The cells I will never record from

Jul 21 2014 Published by under Academia, Decisions, new job, science

Sometimes in life you find yourself in a relationship where all of a sudden you realize that things are not like you want them to be. It takes time filled with doubt, anxiety and lots of thinking but then you realize that you need to quit this relationship. You realize that you will be happier when you're not in it anymore. And even though you realize this and are ready to take this step, it is inevitable that you will mourn what is not there anymore. You will always have the memories, but you won't have all the things you imagined you would have in this relationship and it takes time to mourn the vacations you never went on together, the children you imagined that will never be born and all the other things you fantasized about.


Quitting academic science comes with the same feelings of mourning for me. I am sad about all the cells I will never patch, the excitement of cutting slices and seeing gorgeous layers of neurons. I mourn the ideas that I have that I won't get to turn into experiments, data and papers - for now at least. I mourn the fantasy that I had about becoming a full professor (which in the homecountry is surrounded by this whole day filled with ceremony when you become this). Heck, I even mourn the Nobel price that I dreamt about winning. More than once did I daydream about getting the call from Stockholm saying I won the Nobel price (if only I knew what I won it for...) Quitting academia means I won't have these things and I would lie if I wasn't sad about that. For the past ten years or longer I thought this was going to be my life and now I realize that it really isn't.

But of course ending one thing means the beginning of something new. I will still be a scientist, but not at a university anymore. I will still get to think of new science-ideas, just not the ones I was currently working on. I will still get to talk, write and present science. I'm superexcited about this, and I will soon write more about how I got this job, why my postdoc experience was still very useful and what led me to decide to quit academia.

8 responses so far

  • NeuroMonocle says:

    Congratulations on the new beginning. I am new to academia and still honeymooning quite hard. But I can appreciate the sentiment of moving out. Best of luck.

  • Jim Woodgett says:

    I think it was probably a typo, but there is a "Nobel Price". Some scientists become so infatuated with the possibility, it dominates what they do, say and publish.

    You have instead won the Noble Prize for providing another great example of how successful scientific careers are not limited to an academic track.

  • Bill says:

    As another who climbed out of an Ivory Tower window, I look forward to hearing about your transition.

    I don't think industry positions are available in sufficient numbers to alleviate the PhD overpopulation problem, but for those of us who land one, they can be incredibly fulfilling -- despite what we were told/taught/expected to absorb by emotional osmosis during our time in the academy.

  • KateClancy says:

    Hey, a new job! Exciting! I look forward to hearing how you got from academic science to your new path, even as I grieve a little bit with you over the other path.

  • Tideliar says:

    Great post. I quit the bench in 2008 - hardest and best decision I ever made. I appreciate how you feel. It's not easy, but I hope your new career path is rewarding

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