, finish my Ph.D. in the spring, and transition to a new faculty job in the summer. My New Year’s resolution is to maintain a healthy work-life balance during this exciting time. As I continue to learn and develop my scientific skill set in a new field of study, I hope to maintain a sense of wonder, both in my research and in my time with my family. To accomplish this, I plan to carefully consider the costs and benefits of offers to give talks or take on other extra responsibilities. I will graciously but firmly reject opportunities that would detrimentally affect my ability to spend time with my family or take care of my personal health, and/or that would make me feel too stressed about my workload so that I can maintain my physical and mental health. As a public health scientist, how can I ask people to change their habits if I can't even take care of myself?
- Kevin Boehnke, doctoral candidate in public health at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor
My New Year’s resolutions are about continuing and strengthening my conscious commitment to engaging with the complex issues that women in academia face and encouraging others to do the same. My top four resolutions are amplifying women's voices in meetings; calling out gender-biased practices and policies and pushing for redress (for example, through unconscious bias training); acting as a mentor, sponsor, and champion for junior women who are navigating early stages of their academic faculty careers; and nominating women faculty members for awards and celebrating their accomplishments.
- Jehannine C. Austin, associate professor of psychiatry and medical genetics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada
My career-related resolutions are to write every day, to learn something new every day, and to go to the gym more often.
- Jacqueline Campbell, postdoctoral fellow in plant genetics at Iowa State University in Ames
Professionally, the highest priority I have for my group right now is publishing the papers we are working on. My group is now 6 years old, and for the first few years, most of my time went into setting up the group, training people, acquiring funding, and laying the foundations for our projects. Now, it's time to share the results of this with the rest of the word, and there are several manuscripts I would like to see completed in 2017.
In terms of my personal life, I used to be an avid dancer, photographer, and pianist, but the stresses of being an early-career PI meant that I couldn't dedicate as much time to any of these as I would like. My hope for 2017 is that now that things are falling into place, I can reinvigorate at least one out of the three. Working hard is a really important requirement, but dedicating time to the things I love makes me happy, and being happy makes me a better scientist. I am committed to reminding myself of that in 2017.
Finally, to make all this happen, my biggest challenge for 2017 is time management: There are only 24 hours in a day, and almost a third of that is sleep, so I want to make the most of all the hours that are left!
- Lynn Kamerlin, professor of cell and molecular biology at Uppsala University in Sweden
I recently finished my Ph.D. and have decided to set down my pipette to explore the world of science in government. My immediate resolution is to figure out how I can put my communication talents into advocating for science in an effective way, and more specifically how I can talk to folks who have views that are different from my own. I don't exactly fit the stereotype of a dispassionate scientist; instead, I’m prone to fiery polemics, which is not the most diplomatic of skills. But I’m trying to take to heart some advice a mentor gave me: It is better to be kind than to be correct. So, as I look to the dawn of a new presidential administration and stage in my career, I’ve also resolved to start listening more so that I can learn to advocate from a place of understanding.
- Maryam Zaringhalam, doctoral student at The Rockefeller University in New York City
I have many resolutions; here are two of them. I want to define my own research and career path and become increasingly autonomous regarding what I do and how I do it—and be able to secure the funding that will help me achieve this. I'm going to learn how to say “no” more often, and have the courage to say “yes” when a challenging opportunity presents itself.
- Nuno Franco, postdoctoral fellow in animal welfare and ethics at i3S at the University of Porto in Portugal
I've made a number of New Year's resolutions aimed at promoting LGBTQ individuals (like myself) and our allies in various science careers. First, I resolve to learn more about the challenges that LGBTQ scientists face, starting with online resources and reaching out to visible supporters in my workplace. Second, I will work to further support LGBTQ scientists—whether students, early-career, or otherwise—for example by developing safe spaces by initiating diversity-focused conversations during weekly lab meetings and visible signage on my office. Third, I will educate fellow scientists about how to recognize and address anti-LGBTQ bias and harassment in the workplace and classroom. Finally, I will advocate to promote change within my workplace and laboratory against harassment and bias to promote the equality of LGBTQ scientists. Basically, my resolutions are to learn, support, educate, and advocate for LGBTQ scientists as well as people from other underrepresented groups.
- Jason Cantley, postdoctoral fellow in plant genetics at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania
My resolutions for next year are to teach, learn, and repeat. I want to share the joy of teaching with students and colleagues and revive my inner student by learning new lab techniques during my sabbatical stay in Germany. Oh, and I guess it would be useful to try to learn some German too!
