The end of science? Sabbatical 2015.

Dear 2015, you’ve been a rough one. New instrument challenges seemed to be never-ending, but have been overcome with tenacity, and things are finally running smoothly. Intellectually, we’ve turned the existing body of knowledge for oxygen-17 in the sulfur cycle on its head, revealing how little we knew when this project began. However, proposal after proposal for continued funding has been declined despite interesting results generated by department seed money. And, with no interviews in a tight academic job market, I’m being deported from the US because there is no more money to pay my meager salary.

August 31 marks the end of my post-doc, and likely the end of my academic career. It’s been fun at times, challenging at times, and there have been stretches of time where I’ve worked harder than I thought was possible. I’ve accomplished a lot (built an instrument in my first year, and will have five papers worth of data out of less than a year of data collection since my instrument was completed), and most importantly I’ve met so many incredible people here. The J-lab team, and the broader geobiology postdoc crew are more than a great network, they’ve become good friends. My advisor, Dave, deserves an extra shout out for putting together bits and pieces of funding for me, being a great collaborator, and building a fantastic group of people to work with. Thanks, Dave.

However, after all of this, I’ve realized academia isn’t for me. And that’s a good thing. There are things I love about doing isotope geochemistry every day: testing new ideas, thinking about big picture “how the Earth system works” kind of problems, the job flexibility, and freedom-ish to work on things that are really cool and might change our way of thinking about the world. In general, I just think using isotopes to solve geological problems is really fun and interesting. However, the downsides of academia have become too apparent at this stage, and I’m in need of a career change. There are many scientific jobs in the United States for which I am qualified, and that I would find interesting (USGS, EPA, various companies), however these positions nearly unanimously require US citizenship. Similar scientific positions in my country of citizenship, Canada, are virtually non-existent, unless one is “researching” the soon-to-be-stranded oil sands resources. Notwithstanding the current recession, science in Canada is a dead end right now, so it’s time to consider something different.

For me, that something different is a sabbatical. I’m taking six to eight months off to reflect on my experiences as a researcher, and to plan for my next career. This process may launch me into a place and industry very different from where my path has taken me so far, and I’m keeping the door open to almost anything. I’ve got a long list of personal reading to catch up on, lots of mountains to climb (and ski down), friends to see, places to visit, and my Blue Jays should be fun to watch this fall, too. While this is all happening, I’m going to be thinking, writing, and planning my next steps, evaluating strengths, and envisioning my future. I’ll be driving across the US during September, ultimately to be located in western Canada, somewhere between Calgary and Vancouver for the next several months. If you live along that path, or are visiting the mountains, send me a note, I’d love to meet up to share a beverage and some ideas. I’m excited about the future, whatever it may bring. There is only one direction: onward.