“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky”

Today I end a 5-year run at Deep Sea News. I’m sad that I am unable to continuing committing to this great group, and indeed science and science communication more generally. Over the last year as I’ve struggled personally and professionally, the six other scientists here have been great friends and not just bloggers. It was clear to me during the last few years and especially the last year that a lifestyle involved in science was incompatible with the life I wanted to lead as father, husband, and family provider. I’ve committed 5+ years to science communication and nearly a decade to science with nothing to show for it but publications. Meanwhile, our family has not progressed. We have no money, no savings and mounting debt. It’s a situation that has put me in a position that prevents me from doing anything for which I cannot attain a few dollars. Thus, the work I gladly did freely for so many years when I had salaried employment has become a burden to me now. While I’ve had modest success transforming some this into a consulting and freelance career over the last couple years, I can never get ahead anywhere. I see no future for me, and frankly that sucks when it’s all I’ve known for so long.

But I do have a plan forward. One that will hopefully employ me for the long term and turn into a family business. I’ve been making beer and it has been well-received here in my corner of Sweden. I’m partnering with a hotel and will be starting a local microbrewery. I’m very excited about this. It the culmination of my nearly 5 years experience cooking and baking, and decade of science and experimentation (and not to mention seeking funding). For those who are interested you can follow @BryggFangelset on Twitter, like us on Facebook, Circle us on GooglePlus and of course subscribe to our website for updates. Bryggeri Fängelset means “the prison brewery”, it will located in Hotell Fängelset in Västervik which was a prison built in the 1870s and in service until just 8 years ago when it was converted to hostel and hotel. Stop by and say hi and get a beer on me if you are in the area!

Below is a longer history of my experiences and an apology. I’m not entirely sure why I’m sharing so much. I mean, I always have been over-sharer, but it would be just as easy to walk away and leave it there. Perhaps I feel it justifies something and I do feel I owe it to the Deep Sea News and greater Science Online communities who have been so supportive of me for such a long time. Of course, it is only my side of the story so take it as it is. It is a sort of stream of thought and may not be well-edited.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

On January 27th, 2007, I placed my first comment on a science blog. I didn’t know it was a blog, I thought it was just a website, nothing too unusual. I had done a google search probably, looking for information and pictures of shrimp. Except that I remember visiting Deep Sea News before that when it was just Craig and Peter on blogspot, it had appeared in my searches before. By this time, I was a PhD student at Penn State at the time and had just submitted my first manuscript for review. It was a taxonomic description and phylogeny to a new species of shrimp I found while doing my community ecology research at deep-sea hydrothermal vents (it was accepted but the slow publishing process took till 2009 to get published in print…). It was a very positive time in my life, research was going well, I had just gotten back from an extended research stay with an anemone expert and we would describe 5 new species of hydrothermal vent anemones. I had gotten the hang of research and publishing and was confident in moving forward and gotten over my first pub submission fear. All this would change dramatically for me by Fall of the same year…

I started leaving more comments on Deep Sea News, often correcting Craig or Peter, and before I knew it Craig wrote to me one day and asked if I wanted to start contributing to site. My first post was about a new paper on marine geology. I was thrilled when the paper’s author, who was in the hydrothermal vent science community, commented on the post to tell me it was a good summary. I wrote a weekly post until sometime in June. I left because at the time, Craig and Peter wanted to make me a full-on member of Deep Sea News with my log-in and contract and everything – but ScienceBlogs, the host for the blog network DSN was a part of, wouldn’t let them add a third blogger apparently.  I actually left Deep Sea News for a little over a half year and started The Other 95%, which rapidly grew a large following and helped me to experiment with and find my blogging voice. By the end of the year, though, ScienceBlogs after seeing my material, allowed me into the club as a member of DSN and I officially started in January, 2008, right after my first Science Online Conference (Well, actually the North Carolina Science Blogging Conference, at the time). I have stayed with DSN since then as we’ve moved from ScienceBlogs to Discovery Channel and finally settling in here at our web address, foregoing any profit-making in the name of science outreach. I blogged here and The Other 95% until May, 2010.

