Alumni Stories: Robin White
Assistant Professor of Biology
Westfield State University,
Anesthesia Postdoc, 2013
How do you define career and professional success?
Professional success must involve making a positive difference, and there are many ways that a scientist can do this. I discovered that I can make my most meaningful contribution through teaching. As a professor and research mentor, I can shape someone’s education -- and therefore his or her life and happiness.
How did you decide you wanted to go into this field?
I love lab work, and, originally, I intended to pursue a career as a research scientist in an academic lab or in the pharmaceutical industry. This changed when I realized that I derived the most satisfaction when I was mentoring new lab members and giving talks. Since I had never considered a teaching-centered career, I needed to find out more about education as a career and shadowed a professor at San Francisco State University. Next, at Stanford, I participated in a research mentoring workshop, taught a BioCore Explorations Seminar, and became a neuroscience instructor for the Educational Program for Gifted Youth. I had found my passion! My postdoctoral mentor Rona Giffard was very supportive of my decision and enabled me to pursue my postdoc on a part-time basis while teaching at local community colleges to gain more experience.
Today, I am starting my fifth year at Westfield State, teaching four classes every semester, three to five days weekly, combined with working in the lab with my undergraduates. I am excited to continue teaching here for many years to come!
What are the top skills necessary for success in your field?
Being able to teach is the most important skill. However, most people don’t realize that being an educator encompasses many skills and abilities: having subject matter expertise, being creative, willing to learn pedagogical techniques, communicating effectively and being empathetic. Additionally, having learned how to be an independent scientist is necessary as I run my own lab. The culture at Westfield is “teaching-centered” and is focused on student success. Consequently, we develop strong relationships with our students and care deeply about them achieving their goals. My department, rather than being competitive, is incredibly supportive of the professional and personal growth of the faculty.
What advice do you have for trainees?
Use the time you have at Stanford to explore! Take advantage of BioSci Careers and the other amazing resources, and don’t hesitate to reach out to alumni!
For more on opportunities in this job sector, see Academia/Education.