Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Resilience – Being Proactive & Using Resources

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch October 11, 2022

Post Written By: Adeline Kerviel, PhD, Detailee at OITE

People know where to find resources for filing taxes, but what about help for taking care of mental health?

In the first two units of the OITE workshop “Becoming a Resilient Scientist”, Dr. Sharon Milgram introduced the concepts of resilience and wellness in the context of the scientific community. She also discussed cognitive distortions; these automatic negative thoughts that are magnified when one feels stressed by a situation.

When working in science, it is essential to constantly learn new techniques, formulate new ideas, and solve problems. But experiments don’t work all the time. When that happens, many tend to work to exhaustion; this persistence can be seen as a sign of strength. Fear, judgment, shame, and messages from the past can hold people back from using resources. Is it strong or weak to ask for help? As a community, it is possible to reframe using resources as an asset.

Resilience is the ability to adapt and grow through setbacks. The good news is that new skills can be found to navigate these difficulties and become more resilient. These will help focus on the process and the outcomes instead of being stuck on the problem. Trainees, mentors, and supervisors can all learn to make the research community as welcoming and open as possible regarding stress, expectations, and mental struggles.

As noted in the workshop, to be resilient, it is important to:

  • Learn from previous experience,
  • Built strong positive relationships with peers and mentors,
  • Be proactive and use resources to thrive,
  • Be mindful about how setbacks are approached,
  • Develop an emotional literacy,
  • Develop a growth mindset,
  • Develop stress management/wellness practices,
  • Do things that bring meaning and happiness every day.

Each item will be discussed during the following units of the workshop. Please register if you would like to learn more.

In this blog post though, we will focus on the third point: “Be proactive and use resources to thrive”.

The ability to sit with discomfort relates to tolerance. Tolerance is not “suffering no matter what”; it is the power to be with unpleasant emotions, while avoiding unhelpful behaviors and taking appropriate and helpful actions. Emotions are data that need to be recognized, acknowledged and interpreted accurately. By using emotional regulation, actions can be taken (or not) based on both cognitive and emotional data.

Tolerance is a learned skill involving self-awareness, self-compassion, and seeking advice and support when needed. Examining, understanding, and responding to emotions takes time and practice. The scientist’s ability to continuously learn new tools and be open to exploring new approaches and ways of tackling problems will help the community grow regarding mental health. Knowing that most importantly, they are not alone.

OITE is here to help guide and support trainees and mentors, and provides everyone the space and the resources to sit with uncomfortable feelings to become more resilient. Here are some helpful links for getting support:


How to Consider Advice Thoughtfully

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch October 24, 2022

People tend to have a lot of varying opinions — on every topic possible. Just imagine how many different responses you could get when asking what flavor of ice cream you should order or what type of car you should buy. Everyone has their own unique preferences and often their distinct experiences have helped shape their opinions on these topics.

The same is true for advice about career and life choices.

This sounds like common sense, right? However, it is often surprising how many trainees will make major life decisions based on one PI’s opinion or another mentor’s passing advice. At OITE, we often hear trainees say they received conflicting advice/input and need guidance on how to proceed. Here are some basic principles to keep in mind when receiving advice.

Understand that advice should help you to make a decision, not tell you what your decision should be. This is a crucial distinction. Most well-trained career counselors will not share their opinion on what you should do with your life and career; rather, they often ask open-ended questions to help get you thinking about your options and what your preferences might be. The goal in career counseling is to help you develop new ideas and/or to share resources that might eventually help you have that lightbulb moment of clarity.

With that said, advisors, mentors, PIs, parents, partners, and friends all will often share their advice with you. Most are well-meaning and trying to help you. But, just like product reviews on Amazon, you can’t take any one opinion too seriously, unless it really resonates with you. It is important to remember the source for the advice. Often we hear postbacs report advice they received on their medical school application from a PI who never went to medical school nor served on a medical school admission committee. The advice may or may not be sound, so it is important to verify that you are getting accurate advice from a trustworthy person.

Another common mistake alluded to about advice is the tendency to take one opinion as fact. Just like in your experiments, you want to have a broad and diverse sample to pull from as it will only help strengthen you research findings. The same is true with advice. We often recommend doing informational interviews, but are surprised when trainees rule out an entire field because of one bad informational interview. Remember that you might not have the exact same personality or work style as that person and be sure to seek multiple opinions.

Asking for advice and seeking help in making a decision or solving a problem is a great thing to do; just be sure to weigh these opinions properly and don’t let any single advice-giver have more power than you allow yourself.


Meet & Greet + Trick or Treat

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch October 31, 2022

Wondering who is behind this blog? Or what the OITE does? 

Stop by TODAY, Monday, October 31st (Halloween). Candy will be available at all NIH campuses-- Stop by, chat, grab some candy**, and enter our raffle for a FREE BOOK***! (Sponsored by the NIH OITE)

Bethesda: 12:30-1:15 PM, lawn outside of Building 1 and Building 2 (where the OITE office is located).

Baltimore: 12-1PM, picnic tables outside of the NIDA/NIA building (251 Bayview Blvd) Contacts: Arlene Jackson ( and Stephen Heishman (

Fishers Lane: Contact: Danielle Sambo (

Framingham: Check emails for details

Frederick: Contact: Chanelle Case-Borden (

Phoenix: Contact: Angel de la Cruz Landrau (

Research Triangle Park: 12-1PM at the NIEHS OFCD office (Building 101, Room 226). Contact: Katy Hamilton (

Rocky Mountain Laboratories: Contact: Marshall Bloom (

Shady Grove: 1:30-2PM, outside of room 7E450 (office of Jackie Lavigne). Contact: Jackie Lavigne (

To learn more about OITE -

Please visit our website:  We provide trainees with resources to help them develop their professional skills and navigate their professional paths. We run programs and workshops for postbacsgraduate students, and postdoctoral fellows. Our Career Services Center is here to assist you with your career development needs (we have a Careers Blog and a YouTube Channel!).. Come meet the OITE staff to chat over some candy!