Deep Sea News has meant the world to me. After Peter left, Craig and I formed a core relationship that I’ve treasured very much. It has been very rewarding for me personally to work with him and over the years as we’ve grown in size with the addition of our close blogging buddies Miriam and Rick and added new voices like Holly, Al, and most recently Kim. In my opinion, the future of Deep Sea News lies in adding new voices, diverse both in gender/race/ethnicity/sexual orientation as well as in topical areas. I’m VERY proud of what we’ve accomplished at this blog and the informative, entertaining and irreverent environment we’ve cultured here, and most importantly our readership which has grown dramatically during my tenure here and continues to grow. We’ve always had a loyal following. As I was going through the my earliest comments and posts, I was heartened to see that in the 5+ years some of the same commenters are still here with us and while many no longer comment, I know many of them are still reading.

Sadly, and regrettably, the future of Deep Sea News will not include me. This is of my own doing and it’s a very hard thing for me to write. I love everything about this blog and the people who make up the DSN community. I’ve literally built the website, teaching myself CSS and html to do it, and have invested my own money, time and many emotions into building the brand as well as the medium. To people close to me, it’s no secret I’ve been struggling personally and professionally for several years. It started, as I mentioned above, in the Fall of 2007. I quickly found out my choice of committee was poor, and arrogantly arranged by myself. I didn’t listen to people I should have and put a real asshole on it and my advisor, who once seemed very supportive of what I was doing, completely changed direction and challenged me at every corner. He was literally trying to get me to quit. I conditionally passed my orals and wrote an essay, staying home over the christmas holidays to do this, for asshole committee member who took his time reading it and decided that it was insufficient on the grounds grammatical errors and not citing enough of his own papers.

I was devastated when my once-trusted advisor stabbed me in the back and forced me out of his lab. This was so sudden that I am still so very very very bitter. There was no warning, no slow degradation of our relationship. He was resentful of my online activities and the time I was spending my family. He saw that I was, myself, changing because of fatherhood. I had my first child in grad school in 2005 and I’ll never forget his response when I told him that we are expecting our second: “Well, looks like you have more time on your hands than I do”, as he turned and promptly walked out of my office. There was no going back after this. By March, 2008 he gave me the ultimatum: stay and he’ll guarantee I will fail, leave and write up what you’ve done for a masters degree. I should note, I was in grad school for 3 and a half years at this time, had 2 accepted first author manuscripts (in taxonomy though, which I was told was not “real science”), another submitted as a coauthor and have gotten a small grant to support my taxonomy work, in addition to presenting at several national and international conferences.

The point is, I felt I was doing everything right – and most people were shocked to hear about my dilemma. But I did what I had to do, which is what I’ve done every day now for the last 7+ years, and that is what is best for my family. Which gets to the root of the problem I’ve continuously had during post-parenthood scientific career – at least, as I’ve seen it. By continuously putting my family above everything else, I’ve been made to feel like a complete failure. It hasn’t been just my former advisor…. it is code written on the wall everywhere I go. And it’s frustrating because I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Do I just see it everywhere now, this ‘familyism’ in academia, because of my failure to work more than 8-9 hours a day? Because my inability to hold “scientific meetings” with the gang at the pub after hours? I continuously heard it from future bosses as a researcher and then again at a second failed attempt  at a PhD “well, I know you have a family but…”; “never met a graduate worth anything that didn’t work on weekend….” ; “listen, I understand you’re situation isn’t traditional, but you’re going to have to do…”; and it goes on.

While this happening, and I’m not going to get into it any more than this, I found an amazing and supportive community online. All I had to do was write passionately about things I was passionate about. No one had to say anything, I could read the numbers for myself, occasionally see a colleague share something I wrote. I knew my voice was heard and respected and no one had to know a thing about me. I relished in writing for Deep Sea News. My best stuff was written as I was leaving my PhD and moving on to my first ‘job’ in science as a technician. I rose up quickly through the community and discovered I really enjoyed being a mentor within the community as much as just a science communicator. I worked very hard over the few years to make a career out of this and have had moderate success up to when I moved to Sweden. Things were actually looking up and I was solely supporting my family. But, never making enough money to actually get ahead, we were (are) constantly at the brink of catastrophe. I started taking on more work, like  an addiction; every couple hundred dollars was that much less I’d have to charge groceries and gas on the credit card.

