Chris’s brain gets drained

A post by Chris RowanYou may have noticed that I’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front in recent weeks. The fact is, I’ve been a little busy in the real world. The funding for my project in Edinburgh ended at the end of October, so I’ve been rather busy in the lab trying to get all of my samples from Oman properly measured. I’ve also been preparing for the fact that this weekend, I am moving from here:

Edinburgh viewed from Salisbury Crags

Photo: Chris Rowan, 2009

to here:

Chicago Skyline

That’s right: I’m moving to the University of Chicago to start post-doc number three, on continent number three. I never realised when I chose the name for my blog, that my own career trajectory would be so… Highly Allochthonous.

My exodus occurs at a rather interesting (in far from the positive sense of the word) time for the academic sector in the UK: whilst the efforts of the Science is Vital campaign, marshalled with vigour by concerned science-types like Jenny Rohn helped to prevent basic research funding being sacrificed at the deficit altar in the recent Comprehensive Spending Review, that same review trimmed the teaching budget for Universities by 40%. For an early career scientist like me, who is unable to directly apply for many grants in the absence of a university staff position, that is not a comforting thing to see. And the fact is, although my PhD was funded by the UK’s Natural Environmental Research Council, my scientific career since then has been entirely funded by other countries. My sojourn in Johannesburg was funded by the university there and the South African National Research Foundation; my salary in Edinburgh was paid by European research funds (in fairness, the UK government must have provided some of the cash). And as I move abroad again, it’s with the knowledge that the only other potential job on the table for me at this moment was also in another country.

Still, even if I am to a certain extent moving to where the work is (and, conversely, away from where it isn’t), necessity is only a minor motivation. I’m excited about this move, the project and people I’m going to work for, and – last week’s regrettable lurch towards the crazy realms of the political spectrum notwithstanding – the chance to live and work in the US. Once things have settled down a little, I’m also looking forward to getting back to blogging more regularly, which will include writing about the new project, and probably reworking the odd ‘British person being confused by America’ cliche to death.

Wish me luck!

Categories: academic life, ranting

Comments (17)

  1. alice says:

    I think behind all this brain drain stuff is the usual (and as you say – exciting!) movement of scientists around the world anyway, as all the fuss over the immigration issue shows.

    Still, third post-doc in third continent is not what a lot of young scientists sign up for, it is also expecting a lot of flexibility on your part and not providing you many options in return.

    Good luck and enjoy Chicago. Part of me is exceedingly jealous. Wave at Sue the TRex for me – wrote an essay about her as an undergrad and wanted to visit her ever since.

  2. Good luck!

    Sorry to hear you’re onto a third postdoc – it’s not a sustainable career. I was wondering about your quietness, and allusions to going somewhere on leaving Edinburgh yesterday. Hope you are decanted back somewhere permanently soon.

  3. Suze says:

    All the best for the new adventure. I’m looking forward to your blogging from the other side of the pond.

  4. Bob O'H says:

    Oh, good luck! Do you think you’ll have any problem learning the language?

  5. Elli says:

    Welcome to the US! Good to see that you’ve landed on your feet & looking forward to a return of the posting :)

  6. Garry Hayes says:

    Best wishes, Chris! Welcome to the states…

  7. coconino says:

    Welcome to the US, and hope it is a successful post-doc.

  8. While three post-docs on three continents sounds appealing to me, switching from a city with such lovely hills to climb to one with none doesn’t. I hope the job is so much fun that it makes up for the lack of topography…

  9. Kim says:

    Good luck, and welcome to the US! Wander the lakeshore between the Field Museum and Millenium Park before the snow flies – the lake is beautiful, and Sue the TRex is dead and can’t actually eat you, whatever she says on Twitter.

  10. Eric Fielding says:

    Welcome to the USA! Good luck with the new post.

  11. Lab Lemming says:

    I know some good Chinese labs for when you start looking for #4…

  12. Dana Hunter says:

    America’s IQ just shot up! Woot! It’s so great to have you here, Chris! When you get a chance, come out to look at some Pacific NW geo and have a drink on me.

  13. Lynn David says:

    Enjoy Chicago, it can be a culinary treat for one thing. The only thing approaching allochthonous about the city are some of the ethnic neighborhoods, which can be a treat, and the glacial sediments.

  14. Maitri says:

    Congratulations, Chris! Chicago is a lovely town and there is so much to do there, once you get your CTA card to ride the L trains.

    On being itinerant, I always say I’ll settle down when I grow up. It keeps me sane.

  15. Brian Romans says:

    Chicago is an awesome town, one of my favorites. A lot of fun stuff to do. The U.S. certainly has its issues but what country doesn’t — when you get past the noise, nonsense, and stereotyped cultural/political divisions you’ll find a lot of great people in this country.

    Look forward to hearing about your research w/ U of Chicago.

    And have you decided yet? Cubs or White Sox?

  16. cope says:

    Well, at least you got another postdoc. As above, Chicago is a great city…great music, great food, great people. And the state of Illinois has some pretty cool geology as well, although probably not so much in terms of paleomagnetism. I can tell you where to go look for geodes, though.

    Good luck in the state where I grew up, graduated college and had my first pass through graduate school (DNF, unfortunately).