“I was married to Margaret Joan Howe in 1940. Although not a scientist herself she has contributed more to my work than anyone else by providing a peaceful and happy home.” – Dr. Frederick Sanger – From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1980, Editor Wilhelm Odelberg, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1981
Happy birthday and thank you to my partner and best supporting contributor, Lee. Dr. Sanger was absolutely correct when he attributed his success at work to the support his wife gave him at home. I don’t mean that our partners should run the entire household because we are too important (I’m all for egalitarian chore wheels). What I mean is that it takes a special (and patient) type of person to emotionally support us and our work. As researchers and/or academics, we lead busy work lives, have variable schedules, have sudden deadlines that crop up and glue us to our laptops, we can’t always take vacation during the school year and if we do take a vacation it always seems to coincide with a scientific conference we are presenting at. We can be cranky without regular coffee infusions, and sometimes we come home smelling of whatever it is we were working on. And, sometimes we can never find enough undergraduate students to help us and ask you to help us clean sheep pens with no compensation.
Our jobs can also require us to move often, or to hard-to-reach locations. Roughly a year ago, I accepted a job (my current post-doc position) in Bozeman, MT, a place I had never been to 2,600 miles from where I was living in Vermont. I asked Lee to drop everything and relocate with me- something that every partner of a graduate student, post-doc, or tenure-track professor has been asked at least once. Relocating with a researcher is no small proposition- it usually comes with a variable-length timeline; you might have to move again in a year or three or you might get stuck there and have to put down roots. I am delighted to say that Lee came with me, we drove all 2,600 miles across country to Montana, and we have been having a wonderful time under the Big Sky since! Happy birthday Lee, and to everyone else: go home and thank your partner, parents, coworkers, friends, pets, house plants, or whatever else for giving you the emotional support you need to be your best scientist.