I was completely broken by Spring of 2011 when I was working as a upper division biology lecturer, PhD student, research technician, freelance writer and property manager. I have no recollection of anything that happened for the first 5 months of that year. I literally did get any sleep, was constantly creating new lectures, teaching myself the material I wanted to teach my students, handing in freelance assignments late or not at all, while I kept up with research I failed miserably in the classroom. Granted, I hate classes and don’t hide that fact. I learn on my own through experience and research. But this did not bode well with my new PhD advisor at the time. So, what did I do? What I’ve always done when shit hits the fan. Quit everything in life and try to figure out something new to do. I fell back on science communication, consulting and writing until now. As I said before, it was moderately successful, but never enough that we could succeed as a family. Couldn’t afford medical care, barely made mortgages (in fact, many times I didn’t) and student loans, our house we spent so much time and money fixing up was now falling by the wayside, but most importantly I was turning into a monster. I was mean, angry, bitter at my life, sharp and sarcastic in tone with my wife and kids, drunk all the time and seriously depressed. I locked myself in the shed and drank whisky, played sad songs on the guitar and cried. I created pseudonymous personalities on twitter to vent out my anger and be a general jackass. I neglected my kids, yelled too much, was a little too strict and nearly caused my once rock solid relationship with my  to dissolve into bitterness. This was not the person I was or wanted to be. I allowed myself to slip into this monsterdom by giving up and giving in.

Leaving Wilmington was like leaving a nuclear war zone for me. I left behind the students, the OCD advisor who said he liked what I was doing with family and science communication and then decided no he wanted a younger more traditional student he could mentor instead of a colleague to work with, left behind the negativity I was feeling towards a career I had trained for since 2002 and resolved to repair my life. I think it was the fact that my wife didn’t want to be with me is what changed everything for me. After all I’ve been through, my wife is the one true constant in my life. My rock that I cling to. I felt the ‘system’, if you will, was trying to replace my rock with a pile of gravel. A pile insecurity – job, financial, future prospects – disguised as temporary security with trail of ifs and conditions. My wife wasn’t asking for ifs, and had sacrificed many of her dreams to allow me to pursue mine. How I could be such an asshole? Obviously, we patched up the holes and our relationship has never been stronger than it is at this moment. It is a great feeling. I can completely fail at everything else in life but I will never ever ever fail at being a husband and father again. And it saddens me still that I had to let it go so far. Though my children were young, 4 and 5, I can see even today traces of the scars of that horrible half year when I wasn’t there for them and yelled at them for the slightest thing.

Professionally, I’ve fucked up big time. I took money and assignments from people who were genuinely giving me a chance and trying to help me out. Assignments I was certainly capable of finishing but couldn’t. I allowed myself to get caught in a freelancer trap. The money I was making was decent and in steady supply could have supported us, but I was constantly having to chase the money because I couldn’t keep up with the bills. This is perhaps the most frustrating thing that ever happened to me. The moment you feel you’ve got a routine and things are under control, all the money disappears into rent, gas and groceries. And then it’s like what the fuck?? I just got $5000 and you realized the credit card payment that you had to put off for three months was now $1000 minimum payment for the missing months and late fees… I. Just. Can. Never. Get. Ahead! So I spent inordinate amounts of time finding more work which resulted in me never being to finish the work I already had and was often paid in advance for. I won’t name names, cause I want all the embarrassment for this to be laid squarely upon me, but I need to publicly apologize to these clients. I wish I could return the money but it was gone before I even got it… But I take full responsibility for my actions and am aware of the consequences, professionally and personally.

Moving to Sweden was the treatment for my ills, though certainly not the cure. For the first time in my life we’ve had some form of security and I feel that I can control my future, that it is entirely in my hands now and not up to search committees, advisors and funding agencies. Our family has affordable medical care, childcare and education – for the first time in our parental life my wife can afford to go to a job without worrying about daycare/preschool costs. We have family nearby, have been welcomed by our community and quickly made good friends here. We’ve never had friends outside the labs I’ve worked in. Never. This is the first time in our 13 year relationship we can depend on people other than ourselves and not a slave to moving vast distances like some kind of scientific mercenary for hire to bidder with a year support here and there. But this isn’t a cure because we still have to find a way to support ourselves and grow/prosper as a family together. Prosper – this is a new concept to me. I was so caught up in trying to survive I never had the chance to think about my future.

