Feature Article

2017 Boyd McCandless Awardees: Advice to Students and Early Career Professionals

Boyd McCandless winners are young scientists who have made distinguished contributions to developmental psychology. Here Willem E. Frankenhuis, PhD; Luke Hyde, PhD; and Marjorie Rhodes, PhD, share their advice with students and early professionals.

By Thanujeni Pathman

Boyd McCandless awardees are young scientists who have made distinguished contributions to developmental psychology. Have you been curious about what advice these leaders in the field may have for other young scientists, junior faculty and graduate students?

We asked the three most recent winners the same questions. And we gave them some potential bonus questions to answer if they wished. Here are their responses. (Note: Award winners are presented in alphabetical order).

 A big thank you to Willem, Luke and Marjorie!

Willem E. Frankenhuis

Assistant Professor of Developmental Psychology
Behavioural Science Institute
Radboud University Nijmegen

What advice would you give someone starting out an academic position? 

Commit to scientific integrity. Learn the best contemporary research practices, such as preregistration, teach others about them and value them in your colleagues' work.

What do you think is a current challenge for junior faculty?

Balancing research, teaching and service with a healthy and happy personal life.

What do you think is a current challenge for graduate students?

Aligning scientific values and practices. Current incentive structures do not sufficiently reward high-integrity research (e.g., transparency in research and reproducibility).

What do you wish you had more time to do?

Travel and completely disconnect from academic responsibilities.

What are some ways that you strive for work-life balance?

Regular exercise. Spend time with friends. Go for walks.

What is something you did not know but wish you knew when you started your career?

I should have invested more in quantitative skills (including statistics).

Was there a particular piece of advice you received that really has stuck with you/helped you make decisions along the way?

Dare to say no. Embrace projects that interest you or teach you something.

Luke W. Hyde

Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
University of Michigan

 What advice would you give someone starting out an academic position? 

Focus on continuing to build and expand the good work you've already started. Most places hire you because they are excited about the work you've done and want to see you blossom in it, so have confidence in yourself and in your idea (but always value advice from your senior colleagues). Also, it is really hard to get much done in the first year at a new university, so don't get too worried if you waste a whole day trying to figure out where the copy machine is or how to use it.

What do you think is a current challenge for junior faculty?

Decreases in federal funding. It is more and more challenging to get funding as a junior faculty member, and yet funding seems to be more and more important in tenure and promotion decisions. Junior faculty have to be creative about how to launch new and innovative studies even though it may be hard to get a first grant to do so.

What do you think is a current challenge for graduate students?

The rising expectations for the job market. That is, to get hired for faculty jobs, students are expected to have done innovative cross-disciplinary training (which takes a lot of time), but also have tons of publications. This goal can be hard to accomplish and can feel really overwhelming, particularly early in graduate school when writing papers moves more slowly.

What do you wish you had more time to do?

Read! I wish I could read more empirical work and ponder it, as well as more non-work books.

What are some ways that you strive for work-life balance?

When I'm with my family, I try to be there 100 percent and not checking email constantly. So, when I'm off, I try to be totally off. When I'm working, I try to be 100 percent focused on work so that I can make more time to be with my family. But ultimately, I think work-life balance sounds like something that can be figured out and is static, but it's not. I think it is always changing and there are times when work takes up more time because of deadlines and travel and other times when family is more important. I also think work-life balance has changed for me over the years. It meant something different at different points in graduate school, it was different when I first started at Michigan and now it has totally changed since my wife and I had our first child.

What is something you did not know but wish you knew when you started your career?

Work isn't stressful if you love it. I think a lot of graduate students worry about the stress of a faculty job or other sorts of jobs. But ultimately, if you can find a position that has a balance of the things you are good at and enjoy doing, then it is not as stressful and is much more of a joy. And this fit will be different for everyone. For example, if you love and are good at dissemination, then find a position that focuses on that; if you love teaching, look for a position where you can spend time teaching great students. I don't think there is only one ideal track for people interested in developmental psychology.  

What are the biggest problems/challenges for society that psychology should seek to solve right now?

In general, I think we don't do a good enough job relating our work to the public so that it makes an impact and justifies the work and funding the work. I hope the field moves in a direction to value more dissemination work and activities like writing good pop psych books. We have a lot to give society, but academia doesn't always value some of these time-consuming activities.

What advice do you have for how to effectively balance research, teaching and service?

I'm not sure I've figured this one out, but I'm trying to get better at saying no a lot more often. In my lab, we try to focus on making monthly goals of things that don't have deadlines. The problem is that some of the most important things we do (e.g., that awesome theoretical article you want to write or writing that new grant), often don't have hard deadlines, and so they get pushed off over the daily “have to be done” pieces of things like teaching and service.

Marjorie Rhodes

Associate Professor of Psychology
New York University

What advice would you give someone starting out an academic position?  

Protect your writing time! The most helpful thing I did during my pre-tenure years was participating in a writing group with two other faculty members. We each set semester-long and biweekly goals that we shared with one another to keep ourselves honest. We met every two weeks to check in on progress and brainstorm about how to move past challenges (e.g., how to deal with difficult reviews, which journals to try and how to start writing grant applications). As part of this, I also developed the practice of scheduling and keeping track of my writing hours. I recommend the book, "How to Write a Lot" by Paul Silvia, PhD (American Psychological Association, 2007). We followed his recommendations for how to structure our group and our writing practices. I cannot overemphasize how important this was for me.

What do you think is a current challenge for junior faculty?

It can be hard to maintain a good balance between collaborating with people from whom you can learn while at the same time establishing and demonstrating your independence.

What do you think is a current challenge for graduate students?

I think some graduate students are concerned about how to best navigate between the demand to get a lot of publications to help boost their chances in a very competitive market and concerns about wanting to do high-powered studies that follow best practices for promoting open science, which are often perceived as taking more time. I think this tension will resolve as new standards and practices are adopted more broadly in the field, including by journals and search committees.

What do you wish you had more time to do?

I wish I had more time to read. I often feel like I keep up-to-date on the literature by report from my students, instead of by reading carefully myself.

What are some ways that you strive for work-life balance?

I have two young children, so this is a major issue for me. For now, I do complete compartmentalization. I drop off my kids early for daycare (they are usually the first ones there) and a babysitter picks them up and even starts making dinner. This gives me a longer workday, and I try to be very efficient during the hours that I am at work. But once I am home in the evenings and on the weekends, I don't do any academic work at all (unless I have a grant application due or another hard deadline, in which case, I make arrangements for extra child care in advance). I also do all of my work in my office—none at home. All of this is a major change from my pre-children days, and I imagine it might change again as they grow older. But this seems to work best for now

What is something you did not know but wish you knew when you started your career?

This is hard to answer because I feel like I've learned so much. It is hard to pick one thing. I came out of graduate school knowing how to design, conduct, analyze and write about studies. I knew almost nothing about how to write a grant application or how to manage a lab with multiple students, post-docs, undergrads, and research staff. I'm continuing to learn new things about how to best do these things all the time, mostly by learning from mistakes I make along the way.