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Harmit Malik’s “Career-Defining Moment”? A Protégé’s Success

An interview has just been posted at NatureJobs with Harmit Malik of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, who
won the 2010 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science. The interview was conducted by Virginia Gewin.

There’s much that’s interesting about what Malik says but what’s most refreshing is the seriousness with which he approaches the training of his protégés. Consistent with the people interviewed for our Audacity series, Malik believes it’s important to be bold, to take scientific risks. But he also believes in sheltering his people from those risks:

I encourage my students to be very creative in their efforts to push
paradigms beyond what we know. To do that, I encourage them to take
risks. In exchange, I provide the safety net to make sure it won’t hurt
their careers.

Most impressive, however, is what he regards as his career-defining moment. Was it winning a scientific prize? Getting published in a top-tier journal? A prestigious faculty appointment? No. His career-defining moment was watching his first postdoc succeed:

I was still unclear on how the field would view our work when the first
postdoc from my lab started exploring the job market. It was daunting.
But when she started getting awards and fantastic job interviews, I was
quite relieved. I remember thinking: ‘We’re training people who will do
well. We’re not destroying someone’s career.’

On Twitter: @SciCareerEditor