So here is where I am now. On a farm in the middle of a snow-covered forest of Sweden. I’m leaving Deep Sea News now because I’m leaving science behind, in general. I dedicated 12 or so years to scientific training, education and experience. Have tried new things, career changes, and I’m back to where I was an 19 year old leaving behind 4 years of culinary experience in Iowa (I had worked since 16, was kitchen manager by 18 and had a better salary here than I ever had in science) to pursue dreams of working in music. I’m back to where I was when I was a 21 year old who just got laid off from a recording studio in California and had no clue where to go next and decided to take classes at community college. I’m back to where I was in March, 2008 when I decided that I would drop out of the PhD program at Penn State. I’m back to where I was early in 2010 when I found out there wasn’t enough funding to keep me at my technician job at Duke. I’m back to where I was April, 2011, when I broke down at UNC Wilmington and left a second PhD attempt.

But therein appears to lie my superhero power. To not be defeated (at least not for long), pick myself back up and try something else. I have a family to support and can’t dwell on what could have been or should have been. I need to figure out how to bring in enough money to help my wife keep us afloat. The bitterness doesn’t leave, but it becomes manageable. I laugh about it now cause I left grad school in 2008 and my advisor stil makes up excuses for being too busy to get to the manuscripts I’ve left him with even then (which are 2 first authored papers of mine)! Surrounding myself with awesome people helps to reinforce my beliefs that this is better for me and my family. This has been very easy to do in Sweden where I’ve fallen into a community of entrepreneurial can-do attitudes who have been amazing at helping me get my brewery concept off the ground. It’s a stark contrast to the world of academia I found myself in before. It was all about challenging others’ ideas and abilities. I hope things change for science and academia, but they won’t. I don’t know if this was worth anyone’s reading, but now it’s out there. Maybe someone can feel empowered take back control of their life too. It’s hard, emotionally draining, but liberating.

So, on to the next chapter. I want to thank all the readers here at Deep Sea News, all the bloggers who’ve shared my works and have given me advice and support, my lovely fellow deeplings and in particular Craig for being more than a colleague but a close friend and confidant and co-schemer. I wish we could have done even half of the great things we’ve planned.

Kevin Zelnio (870 Posts)

101 Replies to ““I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky””

  1. Thanks for everything you’ve contributed to the online science community, Kevin, and thanks for sharing your story so openly and honestly here. It’s clearly been a tough haul for you but it looks like you’ve got a bright future. And you’ve made me want to visit a brewery in a town I’ve never heard of in Sweden, so I think your latest venture will almost certainly be a success!

  2. Kevin,
    This is a sad day, but you are going to do great at the prison brewery!

    Thank you for all your posts here and at TO95%. I am very sad to hear all the struggles you had with advisors and committee members. Especially surrounding family. I struggle with that part too. so much of your story echoes in my own recent experiences trying to balance science, family and personal pursuits (for me it’s art, diving, photography). Like you I am often swerving too far to one side or another of that balancing point with the others suffering. Like you I cherish my relationship with my wife and being a good father and husband are the most important things for me to “get right”. For what it’s worth you made a hard choice, but the right one, choosing your family. Thank you for “over-sharing” – in this post you have said so well many things that too many of us face.

    Good luck, my friend! I hope to take you up on that beer offer soon. Of course you know if you ever need a place to crash for a Sea Shanty festival you’ve got a place, and the beers (or rum) are on me.

  3. You’re the greatest, man. Not good-bye, just another transformation.

    Kevin so much of what you said as a freelancer hit me too in the 2 years I tried being a freelance illustrator/full-time dad. It’s fucking hard to be broke and chasing the money while being a parent. I’m grateful for every client – but there were not enough and the market does not pay well enough. Thus my new full-time job.

    I felt like a failure (still do sometimes)leaving freelance. But realizing I was going to a job interview with every pair of pants having holes, with one pair of beat up shoes to my name – I know why I turned my back on freelancing.

    Science and art share the bitter spiral of being vital to innovation and economies, while neither pay sustainable incomes for years and years.

    I don’t drink alcohol; but I want to try your beer.

    Cheers Kevin!

  4. Hey Kevin,

    Thank you for being so brutally honest- one of the best things about “oversharing” is that it helps people realize they’re not alone with their problems. It takes a lot of courage to overshare. Just because it makes someone else happy, doesn’t mean it will make you happy (or keep your family safe), and just because the people who are giving you a hard time chose a different path (and will defend it unto death) doesn’t mean it’s the right one. Good luck, and we’ll be sure to drop by your pub if we’re ever in Sweden.

  5. Kevin,

    Thanks for sharing the hardest stuff and for being a pioneer despite all the setbacks you’ve faced. Your story is inspiring, scary, and enlightening. I hope you’ll return for a guest post to let us know how things are going. You’re still a scientist, after all. It’s just your lab that has changed!

