Early Career Faculty Q&A with Dr. Aldao
1. Can you tell us a bit about how you obtained your current position at OSU? I applied while on internship and was fortunate enough to be in the position to contemplate different offers. OSU just felt like the right place - the people, the culture, the resources, the orientation of the program. It seemed like the perfect place to launch my career! (it has certainly exceeded expectations)
2. How did you develop your research interests throughout grad school, and how did those interests change (or not!) as you developed a research program as a faculty applicant, and then faculty member? In grad school at Yale, we were encouraged to work with multiple faculty mentors, and from the very first day, the faculty strongly encouraged to think of ourselves as “junior colleagues.” They wanted us to always think about what new projects we could start or find, and what collaborations could we work on in and out of Yale. So I started thinking early on about what specific questions I wanted to answer and how to do it. I focused on emotion regulation (ER) and GAD initially and conducted many studies with my advisor Doug Mennin. Then, I developed a new line of collaborations with Susan Nolen-Hoeksema that focused more broadly on different emotion regulation strategies across a number of disorders. This led me to developing a program of research focused on transdiagnostic processes. As a faculty member, I continued to work on ER across anxiety disorders and depression. Importantly, I applied the “junior colleague” model when training my graduate students, which has resulted in six, interrelated lines of research. Specifically, my students are working on the following: Kara Christensen: interpersonal models of ER (in relation to anxiety and depression) Lee Dunn: rumination and non suicidal self-injury Andre Plate: ER trainings for people with GAD and MDD Andrew Rogers: ER in anxiety and substance use Ilana Seager: ER in sexual minorities (in relation to anxiety and depression) Anne Wilson: ER in OCD
3. I know that you ultimately ended up opting to not do a post doc- would you mind walking us through that decision and what you would recommend for your own grad students and others? It boiled down to the training I had received in grad school – at Yale, we were treated as independent scientists from day one and this culture helped me understand the ins and outs of running a lab from a very early point in my training. So, when I was on internship and the right faculty opportunity came along, it was a no brainer! That said, even though I felt ready, it was still challenging and there was a steep learning curve. I’m the type of person to embrace challenge and go out of my comfort zone, but, I have to say, it was difficult.
4. Do you have any tips for preparing and delivering a good job talk? Yes! Know your message, know your story, and know what it is that you are about in terms of what you have done and what you want to do. It can be tempting to put a lot of material in your job talk, but that’s probably not a good way to go. Sometimes it’s better to have a more focused talk – people have your CV so they can see all the stuff you’ve done. Also, practice a lot! Practice with a wide range of people who can give you feedback. Find colleagues in different labs and areas who are in a position to evaluate your work from a wide range of lenses. Remember, only a small fraction of your audience will be clinical. And search committees usually consist of members from multiple areas.
5. Similarly, any tips for the job application process in general? I have two: First, research/teaching statements should tell a story, ask for feedback many times. Second, apply broadly, you might be surprised where you end up and be happy with it.
6. How did your work-life balance change once you became early career faculty? Any tips for making the transition from grad student/intern to faculty member with new and different responsibilities? When I was in grad school, the line between life and school was extremely blurry. My friends and I were working 24/7, giving it 110% every single day. And it paid off. We got a lot of research done! But, it is also the case that such an intense lifestyle is not sustainable in the long run. It can wear you down pretty easily. So, when I took the job at OSU, I made a conscious decision to treat my job as a job. It is a job I am passionate about, but there is a point where it ends and life begins. It’s not easy to put work aside, I’ll confess. But if I want to be my most creative, productive, and happy self, I have to say “enough for the day.”
7. Any widely held myths about academia that are inaccurate that you would like to dispel? Because we rely on quantitative methods, we are frequently tempted to think that data hold all of the answers. But nothing could be further from the truth. Having a significant finding is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for meaningful research. In order for our work to have an impact, we need to carefully think 1) what question are we seeking to answer? 2) why does it matter? and 3) what are the implications of our findings for the research community and the world at large? If we can’t find a good answer for those questions, then no matter how many significant p-values we have, our work won’t matter.
8. Bonus question: what is the coolest or most meaningful item in your office? A picture of my grad school graduation, which shows my mentor Susan giving me my diploma. When I’m having a difficult time or getting stuck, I look at that picture and ask myself “what would Susan do” or “what would Susan say”. Thank you again to Dr. Aldao for taking the time to answer our questions!