The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Where?

Warning: this post contains angst.

The third year of my PhD work is quickly coming to a close (Omg. Aak. Eeek.) I’ve been thinking a lot about post-docs. About the type of research I want to do and the type of researcher I want to become in the long run. About fellowships and funding applications. About finding a great lab and a great mentor.

There’s one other unknown that seems to consistently overshadow all these other considerations, no matter how much I try to convince myself that it shouldn’t be super-important:

where am I going to work?

That one word – “where” – stirs up a flurry of other stressful, intrusive thoughts: where will my wife and I live? Will we stay in Canada, or will we have to move to the US or even overseas? Will we be able to find a nice place that lets us maintain the quiet country existence we’ve both come to love? Will we have to sell our beloved old schoolhouse – or maybe we could just rent it out for a while? Will we be ABLE to sell our beloved old schoolhouse if we need to (the real estate market isn’t exactly on fire right now)? And then there’s our pets – if we move overseas we’ll almost certainly have to put them in quarantine – would we be able to manage that? What about our families? What about my partner’s career (she also returned to school last year to pursue a new path as a social worker)? Will we be able to live someplace that recognizes our marriage – will we both be able to get health care and feel safe in a new community?

This issue of “where” is awfully big. I feel like everything else is manageable, but this one…I don’t know. There are a lot of long-term implications and emotional investments wrapped up in “where”, and frankly it scares the poop out of me if I allow myself to think about it too much

I’m not sure what will ultimately settle the “where” question. We might have to simply follow the available funding. Maybe funding won’t be an issue and I’ll be able to carve out a nice niche for myself in a lab more of my choosing, and someplace where my wife can equally pursue her own dreams. (And maybe pigs will fly?)

Half of me wants to ask you other grad students and post-doc-ey and early-career-ey people to share your own journeys and concerns about this process, but the other half of me is terrified of what you’ll tell me (aak!) What were your primary considerations when looking for post-docs/jobs/higher degrees, in terms of the “where” question?

2 responses to “Where?

  1. Chris Buddle November 26, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    Yes, a stressful time. When I faced the post-doc dilemma there was a lot of fear and anxiety – not helped by the fact that my wife and I had a 10 month old when I defended my PhD, and not helped by the dismal funding options. We headed to the USA to a small(ish) University in Ohio, and despite the fear and anxiety, it turned out to be a really wonderful experience, and the leap into the (many) unknowns was worth it. Learning how to do science from the perspective of a non-Canadian system was enriching. Living in a different country was a great experience and overall, I have no regrets about getting far away from the “comfort zone”.

  2. David Winter November 26, 2012 at 4:00 PM

    HI Geek,

    I’m on the postdoc hunt now, and share many of your anxieties.

    I guess it’s a little different in New Zealand because (a) we basically don’t fund postdocs [a matter of much concern here] and (b) there is a non-official expectation that anyone wanting an academic career here has at least some overseas experience. So the local option of the “where” question is taken care of.

    In terms of my strategy, I’m really focusing on the skills I want to add to my bow and worrying about the “where” afterwards. I’m a bit like you that we have a comfortable life in a pretty quiet sort of a town, and upping stakes and moving to another culture and (potentially) a proper city is quite scary… but I guess I’m now OK with the idea that that’s a leap we are going to make if the right opportunity comes up.

    (FWIW, if you did find that that rarest of specimens, a New Zealand entomological postdoc, I’m glad to say it looks like we’ll recognize your marriage as of next year but the dog would need to go through quarantine and it would cost… a lot.)

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