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Regina Caputo | USLHC | USA

View Blog | Read Bio

On working in physics

Since the workshop in Leysin, I’ve been in the process of moving back to New York. Why move back now, you may ask? It’s a very typical story. I thought a long time about whether or not I wanted to actually blog about this. I decided to go ahead only because it’s an interesting problem that I haven’t quite figured out how to get to work out. I’ve heard it called it the “two-body problem” – which gives homage to something freshmen in college hear in physics 101.

The nature of the “two body problem”
The basic idea is that increased women in the scientific work force lead to couples in which both people are income earners.  Many women (and men) in physics marry people who also have careers; many are also academia, and some even in the same field. The problem lies in that both people have to find a career in the same place. Some universities have created funding to hire multiple professors at once for just this reason. But other than that, I haven’t heard of anything but a case by case basis – and definitely nothing for graduate students. Many times, it involves someone sacrificing their career (partially or wholly). This creates an especially difficult problem for those of us who are working on an experiment located half-way around the world.

Briefly about me
I – like all other students in my group – was expected to move to CERN while working on my PhD. My husband, Richard, works in the television industry in New York. Like me, he’s just starting out his career. Our solution was for me to move to France, with the start of the LHC, and him to stay in New York. I thought I would remain for the first year of running, then return to New York and finish my PhD there. Then, one thing lead to another and as it turned out, my year stay ended a few months before new start up is supposed to be. Instead of staying out here another year, I decided to return to New York. Why you ask? many reasons. Not to mention, we already spent a year apart. (Something that some colleagues seemed unmoved by).

What does this mean?
The next few years I’ll be between 2 places. Like most people starting out, I’ve had to try to find balance between work and a personal life. I guess the point is that I’ve found this balancing act tends to be particularly prevalent especially among women in science, and is something – I believe – isn’t talked about enough.

Next time, I’ll talk about the joys of attending meetings in my pajamas. 🙂

-Regina

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