2 body problem: HELP!!

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2 body problem: HELP!!

Postby Pat Mawheny » Thu May 03, 2018 11:19 am

I was offered an Assistant Professor position 8 months ago which I started January of this year. It's a Research Chair position which carries a bit more prestige and some perks in terms of salary and startup. As my lab is still under construction, they generously allowed me to keep generating data at my postdoctoral institution. I took the job under the pretense that, given it is in a large city, getting a job for my wife who is an accomplished researcher (no PhD though, she has an MSc and her career has taken off like a shot at a drug development company) would be no problem. After 8 months of looking it turns out that there are very few drug development companies in this city and most companies just have a head office there (for sales or tax purposes likely). Her company has offered me a job (I suspect in the hopes of keeper her) that is comparable in pay but can't match Academia for job security or benefits. My wife and I want to have children soon so long distance is not an option for us. I understand it would likely be the end of my academic career if I left at this point (not to mention I would make a few enemies for life at that university). My questions are these: would there be legal or financial consequences (ie getting sued) if I was to leave the professorship now? Just as a matter of people's opinions, do you think this would be a huge mistake? Are there any alternatives people would suggest? Any insights from those facing similar situations would be most appreciated.
Pat Mawheny
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Re: 2 body problem: HELP!!

Postby Dick Woodward » Thu May 03, 2018 4:50 pm


This is a tough question, but I will take a stab at it. It seems that you failed to do your research as to potential positions for you wife before accepting the new position - your mistake, but I am sure that you have beaten yourself up on this so I won't.

Now - as to making enemies for life - you probably will. Don't worry about it. Leaving academia for industry always annoys people stuck in academia. They'll get over it, but ultimately who cares. Theoretically, they should be delighted that there is one less person that they have to fight on the way up.

Let's talk about academic job security. As a Research Chair (great sounding title) but as an assistant professor, I suspect that you have 5-7 years of publishing like mad to maybe get a tenured slot. Please correct me if I am wrong, but Asst Profs are rarely tenured, to the best of my knowledge. So your job security is somewhere out in the future.

As for children - I completely understand your position. Even without the issue of kids, I have seen long-distance marriages split up while remaining close friends - it just is not practical. I will assume that your wife plans to return to work following birth - otherwise, no problem - she stays home with the kids and you take the professorship.

So - why not push back a little bit to see if you can find a position for your wife at the university. This is hardly unheard of. If she is at a drug development company and is as good a researcher as you say, she has a skill set that can readily translate into academia in a number of areas.

If the university will not help with a position for your wife, I would see an attorney to review everything that you have agreed to. You may find out that you are not under any obligation, and that you can get out from under your agreements with the university. (Please understand that I am not an attorney, nor do I play one on television.) They do not want to force you to come, and it is not in anyone's best interest to go to court or pay lawyers a bunch of money. Giving you the research chair, if this is as prestigious as you say, suggests that you may be a highly-regarded scientist. Threaten to leave and they may magically find you wife a position.

Just a thought.

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Dick Woodward
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Re: 2 body problem: HELP!!

Postby Pat Mawheny » Thu May 03, 2018 5:33 pm

Thanks Dick. This was very helpful.
Pat Mawheny
Posts: 13
Joined: Sat Aug 18, 2012 6:37 pm

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