Julia Hum, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Physiology, Marian University
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What does a typical day look like in your job?
A big portion of my typical day involves a high level of engagement with graduate and medical students. The time of year, academic year vs summer months, dictates the portion of time that I’m teaching and conducting research. My role in the College of Osteopathic Medicine is to teach graduate Physiology and Pharmacology, serve as an academic advisor, and mentor graduate research projects. During the academic year a typical day is spent teaching, participating in committee meetings, mentoring students academically, and hopefully working on writing up our latest research study or review article. As summer rolls around I’m assembling a research team of graduate and medical students to further our research program and collaborative projects.
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
The opportunity to work closely with students is my favorite part of my job. At an institution like Marian teaching and research are so intertwined that the lines between the two are frequently blurred. The majority of our research is driven by students, therefore you’re constantly teaching and troubleshooting side-by-side with them. The opportunity to have a meaningful impact on students whether I’m delivering a traditional lecture, leading a problem-based learning session, or involving students in research is deeply gratifying.
What is the most challenging aspect?
Two aspects of my job I find challenging, but have ultimately been rewarding, are helping to build a new Masters program in Biomedical Sciences at Marian University and advising students during critical junctions in their training. My first year as a faculty member was also the first year of the Masters program. Working with our Administration, Faculty, and Staff to design a challenging and engaging curriculum for our new graduate students was very difficult, however the opportunity to be involved in building and growing a new program was simultaneously exciting.
As a bench-trained biomedical scientist I grew accustom to the grueling and sometimes cruel nature that is biomedical research. Over the years I’ve learned to embrace and accept failure as a meaningful step towards a bigger goal. A challenging aspect of my job is helping our graduate and medical students through these similar experiences. Most professional students have little experience with failure, whether it’s a failed admissions decision, course grade, experiment, grant application, or manuscript submission, mentoring them through these challenges can be difficult, but also fulfilling.
What led you to this career choice?
I’ve been fortunate to benefit from tremendous “marigold” mentors throughout my academic career. Just like marigold plants aid in protecting companion plants from weeds and bugs, marigold mentors are those that if you stay close will look out for your best interests and promote your growth and development. From my time as a Biology student at Saint Mary’s College to training with and learning from Drs. Fred Pavalko and Ken White as a graduate student and postdoc, each of my mentors has had an incredible influence on my own career path. In addition, the opportunities throughout my training to teach students either in the classroom or laboratory has reinforced that I wanted teaching to be a large aspect of my career.
What do you know now that you wish you knew transitioning from a post-doc to faculty position?
Looking back, I wish I had a better appreciation for wide variety of “other” tasks that fill faculty members time. While I knew I would be doing a fair share of teaching and research, the other tasks from academic mentoring, letter of recommendation writing, and serving on committees has given me a new appreciation for the very real time constraints on faculty. As a junior faculty member and mother to two young children I’m now always on the lookout for the best calendar or to do list app!