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Daniel Williams
Daniel Williams

Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don't Work


The Destination: No more blah-blah-blah. Through Vivid Thinking, we can make the most complicated subjects suddenly crystal clear. Whether trying to understand a Harvard Business School class, or what went down in the Conan versus Leno battle for late-night TV, or what Einstein thought about relativity, Vivid Thinking provides a way to clarify anything.




Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don't Work



The Problem: We talk so much that we don't think very well. Powerful as words are, we fool ourselves when we think our words alone can detect, describe, and defuse the multifaceted problems of today. They can't-and that's bad, because words have become our default thinking tool.


Why would we feed a 'blah' diet to our pets when we delight in making them happy? Well, we also delight in keeping them happy and if they are feeling poorly, a 'bland' diet may help them feel better. Veterinarians often recommend bland diets for pets when their digestive tracts are upset or need a rest. So in some cases, 'blah' is best!


Two classes that instantly come to mind are Interpersonal Communication and Intercultural Communication. I remember learning about Interpersonal Communication, specifically about different cues in both verbal and nonverbal communication, and seeing that in the workplace now has been insightful. Intercultural Communication was also a great class to take, especially for the workplace when you are communicating and collaborating with different people who have their own ways of communication based on how they were raised or what their customs are.


Michelle Stevens 02:02Sure, the Office of Sponsored Research is here to help our researchers here at UCSF apply for externally funded grants and contracts. And so the Office of Sponsored Research has three units primary units. One is Research Services or research management services, and we help our researchers with proposals and awards for government and nonprofit grants. We have government business contracts, that helps with the government contracts from federal, state, city as well as foreign and they also help our schools with any negotiation for training affiliations or professional services. And then the third unit is industry contracts division, which helps with industry sponsored research agreements. So, from the for-profits. And so, research management services, because we deal with federal grants, nonprofit grants, we are the main contact for our researchers and postdocs here at UCSF. We help them apply for research proposals, whether it's with NIH, NSF, whether postdocs need to get their fellowship grants, or the department needs to get a training grant for postdocs or predocs, whether postdocs have like a list of potential sponsors that they get from their investigators/their mentor and they're lining up which fellowships to get. That will be what postdocs work with the Research Services Coordinator, the RCs that's assigned to the postdoc mentor or lab researcher, they're the ones then would be assigned to the postdoc in that lab. And so, we help postdocs kind of maneuver the red tape that is UCSF, and kind of know what policies are in place for which sponsors. And so, that, you know, as we say, with researchers, we want researchers to concentrate on their science. We want postdocs to concentrate on their fellowship, the meat of their fellowship applications, and then we'll kind of deal with all of the policies and procedures and particular forms that you need to fill out. One of the things we always tell postdocs, because a lot of the postdoc applications, fellowship applications require not only a science of, or career path that they may want to take, they also ask for letters of recommendation. And that's always kind of trying because, you know, you're trying to coordinate with your own mentors or you know, other places that's external, it's not, out of your control. Those are things we don't do, but we want you to concentrate on getting the best letters of recommendation that you can get that will really put your application above and beyond other people. And so we want you to concentrate on getting those sections and we'll concentrate on all the other administrative portions of the fellowship application. So, that's what we do.


Michelle Stevens 05:30So, I mean, I'm going to age myself, I guess, when I was in my 20s, I had graduated from Cal and I, you know, it was the, it was a recession. And you know, all my friends who are in like computer science or biomedical they were getting jobs like this. And I was like, a poli sci major saying, like, what do I want to do? So, I did some jobs here and there. And I was just like, I know, nothing's really grabbing me. And, you know, even commuting to like, down the peninsula, I was just like, I need to find something in the city where my commute is easy. And I looked at the employers, and I was just like, Oh, UCSF. I'm going to try UCSF, it's like, only I can walk to work. So, I started off at UCSF as a fellowship coordinator for the Division of infectious disease here at UCSF in the School of Medicine, Department of Medicine. And, man, I got worked, I had, I never worked that hard. And I actually got burned out within less than a year. And, so, I was like, I'm working a lot of crazy hours, this, this can't be it. And, then all my friends are like you need to be in a ".com" know, you'll make so much more money. So, I did that change. I think within two months of my new job, I was just like, money is not everything. I am bored, not learning anything. And so I was talking to my past manager. And then she was just like, UCSF is looking for research administrators, and you have all of the basic knowledge of like how our accounting system works, our faculty, our postdocs, why don't you like apply for it? And so that is what drew me back to UCSF. Although I left UCSF for about two and a half years to go down to UCLA to run a center for AIDS Research and Education Unit. I've been with UCSF and UC for 20, 20 plus years, and I love my job because I love helping postdocs get established, see postdocs becoming faculty, we've seen beginning faculty become like chairs of a department and the initial conversations they've had with me or members of my team, really helping them to kind of get gain clarity of like, what to focus on when they need help, how to ask for it from their departments, from their school, to get that administrative support, so that they can really do what they do best, which is the research. And sometimes if it's opening up a brain and putting in like chips in there, you know, great, but seeing that, that all come together and then seeing friends who might be going through an ailment going to see our physicians or our researchers here and then getting the help that they need to function in their everyday life. I'm really sold on our mission of advancing health worldwide in our community. I derive that enjoyment and purpose.


