From overwork to work-life balance
After two years of fruitful research at RIKEN, Dr. Chang was at a crossroads. In Japan, the salary was better than in Taiwan, and RIKEN was the world’s leading genomics research institute, but the working hours were very long. So when Prof.
Hank Juo and the president of Kaohsiung Medical University recruited Dr. Chang, he set up his own lab.
No job is easy in the beginning, he recalled with a laugh, but the salary was much lower and he was still working just as hard as in Japan! Plus he commuted to Taipei each weekend for three years to see his wife, even when their son was born.
Fifty papers came out of those four years, making Prof. Chang one of the Kaohsiung school’s leading scientists in terms of productivity. But when TMU’s President Yun Yen recruited him in 2012 to set up a master’s degree program for Clinical Pharmacogenomics and Pharmacoproteomics, he jumped at the chance to join his family, and started a new lab in the Pharmacy Department.
This lab that Prof. Chang started with just three technicians, two undergraduates and one Ph.D. student has more than tripled in workforce. Nearly 20 people work in the lab now, and sixty percent of his grant money goes straight to student workers. “I hope to improve the economic condition of every student, so that they can fully focus on their research without worrying about the cost of living in Taipei,” he said.
While in the past his students found the lab’s working hours extremely long, now Prof. Chang encourages work-life balance. His lab meetings are on Tuesday evenings so clinicians can attend. And he always serves a nice meal then “because students never have much money.”
“I never say no when someone requests time off,” he said. “Life is not science – it can’t be measured by a very few variables. Life is an art. It should be played and enjoyed with love.”