A half of a year in the life of an academic resuscitation scientist & entrepreneur

It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, but once I figured it out, I was off and running. This year marked 10 years as a resuscitation science researcher with the Center for Resuscitation Science (CRS) at the University of Pennsylvania. My life has changed in ways I could have never even thought to imagine when I was little. To say I exceeded all expectations is an understatement. Neither of my parents went to college, only one of my aunts and only a few immediate cousins; my twin sister is finishing up her bachelor’s degree and will complete it just after our 40th birthday! I was never destined for academic greatness, I bombed the SAT’s — I don’t remember my score but I remember it was not good (which is being generous). If anyone would have taken my standardized test score and mapped out my future I’ll guarantee you the path would not have lead them to my current career state. I say that to highlight that intelligence comes in many forms, and success depends on more than just intelligence.

I love what I do (for the most part) — I love the academic environment (most of the time), and I especially love the creativity it provides and the freedom it allows. But make no mistake, it takes an enormous amount of commitment and hard work to be “successful” in this scientific pursuit. Which is probably why academia is a good fit for me — I constantly need to be creative and productive, its like an addiction!

The last couple of years I have reached a point in my early career where I have begun to formulate my own research agenda, I write my own grants, I have my own team, and all of the burden that comes along with that: keeping the lights on, keeping people employed etc. Right now it is a very small team — 1 FT research assistant and 1 PT research assistant (sometimes) — but you have to start somewhere!

So when I reflect on the first half of 2017 I am simultaneously impressed and exhausted by my frenetically busy productivity; by the end of June 2017 I submitted 6 research grant applications, 4 scientific abstracts (all accepted!), given 1 speech, 9 lectures, and traveled to 6 different cities in two different countries. In addition, my team and I finished enrollment for phase 1 of my research grant and began writing it up. All this while also having three other positions within my institution. In addition to being a resuscitation scientist, I am the co-course director for a nursing research course, I am an instructor in the Master of Pubic Health program and I am the new innovation specialist for the Penn School of Nursing.

I am also the founder of a startup company, ImmERge Labs, which was formed officially in December 2016. ImmERge Labs uses virtual reality and augmented reality to improve training and education for emergency response. In the first half of 2017 I will have hired a CEO, given ~15-20 pitches to 10 different companies, won our first investment via an innovation competition, made it to the final round of an accelerator program (announcement on final round winner coming soon), submitted 7 startup grants and/or other accelerator applications, got purchase orders for our first two paying customers, and submitted 1 patent application for two inventions.

All of this while studying for the #GRE — another standardized test that will not predict my success in a PhD program.

I say all of this as a way to highlight what it is we do on the daily as academic researchers and scientists. So check out this Prezi timeline of the last 6 months in Tweets and enjoy the ride, I know I have! #scicomm