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Yesterday I officially resigned from my research science position to take a new, non-academic position. It was horribly bittersweet. Although I am excited about the next chapter in my life, I have been involved in research science and teaching since an undergraduate student work-study position on the R/V Lucky Lady out of UMASS-Dartmouth (1990!).
Here are the top 3 reasons I am going to hang up my lab coat for a business suit — but don’t worry — I will still maintain this website because my passion remains improving science education in America.
1. Job Security: All of my positions in science have been “soft money”. That means they are grant-funded opportunities and when the grant is done, so is the job. This situation creates perpetual stress because of the constant awareness that each job is finite and the next opportunity, if it even exists, may or may not align with my current research interests.
2. Geographic Stability: I knew I wanted to be a marine scientist since I was 8 years old and a college professor since college, but I have not found a permanent position in my area. Part of the problem is that besides being a scientist — I am a wife, mother and military spouse. Courtesy of the US Coast Guard, I have lived in 10 states in 20 years, including: MA, RI, CT, MD, NC, FL (2x), AL, CA, OR, and AK. Last year, when my husband finished 20 years of service and my oldest started high school, we decided to put the kids first and stay put for at least 6 consecutive years so that they could experience geographic stability. For me, that translates into geographic restrictions in new job opportunities, because I can not relocate and job prospects in higher education in my area are not promising.
3. Couldn’t figure out how to become a high school science teacher:
I have a Ph.D. I have teaching experience in Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, and Oceanography at the collegiate level. I have experience with informal science education and outreach at K-12 levels. I am a great educator –but I couldn’t figure out how to get a job teaching high school science. I looked into it several times – but couldn’t find a path that did not require going back to school first. I wish there was a Lab-to-Classroom program similar to the Troops-to-Teachers initiative because I believe that there are other scientists who would make this transition.
Up next: 3 things I will miss most about working in a research laboratory