2016-11-03 14:41:15 UTC

Video: Pros and Cons of an Academic Research Career

Nov. 3, 2016

Dr. Samir Gupta outlines what it's like to work in academic research as a GI in an on-demand presentation from the 2016 AGA Regional Practice Skills Workshop.

At the 2016 San Diego AGA Regional Practice Skills Workshop, Samir Gupta, MD, MSCS, a staff physician at the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, San Diego, and an associate professor of medicine at the University of California San Diego, provided a comprehensive and engaging overview of life as an academic researcher for trainees and early career GIs who wanted more information about potential career choices.

Dr. Gupta, who focuses on colorectal cancer research, went through his typical schedule for the week with attendees and emphasized the flexibility and exciting quality of working in academic GI research.

“There are several days of the week where the first thing I get to do on my way to work is [think], 'what do I want to work on today? Do I want to work on a grant? Is there a paper I want to finish? Is there a paper I want to read?' And I get to prioritize that. That’s an unbelievable amount of flexibility to be able to do that. I consider that to be a real privilege.”

We’ve summarized some additional benefits, and challenges, that Dr. Gupta presented to the workshop. His full presentation is available on-demand for members (login required) in the AGA education library.

Potential Benefits:

  • You’re excited to go into work most days due to the dynamic nature of academic research."I get to do something different every day," Dr. Gupta pointed out.
  • Opportunity to change medical practice and influence public health. Academic research provides the satisfaction of believing your making or might make a difference beyond the clinic, Dr. Gupta noted. 
  • Teaching and mentoring younger researchers provides yet another level of satisfaction and helps train future GIs.
  • Career stability and job reliability. "In theory, we have pretty good benefits and it's a stable job," Dr. Gupta noted.

Potential Challenges:

  • Getting your foot in the door takes a lot of work. “Those first three or four years, I spent a lot of time in my office alone trying to figure out `what am I doing?'” Dr. Gupta said.
  • Securing funding can take time and requires commitment. “You have to get funding for your research team, your supplies, your protected time,” Dr. Gupta said.
  • Rejection is common and you have to be ready to accept it and move on to succeed. “You’ve got to deal with constant rejection ... The best grant I’ve written in the last four years has been rejected four times,” Dr. Gupta noted, adding that it can take sending in manuscripts eight to 10 times before they are accepted.
  • Infrastructure and bureaucracy can often cause challenges: Dr. Gupta pointed out that some institutional processes can be slow and give you headaches once in a while.

How Can You Approach or Prevent Some of These Challenges?

  • Find a topic you’re passionate about “If you’re just lukewarm, it’s not going to work,” Dr. Gupta said.
  • Use relaxation techniques to help you keep up with the ups and downs of an academic research career, especially during heavy grant writing periods or after receiving one of those tricky rejections.
  • Be crafty: “If you can’t work something out one way, you have to think strategically about, well how am I going to get this done?" he noted.

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