Dr. Meghan Duffy: “As a grad student, I didn’t challenge the idea that one should be willing to move wherever for a TT job. Now I do.”

This excerpt is from Dr. Meghan Duffy’s blog, Dynamic Ecology, where she discusses research and life in academia along with her two colleagues. Head on over and read the full article here! Their blog is a great resource for folks interested in the tenure-track life.

Two things recently came across my twitter feed that relate to academics moving. First, there’s this piece by Dan Hirschman noting that academics often make multiple long-distance moves (in contrast to most Americans, who live close to family as adults), and asking what effect all this dislocation has on the research people produce. Second, there’s this piece in Nature on how academics navigate tenure denial, which includes advice to seek job offers from other universities while one is up for tenure.

At some point in an Ask Us Anything post, someone asked about things where our views have changed a lot over our careers. As usual, I didn’t manage to answer it, because, for some unknown reason, I stink at AUAs. But here is my very belated response: as an undergrad and a grad student, I bought the idea that I should be willing to move anywhere if I wanted a career in academia. Now I don’t.

First, let’s focus on my views as an undergrad and grad student. I didn’t really consider academic research until mid-way through college. When I did, I thought, “ooh, very cool! I want to go to grad school so I can keep doing research. How lucky for me that I’m at this great school with a great grad program and lots of great faculty doing really interesting research!” So, I was surprised and disappointed to learn that the expectation was that I should go somewhere else for grad school. Why couldn’t I just stay at Cornell, which I loved and which had so much cool work happening there? When I asked, the response was that it would help to broaden my intellectual horizons if I moved elsewhere. So, I applied to other places, and ended up moving to Michigan for grad school.

I moved very quickly from “this is annoying, why should I have to do this?” to “this is just the way it is, and if I am truly committed to this academic path, I will move wherever I need to”. As a result, since moving from my parents’ house (on Long Island) to college (in Ithaca), I’ve lived in Antarctica, East Lansing, a rural part of West Michigan, Madison, Atlanta, and now Ann Arbor.


Read the rest of Dr. Duffy’s post on Dynamic Ecology!

Meghan Duffy


Dr. Meghan Duffy is a professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan, researching host-parasite interactions. Catch her on twitter and, of course, on Dynamic Ecology.

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