Discussion of news topics with a point of view, including narratives by individuals regarding their own experiences

Welcome to The Work Day, a series that charts a single day in various women’s working lives — from gallery owners to stay-at-home parents to chief executives. In this installment, we hear from psychology professor Janet Tomiyama, who recorded a workday in October.

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Name: Janet Tomiyama

Age: 41

Location: Los Angeles

Job title/current role: Professor of psychology at the University of California at Los Angeles

Previous jobs: Assistant professor, Rutgers University, 2011-2012; postdoctoral fellow, UCSF and UC Berkeley, 2009-2011; graduate student, UCLA, 2003-2009; lab manager, UCLA, 2001-2003; salesperson, Victoria’s Secret, a couple months post-college

What led me to my current role: As a kid, I earned my allowance transcribing my mom’s research interviews (she is also a professor, as is my dad). So I was exposed to the slog of research from a very young age. But in college, I realized that as painful and boring as research can be, I was really good at it. Then I started making actual scientific discoveries, and I was hooked. To be a professor, you need a PhD, so after getting a few more years of research experience after college, I went to grad school for six years, which set me on the path I’m on today.

How I spend the majority of my day: What I love about my job is that every day is different, but in general it falls into three buckets: research, teaching and service. Most people think a college professor is a person who teaches undergrads, but at places like UCLA, their real job is to do research. That means getting grants, conducting studies, analyzing data and publishing.

Of course, I also teach (sometimes 250-plus students at a time). Service refers to the billion other tasks that need to get done to keep academia running, like deciding what courses should qualify for our food studies minor, or planning a conference, or serving on the Committee on Committees (this is a real thing), whose job is to find people to staff the various UCLA committees.

My workday

5 a.m.: I wake up and do an hour of writing papers or grants — before checking email. It’s difficult to resist the temptation, but I try to keep this hour sacred so even if my day gets away from me, at least I’ve gotten an hour of real work in.

6 a.m.: Workout time! I’m a Peloton devotee and usually stack a bunch of classes together to do an hour on the bike. Today, it’s power zone training with Denis Morton followed by a hip-hop ride with Hannah Frankson. IYKYK.

7 a.m.: Shower and take my 5-year-old to school. Blessedly, my husband handles getting my kid up, fed, tooth-brushed and dressed, although I do swoop in to do hair and sunscreen. My child hates getting sunscreened, so this is a chore no one enjoys.

How I start every day: Gaze at this cutout picture of my now 5-year-old and drink this insanely fragrant rooibos tea that my student got me in Korea. (Janet Tomiyama)
How I start every day: Gaze at this cutout picture of my now 5-year-old and drink this insanely fragrant rooibos tea that my student got me in Korea. (Janet Tomiyama)

8 a.m.: Commute to UCLA while listening to “Armchair Expert,” my favorite podcast. Although we have never met, I am sure that I am somehow best friends with Monica Padman and Dax Shepard.

9 a.m.: First meeting of the day with my former mentee who got her PhD three years ago. I’m trying to focus on what she’s saying (we’re working on responses to peer reviews of a paper) but I’m distracted and grinning because she’s such a rock-star scientist and I’m proud of her.

10 a.m.: Class begins, taught in person. This is a graduate class that lasts 3½ hours! We take a break in the middle, and I pound a hummus wrap in my office and rush back to the classroom.

1:30 p.m.: Zoom meeting with my research team, where we get into the weeds about what terminology to use to refer to thin people: Thin? Petite? Small? Skinny? We decide that “petite” is the weirdest but can’t agree on what is the best (this matters because this particular study will test the negative consequences of fat-shaming).

2:30 p.m.: I have a meeting with my graduate student. I made this one a phone meeting so I could lie down on my couch while taking the call.

3:30 p.m.: Prep for a congressional briefing I’m doing next week on the harmful consequences of weight stigma. I agonize over what to say in the six minutes I’ve been given, and how to say it in the simplest way possible. I agonize further over whether my slides are cute enough.

4 p.m.: Meeting with my undergraduate research assistants. They are the engine that makes my lab run.

Future scientists! (Janet Tomiyama)
Future scientists! (Janet Tomiyama)

5 p.m.: Commute home with more “Armchair Expert.”

6 p.m.: Cook, eat what I cook, engage in a faux wedding that the 5-year-old plans and officiates. “Mommy, you can kiss Daddy now.” Bathe the officiant, walk and feed Cashew the dog.

8:30 p.m.: This is my bedtime, which is earlier than my child’s. I interrupt story time to give kisses to my family, then get through a couple pages of David Sedaris’s “A Carnival of Snackery” before zonking out.

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