Michelle Stevens 08:43As I said, postdocs come to us mainly to start their own application process for their own individual funding. If postdocs are lucky, they'll, they'll start at UCSF in maybe a training grant slot or on their mentors R1 as a researcher, you know, postdoctoral researcher helping their mentors with whatever research they're doing. Sometimes some of our postdocs come in with no funding, and they're told you got to get funding right away. If everything works out. We will even start helping a postdoc before they get to UCSF, if we have their offer letter, and we're just waiting, and they're at their current institution before they even get to UCSF, because we have that offer letter and we've confirmed it with a mentor in the department. We can even start helping postdocs before they arrive at UCSF in applying for fellowship grants. But normally when they get here, we'd love we have relationships with the administrative staff of departments to say hey, send them over so that we can go through the process, right? Because we do so many proposals here at UCSF, postdocs really need to give the RSCs is about a 30 day notice before the deadline. And it's not saying that the whole application process takes 30 days, it's because we want to go over the process itself. And then really starting the postdocs to concentrate on particular parts of the application that they need to, which can be time consuming, like gathering all their letters of support. And so if that's going to take a while, especially during summer months, when they're past, you know, mentors in their previous institutions are on summer break, you know, that's going to take time, right, to gather fresh letters of recommendations for whatever application that they're doing. And so we want to be able to help postdocs with those things, and setting it in a timeline so that you see the goal where we're heading toward, and then we're all getting to that point together. And so, the sooner we can see postdocs, and communicate with them and work with them, the better, we're always willing to meet with them face to face before COVID. And now on, via zoom, and then go walk through steps.


Michelle Stevens 11:35I think doing those brown bags and stuff with the postdoc unit and stuff, I think one misconception is that we're not here to help postdocs, that we're only here for faculty or that we might be too bureaucratic, they're on the backburner, while, you know, faculty and their proposals. I think that's where the timeline is really important. Because one RC can, if it's a small department, it might be one RC kind of giving service to that whole unit. If it's a big, big unit, like the Department of Medicine, there's actually two RMS teams that support the Department of Medicine, because it's a large one for the campus side, we call it, and one for the ZSFG side. So, all of the departments have a designation. And, so it's just easier to manage that, you know, faculty, we know who the faculty are. Postdocs come and they go, right? And so it's easier to have the postdocs supported by their mentor's RC. And so, it's sometimes, I guess, mentors forget to tell their postdocs that we're here as a resource available to you guys. But it's really, we're here to help get any extramural funding. Because, you know, when it comes from an outside source, there's usually things that sponsors want in return, like a financial report or a progress report. But there's also, if it's coming from federal sources, there's a lot of things that you guys don't have to worry about. But as an institution, we worry about. Like, audits--we get one every year. And if it's good, it flies and we're all good, if it's bad, that can that can open up the institution for more audits. And so we want to make sure that we're doing everything on behalf of UCSF, doing things correctly. But at the same time, helping our faculty not worry about that, helping our researchers and postdocs not worry about that. And, you know, we're the people who will be like, "Oh, because you're not a US resident or citizen, you can't apply for these types of grants, but these might be available to you," right? And so, if an RC is working with a department or a researcher long enough, they kind of know what sponsors are available for that research, or that that the researcher is doing. And so, we might know things that we can give you an answer really quickly. Versus you're like doing a web search and trying to figure out where, what sponsor will, you know, support me and things like that. We are always willing to look at policies and structures of new foundations that we've never heard about, because we need to enter that into the greater UCOP system, you University of California, Office of the President kind of keeps track of all sponsors that all 10 campuses get funding from and so if we've not done them, maybe UCSD or UCLA has gotten an award. And so we might know, you know if there's any hiccups that we should know about. But yeah, we're here to help. We're here to kind of guide and we're not here to be a bureaucrat, we're not here to set up walls and tell you no, you can't, we might say no, you can't on this, but you can on this. That's what we're here for. 041b061a72


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