I am generalist and I like it

curious_raccoonIt has been a (long) while since my last blog entry and I want to write, but I have also being enjoying my “academic freedom”, by which I mean the freedom to pursue ideas. I spent three weeks during October in South Africa (work related to impalas on the road, this time in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi and Pilanesberg parks) and then eleven days during November in Spain (PhD student defence and two workshops). All work related, all dealing with different topics, all fun, all exhausting.

But I should write because it has been one year since we (husband, dog and I) moved to the UK and nearly a year since I started my first permanent position (well, I am still on probation but I hope to convince them it is worth keeping me). And it has been a turmoil. Personally and globally. My home country, Spain, has lived political chaos, two elections needed to form a government which still is unfunctional. The country where I moved to decided to leave the EU in a shocking Brexit referendum. And my husband and his family are now dealing with the “joys” of being US citizens with the newly elected (insert here your favourite descriptor) president. Crazy world.

Personally it has also been a busy year. I turned 40 (middle age crisis here I come, or have I already arrived?), I had my first two PhD students graduate (yeah! Academic motherhood!) and as mentioned before, I am holding my first permanent position. I am a lecturer. And this means some interesting changes. People often talk about the stress, the impostor syndrome, the very busy schedule. I have experienced of all that. But I have also experienced something else: the feeling that I can do whatever I want. Don’t get me wrong. I have obligations and responsabilities, but I am thriving on the feeling that any good science is fair game. I have pursued my interests in road ecology in Africa, I have started experimental work with insects (back to my invertebrate origins – all the way to my Masters), I am working with large carnivores, megafauna, theoretical population modelling… I worry this may be a mistake. I should create a niche for myself, specialized. Yet I have never been very good at that. I get bored easily I guess. So when something stirs my curiosity I follow and now I feel I can do that better than before, presumably because I can have postdocs and students working with me who can focus on these topics and make it possible to have a more diverse breadth of interests.

At some point I realize I have to stop expanding and select maybe 2-3 themes, hopefully make a niche/name for myself in at least one of those, but for now I am enjoying this “academic freedom”. I like being a generalist. I hope it’s not a mistake.


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