May 3, 2017
Senior scientist Gillian King receives academic promotion
Congratulations to senior scientist Gillian King on her promotion to full professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto!
We sat down with Gillian to hear her experiences and reflections on her academic and scientific journey.
Q. What got you interested in research?
King: I’ve always been an observer of people. I’m fascinated by what motivates people, and what people’s life stories tell us about how to live a meaningful life. Since I was a young girl, I’ve been interested in people, in exploring things, and in learning. Feedback from others and self-assessments over the years indicate that I have many traits of a ‘researcher’ - curiosity, critical eye, a reflective stance, a love of learning, and an intense desire to understand things.
Q. What does full professor mean to you?
King: I’ve had a very non-traditional career, and I never imagined this would be my path. I was trained as a social psychologist and retooled myself to the job market at the time I graduated. There were few academic jobs so I took my technical skills into various applied settings - focusing on program evaluation, encouraging evidence-informed practice, and supporting a research culture. I am so happy to be part of this wonderful organization, where there has been the support and encouragement for me to become a professor.
Q. We asked post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Laura Hartman, to describe working under your mentorship. She said: "I was drawn to working with Dr. King. She believes in her work, and its efforts to help make our society more able to support diverse needs and desires. She collaborates with trainees with the goal of furthering her cause, which is the pursuit of a world in which all people can participate meaningfully in their lives and continue to grow and thrive despite any adversity. In fostering such learning and growth in her students, Dr. King gently guides us to undertake research that demonstrates a balance of rigour and creativity. She encourages us to consider the state of research today, and question what is not being asked."
As you look back, how has mentorship played an integral role in your career?
King: I’ve never been formally mentored but have had kind, excellent colleagues, including my supportive husband and colleagues at CanChild. You can learn so much from immersion on well-functioning teams, without explicit mentoring. As well, I’ve learned about the importance of coaching, mentoring, and collaboration through research on the important life experiences of children/youth with disabilities and their families. I’ve seen how lack of support and opportunity can have detrimental effects on peoples’ views of themselves, their motivation and engagement in their work, and on their careers.
Q. What would you say to students and trainees new to the field?
King: Network, explore, be open, develop strategies that work for you in terms of how to bounce back when rejections and tough patches happen - and they will. In my view, it is personal motivation and belief in self and the belief of others in you that are key. Find what you love to do and focus on that - we all have strengths. Write every day. Take risks. Have high standards. Work with good people and work on teams. Look after yourself. Read across literatures - follow ideas, as they repeat across fields, and you can learn so much from seeing how others approach an idea/topic.
See Gillian King's scientist page