Science careers and moving

Deb Britt debbritt at
Wed Jun 19 13:01:33 EST 1996

In article <Slechta-1806961712300001 at>,
Slechta at (Sue Slechta) wrote:

   As a
> fairly young, childless, unmarried graduate student, I was amazed at the
> level of complaints from others about the simple fact that young
> scientists are expected to move to advance their career.  Nobody ever hid
> this fact from me, I was quite aware of it from the very beginning of my
> graduate career decision.  In fact, that, to me, was one of the
> advantages.  Getting the opportunity to move to a new location, meeting
> new people, the general feeling of moving on in your life.  That was one
> of the big reasons I moved from upstate NY to Utah for grad school.  I
> felt that I was closing one chapter in my life (collece, tech job) and
> opening a new one.
> (snip some more)

When I was a fairly young, childless, unmarried student, I also thought
moving to a new place was an exciting opportunity, and I jumped from Oregon
to Rhode Island to go to Graduate School. If someone had told me then that
getting PhD/Postdoc/job would entail moving several times, it wouldn't have
bothered me at all. As I got older, though, the glamour of new places/new
faces wore off.  I acquired a husband and children, and moving now has all
sorts of repercussions it did not have before.  I was lucky to find both a
Postdoc and then a faculty position here in RI while my husband finished
school, but to do so I went from Microbiology to human genome mapping to
cancer research.  The bottom line is that science is the same as any other
profession.  As you move up the ladder you become more specialized, and job
opportunities at your level are more restricted, e.g. if you were a cashier
at WalMart, you could leave and get an equal job anywhere, but if you were
the CEO, an equivalent position at another company would be much harder to
find, and would probably require moving.  If you want to pursue your career
singlemindedly, you will have to move to follow the opportunities.  If you
want to stay in one location, you will have to be flexible and realistic in
your expectations. If someone had asked me in 1986 where I would be in
1996, I would not have said Rhode Island, but here I am and I'm happy with
the choices I've made.  Now, if my husband could just get a position, we'd
be all set!
Deborah Britt, Ph.D.
Medical Oncology
RI Hospital/Brown University

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