- Patricia Pérez-Cornejo, professor of medicine at the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosí in Mexico
My 2017 New Year's resolution is to spend more time communicating science to the public. The last few months have made it clear to me that strong bonds between scientists and nonscientists are essential, but that we frequently get stuck in our own circles. These relationships not only facilitate the dissemination of science, but also allow scientists to learn from the public regarding the research that is most needed. In 2017, I pledge to spend time throughout the year visiting grade schools and after-school programs to read stories about science to young children. My second resolution is to use my position as a scientist to advocate for better policy. Often scientists are told to keep out of politics, but policy needs to be informed by science. Now more than ever it is important that scientists work with politicians to develop policies that protect human rights by protecting the environment. My personal goal is to educate myself about current and proposed policies, and to reach out to my local representatives to ask for their support in policies that are evidence-based.
- Amanda Zellmer, assistant professor of biology at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California
I have two main career-related New Year’s resolutions: one is to teach at the university level and the other is to prepare for a research stay abroad. My long-term career aspiration is to combine research with teaching, but nowadays it is very difficult to become a professor. And so the first milestone I have identified to reach this goal is to gain teaching experience by giving seminars to university students. Then regarding my second New Year’s resolution, next March I will be entering the second year of my Ph.D. and I believe it is very important to gain experience in other laboratories. Therefore, I need to start thinking about where I can go, what kind of experiments I should do, which laboratory may have the facilities I need … and I have to start making contact with them.
- Mireia Tarrés Gatius, doctoral candidate in neuroscience at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona in Spain
My resolution for 2017 is to collect, analyze, and publish more data! When I left the lab for the library several years ago, I assumed that was the end of my direct participation in the research process. However, since then, my work helping researchers manage their data has evolved to a place where I am now ready to start collecting data of my own. I already have a series of projects lined up for 2017 to investigate how practices related to research data management and software preservation relate to systemic issues in science like openness and reproducibility. In the new year, I hope not only to begin these projects in earnest, but to carry them forward into new research questions, new collaborations, and more new projects.
- John Borghi, postdoctoral fellow at the California Digital Library in Oakland, California
I have a bunch of resolutions, but a few are to develop some great new project ideas; publish some great papers; develop a teaching philosophy; mentor, inspire, and teach someone; recognize and enhance the skills that make me unique and excellent; and further develop my own idea of what “success” means.
- Margaret Siple, doctoral candidate in fisheries at the University of Washington in Seattle
*Correction, 4 January, 4:18 p.m.: Margaret Siple is a doctoral candidate in fisheries, not marine ecology.
More from Careers
I have been at university for three years now and each year my New Year's resolution has been basicallly the same: to be a better student. Here are five ways to make that come true.
1. Go to lectures and seminars
Before you skip another lecture, think: why am I missing part of an education that costs me £9,000 a year?
Lecture and seminars cover the content you are going to be tested on and by missing them you could fall behind.
After you leave university, potential employers may ask for a reference from your lecturers. So are those early morning lie-ins really worth missing out on your dream job?
2. Pick your nights out
After a week of clubbing, you can actually forget you are studying for a degree. Yes, uni should be fun, but your degree must come first. So while getting drunk, eating fast food on the way back home, and passing out on your bed may seem endlessly pleasurable, you need to work at some point.
Don't think tomorrow will come along and solve all your problems. If you've got a raging hangover, you'll be lucky to get out of bed. The answer is to ration your nights out, or your degree might get lost along with your memories of the night before.
3. Limit the shows you watch
When an essay is looming, the television shows you can access on your laptop will seem much more attractive than that document with your first few shaky paragraphs in it.
Limit the number of shows you watch. Don't start a new series before you have finished an old one. Or stick to live TV – at least you can't get tempted to watch episode after episode.
4. Save energy, save money
In student accommodation, gas and electricity is covered. But when you move to private housing you have to pay the bills.
Turn lights off if you aren't using them and don't leave your laptop charging 24/7.
Do you need to waste water and energy by running a bath and lying in your own filth for an hour? Most probably, no. Cut the waste, and you will save your precious student loan.
5. Do the housework
In my experience, 95% of arguments in student housing are centred around the washing up. Wash up straight after a meal so you don't forget.
If you don't do your fair share, the dishes will pile up and one unfortunate housemate will have to tackle it all – hardly good for house dynamics.
Dirty dishes are just one part of the mess that we generate. Why not make a cleaning rota to share out the rest?
What are your New Year's resolutions? Or do you prefer not to make them? Share your thoughts in the comments below.