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Jonathan A. Kelber, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Biology | California State University, Northridge

Interviews by: Asma Khan 
Editing: Jamie Joseph

1. Please list your previous department at UC San Diego and provide a brief description of the research you conducted?

UCSD Department of Chemistry/Biochemistry, Salk Institute Peptide Biology Lab (Mentor: Wylie Vale), UCSD Department of Pathology and Moores Cancer Center (Mentor: Richard Klemke)

2. Please describe your current job profile?

I am currently a tenure-track Assistant professor of Biology at CSUN, a large minority-serving state university with almost 40K students. In terms of teaching and research responsibilities, 40% of the time I am teaching undergraduate/graduate students and 60% running my research lab.

3. What made you decide to transition into your current position?

The right position, at the right institution became available - this position has been my ideal academic job for quite some time. My college dean and the senior members of my department provide time and financial support to assist new professors in achieving their professional goals.

4. Apart from the research you conducted, do you feel like anything in particular has helped you to acquire your current position?

I was an IRACDA postdoctoral fellow at UCSD for 2.5 years. While I had other fellowship opportunities, I chose the IRACDA fellowship because it provided me with training as an educator while also supporting my scholarly activities as a cancer researcher.

5. Please list some of the most striking similarities and differences between your post-doc and current position?

I feel that one major difference is that CSUN is not an R1 institution. However, both UCSD and CSUN have a similar standard for scholarly activity and quality of undergraduate/graduate students.

6. Is there any specific challenge (during the entire process of transitioning) that you would like to highlight and if so how did you overcome it?

Building, equipping and recruiting personnel for my research lab was by far the largest, most difficult, but also, most rewarding part of the transition. My lab currently has a vibrant group of enthusiastic trainees including 1 postdoctoral fellow, 5 graduate students, 4 undergraduate students, and 1 technician.

7. Please describe your goals and ambitions for the next 5 years?

In the next five years I hope to maintain high standards of research and teaching, progress toward tenure, and launch current undergraduate trainees toward graduate school or other professions of their choice.

8. What do you feel you could have done more, as a postdoc, to help prepare you for or acquire your current position?

Actually, I think my training as a high school teacher, graduate student and finally a postdoc fellow was ideal in preparation for my current position. Of course, more of that same training could only improve one's preparation, but at some point we reach a point of diminishing returns and are ready for a new challenge. I feel that I transitioned to my current position at the right time.

9. What do you feel is the most important advice you can give to a current UCSD postdoc in order for them to obtain a position such as yours?

Find opportunities to demonstrate experience as an educator, and also excel at your research.