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every professor’s door to see whether I could volunteer in their laboratory and try to prove that eventually I would be worth funding as their research assistant, with little luck. Fortunately, before I left Sydney, Simon Carlile recommended that I look up Barbara Shinn-Cunningham when I got to Boston because she was a preceptor in the SHBT program. When I emailed Barb and mentioned Simon, she welcomed me with open arms. That led me to study auditory attention and steered my path away from my original plans to continue my work in cochlear implant research. After obtaining my doctorate with Barb, I briefly stepped away from hearing science and joined Massachusetts General Hospital, first in the Depart- ment of Psychiatry, then in Radiology, to learn neuroimaging techniques. During my time there, I was fortunate to receive a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00). To celebrate, I planned a trip to the West Coast to visit some friends. During a stop in Seattle, Cara Stepp, who was then a postdoc at the University of Washing- ton, decided to arrange meetings for me during my one-day visit, even though I was just planning to visit the Space Needle! Seeing that I would end up spending my day at the university instead, I decided to craft an email to Patricia Kuhl to see whether I could meet with her as well because I found out that a magnetoencephalography (MEG) center was being built at her institute. Pat replied within five minutes and said that unfortunately she’d be in Finland at a conference (with Barb) but forwarded a job advertisement and asked if I would be interested in a tenure-track job. Well, today I remain in Seattle, describing my career path after joining the Depart- ment of Speech and Hearing Sciences in 2011. I know this is a long-winded personal story, but I always find it fascinating that my career path has really been shaped by a series of lucky chance encounters with a number of kind people, peppered with different spur-of-the-moment decisions.
What is a typical day for you?
It depends whether it is a “research” day or a “teaching and administrative” day. I have two corresponding offices and with them being a 15-minute walk apart helps me partition my time. If I go to my research office, I generally spend time meeting with my students and postdocs, and occasionally, I have time to read and write. If I go to my teaching office, I prepare for class, teach, host office hours, and also work on my administrative duties for the department. With two young kids at home, I am in charge of drop-off duties so I generally try not to schedule meetings before 9:30 a.m. I set a goal to finish work by 5 p.m. so that I can spend time with my family after an hour-long commute. In the past few years
as a JASA CE, I also spend about 15-30 minutes/day to take care of editorial duties.
How do you feel when experiments/projects do not work out the way you expected them to?
First, disappointment. Then, after the grieving period is over, you remind yourself that data are data and you find a way to learn from it. Sometimes, you find unexpected explanations that would lead to new discoveries or avenues of research. But there are plenty of times when you realize what stupid mistakes you have made and then you learn from those. It is humbling to admit that this is the norm rather than the exception, having to learn through one’s frequent mistakes.
Do you feel like you have solved the work-life balance problem? Was it always this way?
My wife has been really good at conditioning me to keep a good work-life balance. She knows that I hate losing bets, so she made a bet with me that I could not be home before 6 p.m. sharp in time for family dinner. Just to prove her wrong, I decided to leave work earlier and earlier so that I could make that deadline. Eventually, it became my routine. On the other hand, leaving my smartphone alone at home so that I can be present with my family remains a work in progress.
Things were entirely different before I had kids; I would get to work before 9 a.m., leave after 6 p.m., and respond almost immediately to work-related emails in between. At the time, I thought I already had a work-life balance, at least compared with my postdoc hours in Boston. Now, I make a conscious effort to encourage our postdocs to strive for a real work-life balance such that they can have flexible hours to attend to their personal and family needs.
What makes you a good acoustician?
I find this to be a strange question. I would say that I am an inquisitive person and I happen to appreciate sound itself. Does that make me a good acoustician? I think an easier question to answer is what makes one a good mentor and by extension a good mentor in the field of acoustics: this would make that person a good acoustician. In my mind, a good mentor lifts their trainees up and fosters their career growth.
How do you handle rejection?
With a nip of rye! For a long time, we had a laboratory tradi- tion to gather around and celebrate everyone’s success and rejection alliteratively, with success scotch or rejection rye depending on the occasion. Now with me wanting to get home by 6 p.m. sharp (and many laboratory members having
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