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The two body problem

I am a scientist who is married to a scientist, and this situation, which is not uncommon among my peer group, causes what is known as the two body problem. The sad truth is that you don’t get to pick where you live when you’re a PhD in a specialized field because, well, there just aren’t a lot of jobs for every specialty in every region of a country. I mostly hear this term applied to the academic job hunt, where if both partners want to be a professor, chances are they would have to work at the same university, thus requiring a lot of maneuvering by the hiring department to get a job for the “trailing spouse” in their appropriate department.

What I didn’t necessarily consider is that this is equally true of PhD jobs in non-academic positions.  Here’s an interactive map to illustrate that point. I am in the medical sciences, which according to the map, means I have a way better chance of being employed on either coast. However, my husband is in conservation science, meaning that he has a better shot at employment basically anywhere but the coasts. Also, he does work in large urban areas, so by process of elimination you might be able to figure out where we live given that he has an amazing job that he loves, and I’m struggling greatly to even find things to apply for.

My husband is infinitely supportive of me, and we have generally made decisions based on prospective income vs. cost of living, but because he’s a few years ahead of me in his career and he has a penis, I don’t have great odds of coming up with a job offer that would be good enough for us to move away from a job he loves, where he makes more money given that if we move to a geographic region that is more suitable for me, he probably will have a hard time finding a job. It just doesn’t make any sense financially.  I had an opportunity to move to one of the coasts for a job that seemed like a good starter job, but didn’t pay a salary that could have supported both of us, so I didn’t take it. Sometimes I regret it, some times I don’t, but at the time it made sense, because I still had my post doc at the time. Soon, the math might look very different.

The first time I tried to publish this post, it had a very different ending. It was about me feeling trapped here, and I finished the last paragraph basically bawling my eyes out. However, things are looking up potentially.

BUT I am on the precipice of receiving a job offer from a university in the place where my husband grew up. It is not on a coast and is actually in one of the places where he has a better chance of finding a job. It’s actually a really cool position: basically a science liaison between the library and university researchers to solve their data problems. I don’t know the specifics of the offer yet, but it’s technically a faculty position with all the associated benefits etc. I imagine that there will be some hard conversations coming up about our future. I think we’ve both already agreed that I will move out there alone for a time, possibly living with his parents, but I’m hoping that he will be so jealous that I get to live in his homeland that he will follow close behind.

I’m so glad I waited to post this until I had a better ending to this story.

New Post has been published on sheiselsewhere

New Post has been published on

And now for something completely different.

In the midst of all this career turmoil, I had some minor medical drama. This post involves discussion of lady parts and the big C, so don’t read on if either subject bothers you. Spoiler alert: I’m totally fine, but the experience has definitely given me some food for though. It even ends up being sort of about science, I promise.

I went to my gynecologist for my annual checkup a couple of weeks ago. This trip was fraught for a number of reasons: my insurance had just changed to my husband’s due to impending joblessness and I wasn’t sure if she was in network, my insurance company decided that we didn’t have contraceptive coverage for some reason, and PAP smears are never fun. I also worried that I was going to get the “Are you planning on having kids, because if you are you better do that soon” speech that people in their 30s tend to get from doctors. Luckily, all of the above was resolved satisfactorily,  but something else came up: a lump.

As she was doing the breast exam, my doctor noticed a mass on my right breast. She said she thought it was a cyst and that it was nothing to worry about, but that I should get it checked out anyway. The way she said it made me think that she was was doing it to cover her ass in case it was something more serious, which annoyed me. So I left her office with a small fortune in free birth control samples and an order for a breast ultrasound, and after some confusion over which hospital I should go to, I ended up at the Breast Center of a Fancy University Hospital.

However, having to go to a hospital at 7 in the morning for a test that I was pretty convinced was useless was not great. I arrived, checked in at 2 different desks, sat in no less than 3 different waiting rooms, and took my top off and sat around in a hospital gown for a while as I read my Trashy Supernatural Romance Novel. Oh yeah, and I got a SURPRISE MAMMOGRAM! Because I am 30.

Let me just say that mammograms hurt like crazy and were clearly invented by a man. And I was going through this maybe a week after a huge study was released that questions the value  mammograms in the first place. I was sore and bruised for days afterward, thinking that if a non-medical professional inflicted similar injuries, I could probably press charges. Yes, I realize that I could also press charges if someone tried to perform recreational surgery on me, but the point I’m trying to make involves questioning whether the pain involved in getting any medical procedure done is worth the benefit, and the balance is tipping against the mammogram. Not to mention the scores of women who undergo biopsies, lumpectomies or worse because of a false positive result on a mammogram. I’m not saying that mammography does save lives, but we can’t ignore its limitations.

THIS IS WHY WE NEED SCIENCE! We need medical scientists that do the work that determines whether medical interventions are as safe and effective as we hope they are. I think that should include things like nutritional supplements and holistic remedies, but I don’t hold out hope. But seriously, if I have a choice between a skilled nurse giving me a manual breast exam and having another mammogram, I’ll take the first one. Sadly, I don’t think the status quo will shift fast enough for me.