By Maddy Hunter, Program Associate, CCC
CCC Council Chair Emerita, Liz Bradley, was interviewed last month for a SpringerNature’s podcast segment on athlete-scientists. As an Olympian, mathematician and Professor of Computer Science at University of Colorado Boulder, Bradley discusses the impact of athletics on personal development, the importance of discipline, and strategies for balancing sports and intellectual pursuits.
Bradley first fell in love with the sport of rugby and went on to play on the New England Select team around 1979. She ended up switching to rowing due to a series of concussions that left her unable to play rugby. As a rower, she competed in the World Rowing Championships in 1986 and 1987, finishing fourth and fifth. At the 1988 Olympic Games, her team placed fifth in the women’s coxed four event. Bradley continues to stay active by biking daily and engaging in downhill skiing.
Reflecting on her experiences, Bradley highlighted the traits necessary to succeed in both science and sports, including persistence, stamina, and discipline. She stressed that discipline helps individuals focus and concentrate, improving both physical and mental performance. Moreover, she emphasized the symbiotic relationship between the body and the brain, emphasizing the importance of training the entire organism for enhanced concentration. Among all these benefits one of the greatest traits cultivated by engaging in sports is time management.
Bradley has a long history of balancing sports and academics. She was on the rowing team as an undergraduate at MIT and then as a graduate student at MIT she was on the National Rowing Team. She recounts as a member of the National team, she had to train twice a day for at least a couple hours each time while getting her degrees. Bradley mentions participating in sports improves time management skills by compelling individuals to prioritize their tasks effectively due to the structured nature of the training sessions. This skill extends to other areas of life, allowing athletes to manage their time more efficiently and meet deadlines.
Bradley was involved in athletics oversight at the University of Colorado. As both a full tenured Professor and a former Olympic athlete she was was the perfect mentor for students simultaneously pursuing school and a competitive athletic career. When asked advice for students looking to engage in both, Bradley said that while she certainly encourages it, she does warn people that they are going to have to do a lot of very careful prioritization and task juggling. However, Bradley also noted the importance of maintaining whitespace in one’s schedule to foster creativity and allow for spontaneous ideas.
Drawing from her experiences as a mentee and mentor, Bradley shared her approach to encouraging students to maintain whitespace in their schedules by requiring her students to maintain physical hardcopy notebooks. This approach helps students view their work holistically and engage in non-linear thinking. Bradley highlighted the benefits of using a physical notebook for note-taking and reflection. The tangible nature of a notebook allows for activities not easily captured on computers or tablets, such as proprioception and drawing.
Tune into the full podcast interview to learn more about Bradley’s impressive feats and advice on balancing two successful careers in academia and sports.