Embrace Your Curiosity and Ask Questions with Donna J. Dean, PhD

When Science Speaks
When Science Speaks
Embrace Your Curiosity and Ask Questions with Donna J. Dean, PhD

What unique qualities and skill sets do you bring to the table? Are you comfortable exercising and showcasing your abilities? Too often, it can take decades for scientists and researchers to build up the courage and confidence to lead with their abilities. If you find yourself struggling to step boldly into your wheelhouse – you aren’t alone.

Here to help you embrace your curiosity, analytical perspective, and drive to ask questions is Dr. Donna J. Dean. Donna has had a distinguished career with 27 years in the federal government at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA), followed by five years as a senior science advisor at Lewis-Burke Associates, a DC-based government relations consulting firm. She recently compiled her experiences in a highly effective guide entitled “Getting the Most Out of Your Mentoring Relationships: A Handbook for Women in STEM.”

Dr. Dean attended Berea College in Kentucky, graduating with a B.A. in chemistry, and minors in biology and mathematics, and then received her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Duke University.

What You’ll Hear On This Episode of When Science Speaks

  • [1:03] Mark introduces his guest, Donna Dean.
  • [4:50] Why the ability to analyze and multi-task is so valuable.
  • [8:15] Skills you need to succeed as a scientist.
  • [11:00] Donna talks about her experience testifying before Congress.
  • [16:20] What led Donna to her work at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)?
  • [21:10] Donna reflects on her time at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
  • [28:50] Advice for postdocs.

Connect with Donna Dean

Resources & People Mentioned

Embrace your curiosity

Looking back on her career as a scientist and policy advocate, Donna stresses the critical role that curiosity played on her successful journey. As you can imagine, the road wasn’t easy, Donna had to forge her path and learn many lessons on the fly. One situation that came up from her time at NIH involved Donna exercising her keen analytical skills and innate curiosity. Noticing that her boss’s message wasn’t connecting during an important meeting with several people in the room, Donna had to find a way to let him know after the fact in the most polite, yet direct, way possible, as time was short.

In her role as a mentor over the years – Donna has worked hard to encourage up and coming leaders to develop and expand their skill sets. Donna is so passionate about equipping young leaders that she wrote a book about it. You can explore the helpful insights Donna has to share by reading her book – the link is in the resources section of this post.

Ask questions

Almost everyone enjoys talking about themselves or something they are passionate about. Leaders like you can use that to your advantage to find common ground with people you don’t naturally have an affinity toward. Donna says that one of the best skills that scientists and researchers bring to the table is their ability to ask questions and get to the heart of the issue at hand.

In her career – Donna has taken the initiative to lead with questions. Tasked with the effort to form the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at NIH from the ground up – Donna asked a pivotal question – how do I do this? With no staff, budget, space, or grants, Donna went to work – reaching out and taking the time to ask questions.

Donna operated at the highest levels within NIH. She is a skilled, first-in-her family college graduate (and first PhD, as a result), who made a major impact in her specialty.

Donna has several valuable insights and experiences to share from her impressive career – make sure to catch her full conversation with Mark by listening to this episode.

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