Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone.
It’s not warm when she’s away.
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And she’s always gone too long anytime she goes away.
Those of you who’ve been following this blog since the old site know that I don’t write very often about my personal life. But there’s a big life change that’s happening for me right now that’s related to the Astronomy/Cosmology/Physics.
You see, back in the spring of 2006, I was a graduate student at the University of Florida. I thought that I was doing great; I had a number of published papers as the lead author, I had spoken at national and international conferences, and had just defended my dissertation — in theoretical cosmology — after less than five years in grad school. And then, much as PhD comics predicted, something happened.
I didn’t get a single job offer to be postdoctoral researcher. And — much like Bill Withers — I felt like the sunshine was gone from my life. What else does one feel when you work hard for years and years to get to the next step, and suddenly you can’t take it?
But, I like to think that I did what any sane person would do: I had a crisis, and tried to figure out what would come next for me. So, I moved to Madison, WI, because there was a temporary teaching opening at the University of Wisconsin. And teaching full-time made me realize (or re-realize) how much I liked it, and how satisfying it was for me.
But I still had the itch to work on research, to investigate the frontiers of dark matter, dark energy, the early Universe, and cosmology in general. So I decided to apply for postdoctoral jobs again. This time was different, and the next summer, I moved to Tucson, AZ, and started my job as a researcher at the University of Arizona.
And I was pretty good at it! But, there was a problem: I didn’t like it. Not enough to want to keep on doing it there. But I was less than a year into my postdoc, and I had a hard decision to make. Did I stay, make the best of it, and continue down the traditional academic career track? You know, undergrad, grad student, postdoc (sometimes 2 or 3), and finally professor? Or would I leave my job and pursue an unknown adventure?
That choice was what brought me to Portland, where I found a job teaching at the University of Portland. And while it was a good experience in a very good work environment, it was a very limited job. No resources to do my research, and just the same four classes to teach and run over and over again. One of the great things I love about teaching is the creativity, the art of figuring out how to present some very complex information in an understandable, useful, and interesting way. You know what job gives you the opportunity to have all of those things? Professor. But I abandoned the traditional path for that, and simply chose a happy life with an okay job with no upward mobility as the tradeoff.
Or so I thought. This past November, I received an invitation to give the physics colloquium at one of the top colleges in the region: Lewis & Clark College, which is also in Portland, OR. For those of you who’ve never heard of it, it is gorgeous:
And so when I went, I gave the best talk I could possibly give, like I was interviewing for my dream job. Well, because I was, kind of. A tenured physics professor there had decided to leave the University to move to Washington, DC. Two months later, I heard some wonderful news from Lewis & Clark College about employment. Long story short, my last day at University of Portland was Friday, and my first day as a full-time Professor is Monday! Classes start then, and among the courses I’ll be teaching is Astronomy, which I am ridiculously excited about!
But don’t worry; I’ll still be here, writing about the Universe and all the wonderful things we find in it. But I wanted to share my good news with you, on my one weekend between jobs. See you on Monday!