When Swedish neuroscientist Jens Hjerling-Leffler moved to New York University (NYU) in New York City for a postdoc in 2007, he found life so exciting in the city that never sleeps that he never wanted to shut his eyes. “I actually didn’t sleep very much my first year,” he says. “There’s this idea that you’re going to work a lot, and then when you’re done you’ve got the whole city at your doorstep.”
The thing that helped Jessica Torrey get over her homesickness during the first few months of her postdoc at the Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nürnberg in Erlangen, Germany, was beer. More specifically, it was a regular gathering at a beer hall: She took a 30-minute train ride to Nürnberg to attend a weekly stammtisch, a regular gathering in which locals and foreigners meet over drinks and practice their English and German. “At first, it was a conscious effort to seek out other people,” Torrey says. “I had to show up at a bar and hope that there would be friendly people, … but it turned out that was one of the groups where I made the most friends.”
David Osterbur spent a decade pursuing an academic science career before tiring of the “never-ending cycle” of unfunded grant applications, he says. When his wife, like him a developmental biologist, accepted a job offer in Massachusetts, he took advantage of the change in location to weigh a change in career. He was considering a career in public health so he could continue using his science background, when his wife suggested he become a science librarian. “I had always enjoyed being in the library. In graduate school, people would always come to me when they couldn’t find something,” he says.
The telescope room atop Pupin Hall at Columbia University offers a stunning view of the night sky and the New York City skyline. Astronomy Ph.D. candidate Cameron Hummels even considered moving his desk and computer up to the rooftop shed before concluding that his computer would not last long without heat or air conditioning. As much as Hummels would like to be near the telescopes all the time, the discoveries he wants to make also require computers, and there’s a lot at stake: “I love the fact that I could potentially make a difference,” he says, “in how we identify the underlying principles of nature.”