Justin Park

Man wearing glasses and grey hoodie
University of Bristol
Senior Lecturer
Seoul, Korea, Republic of
Bristol, United Kingdom
Faculty of Arts
Social Psychology
Mark Schaller

What are your main responsibilities or activities in your current position?

As a senior lecturer in the School of Psychological Science, University of Bristol, my main responsibilities include teaching and teaching-related administrative duties. In addition to preparing/delivering teaching and assessment, I spend a lot of time supporting students and sitting on various committees and boards.

How does your current work relate to your graduate degree?

When I took on my first academic position (as assistant professor) following my PhD, the job was mostly a continuation of what I had been doing as a graduate student—i.e., reading, writing, conducting research, attending conferences, doing bits of teaching. So I was fairly well prepared for the work. Over the years, my focus has shifted toward teaching and administration, which has required more learning on the job. As a graduate student, you don't really learn how to teach or how a university operates.

What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?

Academics essentially come up with their own curricula and need to update them every year, which is both fun and challenging. It has been said that teaching is the best way to learn, and I do find that I keep learning new things by mulling over what I'm teaching. More generally, I enjoy working for a university. It's impressive that such a large institution with thousands of people can manage to operate relatively smoothly. In recent years, it has felt like there are greater demands on everyone's time and mental resources (for both academics and students), so a growing challenge is finding the right balance. And there have been unforeseen challenges, like COVID-19 and ChatGPT, with repercussions that we are still trying to manage.

Is your current career path as you originally intended?

I have ended up doing more teaching and administration (relative to research) than I had anticipated, but this aligns well with my strengths and interests. There are aspects of my current career path that my younger self may not have seen as exemplifying success, but I have realized over the years that there is no single path to success, and your life is much more than your career.

What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?

I was drawn to the quality of the university and faculty at UBC, as well as the city of Vancouver. The supervision I received (from Mark Schaller) was exceptional and pivotal in launching my career.

What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?

We had a close-knit community of graduate students in my department, and I enjoyed spending time with my fellow students.

What key things did you do, or what attitudes or approaches did you have, that contributed to your success?

My graduate supervisor, Mark Schaller, would say, "Let's submit this paper and get it rejected, which is the first step toward any publication." In other words, not getting too down when things don't go your way is important. Also, I dreaded public speaking, so during my PhD I took on extra teaching jobs to face my fears head on. It took several years, but now giving lectures is no longer among my top fears.

What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?

Learn to write well. Even though technological advances are quickly changing the landscape of jobs, good writing (academic or otherwise) continues to be a valuable skill.

Did you have any breaks in your education?

I have not had a break at all from kindergarten until now!

What challenges did you face in your graduate degree, or in launching your career?

During my graduate studies, the biggest challenge was obtaining external funding. It wasn't about the money (because there were alternative internal sources of funding), but the external recognition is important, and I never succeeded in getting it. Upon completing my PhD, I wasn't able to land an academic job in Canada, so I broadened my search and ended up in Europe (first in the Netherlands and now in the UK). So my life took a big turn, but things have worked out well, professionally and personally (I met my wife in the Netherlands).


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