International academic career in science

About me

Andrew C.
Plant Cell and Molecular Biology
BSc (Hons), PhD
United Kingdom

About this profile

Associate Professor
Akita International University
Large business (250+ employees)

About the job

What I do

I am an Associate Professor at Akita International University in Akita, Japan, where I teach introductory courses in Biology and Chemistry as well as an advanced laboratory course based on my research in the field of Plant Cell Biology which investigates the process of RNA targeting.

Skills I use and how I developed them

Teaching and research are often regarded as competing interests, however, I have found great success in combining these two endeavours wherever and whenever possible.

Just like scientific research, I find that teaching requires a creative and flexible mind, as well as the ability to be objective and honest. For example, will a particular experiment approach allow me to generate a meaningful result, or does a particular pedagogical method allow my students to gain a deeper understanding of a given concept?

Perhaps my greatest skill is the ability to convey my enthusiasm for the Natural Sciences to my students and to help them appreciate their importance and relevance in their daily lives. The ability to convey information in an approachable way requires careful preparation and attention to detail.

With respect to any success I can claim in the classroom, I believe that accumulated teaching experience as well as a willingness to learn are equally important.

What I like most

Research will always be my first love, but helping students to reach that "Ah ha!" moment when they finally can understand a concept which previously eluded them is a close second.

What I like least

With any academic position, there is always some degree of associated administrative work which can take time away from other things I'd rather be doing (which would include almost anything!!!)

What surprised me most

That teaching, or at least helping others to learn, is something that can remain challenging (in a good way) for so long.

Finding and applying for the job

How I looked for work

Although I was seeking a full-time faculty position, this was more a case of the job finding me than of me finding it. (Personal contacts are often key to success for finding job in Japan.)

How I found out about the job

Personal contacts

The recruitment process

Interview documents included a CV, copies of recent publications, a statement of research interests, a statement of teaching philosophy, and a sample course syllabus. The on-campus interview involved a campus tour, teaching demo class, and lots of questions (from both the interviewers and myself).

My career

My career history

Prior to my move to Japan, I was a long-term post-doc in the States, working in the laboratory of Professor Tom Okita at Washington State University. As well as lots of research time in the lab, this position allowed me to gain vital teaching experience in a classroom (not lab) setting.

What has helped my career to progress

Being a positive, proactive, and practical problem solver.

What surprised me about my career so far

That I've lived and worked on three continents.

My advice to students

My advice about working in my industry

Being a university faculty member is not a job that you can easily forget about when you go home at the end of the day. Depending on the balance between teaching and research, it will be important to really engage your students and to help them to rise to the great challenges that await them.

Other advice

Keep an open mind, and engage deeply in all that you do!

Contacting me

I am happy to answer questions related to international academic careers and life science research in the UK, US, and Japan.

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