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  • Writer's pictureBorja Esteve-Altava

In a previous life I was a scientist

Today is my last day as a scientist. For the past 13 years, I studied the development and evolution of the head and limbs of vertebrates. But in a weird way. I learned and applied network theory to the anatomical organization of these body parts. Modeling bones and muscles as network nodes and their articulation as links connecting them.

It was a fun ride, and it led to meeting formidable researchers worldwide, publishing a bunch of articles, and getting a couple of prestigious fellowships and other grants. Precisely this last bit was taking almost all my energy for the past two years. As an early career researcher getting funding is a must. More so if you have yet to secure a permanent or tenure-track position. Weirdly so, as many scientists do not, I enjoyed writing grants a lot. I was not bad at it, and I read book after book about grants and scientific writing. Problem was that it left me with little time for actual research.

And then the pandemic hit. Museums closed, work at home, a strangled academic job market. Add a couple of babies on the mix. Would I rather keep struggling as a junior academic or move to do something else? Then I had an epiphany: If grant writing is what I do most of the time anyway, and I like it, and I am not bad at it, why not make that my job?

Still fantasizing with this idea, I came across a job offer at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. They were looking for a grant writer. I thought, cool! However, it was for a field I had never worked on, infection biology, but I said to me, what the heck! Let’s give it a shoot. I applied, I was frank about my limitations, I sold my strength, and I got the job. So here I am, in Heidelberg (Germany), starting a new life as a grant writer.

The future though is not yet written.

- Borja

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