Association of Polar Early Career Scientists


AGU APECS panel 2014

There are many exciting career opportunities and challenges faced by the next generation of early career polar scientists as they transition from their graduate studies to academic, government, or consulting jobs. This event was geared to provide professional career development advice and guidance for attendees at all stages of their career. A set of questions and answers were directed towards four panelists at various stages of their careers both inside and out of academia.

The panelists included (from left to right in the photo) Dr. Hedy Edmonds (NSF Arctic Natural Sciences Program Director), Dr. Lora Koenig (National Snow and Ice Data Center), Dr. Lonnie Thompson (Distinguished Professor at Ohio State University), and Dr. Christopher Polanshenski (Research Geophysicist at CRREL and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Engineering at Dartmouth College).

This event couldn't have been made possible without the generosity and partnership from the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS) and the AGU Cryosphere Focus Group.

Post-panel discussion, the attendees had the opportunity to mingle, network, and ask follow-up questions at John Colins pub. We thank the AGU Cryosphere Focus Group for helping provide funds to purchase food and appetizers for the panel attendees. This enabled the panelists and panel attendees for continued discussion and a chance to catch-up with fellow colleagues in an informal setting.

Key Tips/Advice
1) Use your post doc as an opportunity to separate yourself from your adviser's research.
2) As a researcher/scientist, don't let writing papers for publication slip from your list of things to do. Learn how to properly manage and partition your time for research, advising, writing proposals, and so forth. It's easy to let deadlines (e.g., teaching, proposals) come before writing papers.
3) When getting your career started, don't be afraid to fail. When you're young, people in the field don't realize when you fail. This is important in order to succeed in your career further down the line, and will enable you to grow as a researcher and person.

Summarized Questions & Answers

Q: What are some important skills/experiences to have when getting started in your career?

A: Surround yourself with a mix of mentors – both younger and more seasoned scientists – from a variety of different backgrounds and training. It's unlikely that one mentor can teach you everything you need to know. Furthermore, understand what your time is worth as you begin to manage working on multiple projects simultaneously.

Q: How do you manage dealing with dual careers between you and your partner?

A: In the polar science field, we are fortunate enough that our research is predominately computer-based, making it easier for us to work from almost anywhere. This kind of flexibility isn't always available in other fields.

Q: Do you have any advice that you wish you had known at the beginning of your career?

A: Don't take criticism personally. In the end, those that provide criticism will likely provide more valuable feedback that will help you become a better scientist. Often times, the best feedback comes from program managers. Use them to provide insight on making your proposal more competitive. Don't hesitate to email and call the program manager. Furthermore, use your colleagues, especially if they are outside of your field-of-interest, to read your proposal. An outsider perspective can help you identify weaknesses and solidify what you're trying to convey that may otherwise have gone undetected.

Q: Do you have any advice for going from managing 1-2 research projects as a PhD, and then developing longer term research programs?

A: Try to manage many research projects, but keep them constrained generally to the same subject area. Otherwise, you will be trying to juggle too much. Put yourself in a good position where you can negotiate job offers, and have colleagues that will advocate your decisions as you navigate through your career path. In addition, try and be aware of your skills, and their broader applicability when building your funding profile. Always be mindful of what opportunities are available outside of your current position.

Q: What other funding avenues outside of NASA and NSF are there?

A: Other funding options include the Office of Naval Research, Army Research Office, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Department of Energy, and Department of Defense. In addition, there are funding options from the industry sector (e.g., oil companies) as well as state and local agencies. More recently, researchers have also turned to private and crowdsource funding and special interest groups (e.g., Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy).

Q: Do you have any advice when attending conferences?

A: Try not to submit an abstract for a conference unless the work is already completed by the time the abstract submission is due. At the conference, try to only commit to 1-2 talks (e.g., at AGU), in order to leave you enough time to talk and network with colleagues. These meetings are a crucial time for making science happen! If you're giving a talk, construct your talk so that you have enough time to have the audience ask questions at the end. Lastly, practice giving your talk, as it doesn't come natural to all of us.

Q: Where do you see our field heading in the coming years?

A: An influx of new science questions, creative ideas, and tools (e.g., Unmanned Aircraft Systems) to answer these questions are expected. This is an exciting time to be in our field – given its relevancy and importance relating to climate change.


December 17th, 2014 from 6-7:30 pm
Moscone South Mezzanine Room 270, San Francisco, CA
Number of Attendees: 36


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APECS International Directorate
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
Huginbakken 14
9019 Tromsø
Email: info(at)

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