I’m moving from Germany to France. This is my goodbye to the place that welcomed me for five years.
You may be missing the Much Bigger Outside after three weeks without any new posts.
Not that I didn’t write. Indeed, I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago. However, when Carla read the draft (she always does), she said I would stir the wrath of the gods at me if I published it. Since I don’t like to be beneath the wrath of anyone, I cowardly acquiesced and self-censored its publication. Sorry, no cookies.
But the main reason I didn’t update the blog is that I’m moving.
I’m leaving the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung in Mülheim for an A*MIDEX professorship chair at the Institut de Chimie Radicalaire in Marseille. As you may guess, life goes crazy during these relocation times and a blog drops well down in any priority list.
I’m still quite busy, but I think a goodbye to this season and some teasing for the next one is in order.
I’ve been a group leader at the Max Planck Institute for five years. It was a great time and I leave the MPI as a fan of them. Not only because of the money and infrastructure, which the institute abundantly granted me, but mainly because the way research is managed there. Everything is set to get the best from each person, aiming at the best science.
You’re paid to do research. And that’s what you do.
You have all the infrastructure, so you don’t waste time doing bureaucracy or computer maintenance. You won’t see a scientist playing administrator, as usually we see in many places. They hire a professional manager to take care of that.
Everyone there is expected to run after external funds, of course. But the institute runs its own foundation, with assets obtained over the decades, which grants them relative financial autonomy.
You have independence to pursue your research lines in the way you think it is the best, but you also know that a serious external committee will evaluate your work periodically.
At the MPI, you live in a community of extremely clever grad students, postdoctoral researchers, visitors, and group leaders, the best people recruited from all over the world. You count on the support of very competent technicians. You are inspired by scientifically brilliant directors.
You may expect that all these bright minds together could be the sure recipe for soap-opera intrigues, ego conflicts, harsh competition, and work-alcoholism, common in many top-level research institutions. Nothing like that: life goes easy at the MPI; European style, I’d say.
It was a great time, but group leaders are hired for only five seasons and it’s my time to spin-off. And that may be for the best: by the end of season five, you start having too many repeated situations and plots. Not good for TV; not good for science.
Marseille is my new challenge: another language, different culture.
But Marseille is also potential: a university making a great effort to shine among the best in France and very interesting people doing high-level experimental and theoretical research in my field. These are the ingredients I need to live new exciting stories.
And Marseille is also my new stage: I’m a tropical guy; I miss sun, sea, and sea food. From now on, the Mediterranean will light, bath, and feed me.
There’s, of course, a not so bright side in this change. As a science nomad, I leave behind many friends and colleagues who I would rather prefer to cast with me in my next show. I can’t, unfortunately. This is part of the price of being a scientist, as I already told you.
And thinking of these people, I finish here with many thanks to all of them. I wish the best of luck to all people I had the pleasure to meet and work with in Mülheim. I won’t name them to avoid the risk of unfair omissions (too many characters to keep track), but those who read this post will know how grateful I am for our time together.