Exhibiting a scientist's flair for multitasking at his leaving do

Our very own Bill has gone off on a great adventure, choosing to become a new professor in an uber-prestigious American university over a more familiar one here in London. We are all absurdly proud of him, wish him well – and hope that once he settles into his strange new environment, he will report back with his usual insight.

The change makes me think, yet again, about the differences between doing science in America versus Europe/the UK. It’s been nearly 14 years since I left Seattle to become a scientist in London. I have been here so long that I only have vague memories of what it used to be like when constant 80-hour weeks were the done thing. The lab turbo-gunner phenotype turns out to have strong environmental components – for better or worse, my lab work ethic is now firmly aligned with what people here would call the “Continental” mode (and what the professors where I did my PhD would call “slacker” mode).

Bill recently sent me a glowing review of the novel Intuition by Allegra Goodman for publication on LabLit.com, although in an email aside said he had been disappointed by the author’s portrayal of the scientists as working all through the night and subsisting on vending machine snacks, which he found stereotypical. This makes me slightly nervous, for the university where Bill has just hung his hat is renowned, amongst American scientists, for precisely that mentality. My hope is that this behavior is more expected of the students and post-docs than of the lab heads!