By Professor Jodie Lutkenhaus, Texas A&M University.
In your opinion, which scientific questions will set the trends in the coming decade, and which science problems would you like to tackle?
My long-term goal is to resolve how batteries might fit into our future circular economy. This cannot be tackled by one lone researcher, but instead requires a team with backgrounds in chemistry, chemical engineering, materials, economics, and policy.
How do you experience diverse leadership, diversity in your lab, publication and peer-review, promotion and career progression, in your host country? What are the impediments for creating inclusive, equitable research labs, departments and practices?
I learned how to succeed from my doctoral advisor, Paula Hammond, who is now the first black female department head of chemical engineering at MIT. She valued each of us and treated us as peers at every stage of the doctoral experience. From her, I learned resilience and persistence, which I pass on to my own students. I think a main impediment to fostering student growth and well-being is lab culture, in which there might exist unhealthy competition or student-advisor power struggles. Instead, my goal is to create a lab culture that represents the type of “family” that I would like to have as if I myself were a student, where everyone is heard and respected and where everyone’s contribution has value.
What is your message to the next generation of scientists, and what are your tips for their success?
When someone tells you that you can’t do it, then you are probably on the right track. If it is hard, then it is yours for the taking, because few others will persist to the end. As a scientist, I pick problems that are hard and that might seem impossible because I know that my lab will be the first one. The joy of mentoring my students through that process is why I am here.