    Best of luck, and lots of hugs from the Upwell crew.


  6. Thanks for oversharing this, Kevin. Your posts were always a pleasure to read. Though I will definitely miss your perspective here, I’m sure you’re going to better brews… Good luck, and hope one day I’ll taste your beer in Sweden. Take care.

  7. Kevin, you are a writer at heart and I urge you to keep it as a part of yourself. Whether it’s song writing, writing for your kids, or writing for yourself, I do hope you will keep putting words together one way or another. I’m sorry to learn of all the hardships and trials, but thank you for everything you’ve done and shared here… And now I have a reason to bug Matt to visit Sweden!

  8. Kevin, I knew a little bit about your struggles, but I had no idea that you had gone through so much. I am saddened (to the point of tears, several times while reading your post) that you had to start over again so many times. I still remember the bullet I dodged by choosing to do my Ph.D. in a different lab than the one we both interviewed in. And I am still bitter about the follow-up email I received from your advisor that informed me that he and his colleagues had decided that I would never succeed at science and should probably choose a different profession. That letter (and the burning anger it provoked) provides inspiration that drives me past my insecurities and recurring bouts of impostor syndrome, even today. I should probably dig that up and frame it…

    But this is not about me. Your writing has been constantly entertaining and educational, I’ve enjoyed it for years now, and I know that you’ll keep that passion and follow it wherever it takes you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings, I wish you and your family the best of luck, personally and professionally, and I hope to one day have a beer with you at the Prison Brewery! Cheers, my friend.

  9. Kevin – It’s been a while. Thank you for sharing this remarkable reflection. DSN or no, I look forward to following your journey on Fb. Let me know if I can ever be helpful.

  10. I am shocked at this announcement, but I want to wish you the best as you start fresh. I know this isn’t important, but I have followed what you write and your colleagues write for years. I have seen this blog change and grow and bloggers come and go, but this definitely the saddest for me. I hope you have a good prosperous continuation of your story. May you find happiness in everything you do. I hope you and your family are doing well, and I hope I see you again. Like everyone else has said If you ever need a friend I am here. How is it in Sweden? Tell your Family I said hello.


  11. I think we are all the poorer for the loss of your voice in Science – both on issues of scientific import as well as how we need to Grow Up as a community. I think there’s a lot here for our generation of scientists to meditate on as we begin to bring in the next. It saddens me, but I hope we can learn. I really really hope.

    On a brighter note, dude, you totally need to get in contact with Lars Gamfeldt and other marine ecologists out there, and make the marine science – your beer connection! Sweden needs awesome beer, and you, sir, are going to be a hit!

  12. best of luck and thanks for sharing! you’ll be missed, but i think this is the right choice at the right time. i learned a lot from you about life, though we only met a few times in ‘real life’ ;)

  13. Kevin while I am so very sorry to see you leave this endeavor, being in a similar situation I fully understand. I am so sorry that you could not find academic work, but you have the bad luck to live in a time when academe is seen as a business not a public good. Best wishes for the future, and I hope you write something from time to time.

  14. It’s sad to see you go, Kevin, but I’m happy that you’ve found a place where you can thrive. I truly believe that DSN is revolutionizing science communication, and you are a huge part of that. Best of luck.

  15. Never before have I read something so moving. The ripples of all the science you have shared will continue to spread from student to sci commer to reader, whoever they may be, even when you have left the pond. I hope your new adventure brings all the good you deserve and so much more.

    I look forward to tasting my first pint – Cheers and good luck!

  16. Hey Kevin,

    As the partner of someone who finished her last PhD years with a serious illness (she was in the E.R. the day before she defended!) I can certainly sympathize with your feelings and your decision here.

    Leaving academia took a lot of courage and the transition she had was really tough. The good news is that it got better. She now runs a one-person business, gets rest when needed, and has actually (a couple years later), found the time and energy to re-engage with her academic pursuits on her own terms.

    I’ll certainly miss your posts – and as a relatively new reader to DSN, I absolutely appreciate your contributions. I enjoy the site so much I’m reading it in-reverse; I look forward to reading your first post. Thanks.

  17. I second what DeLene said: You’re a writer, Kevin. You may not always do it, and you may (and I hope you will) find extraordinary success in other ventures. But I hope you’ll always be around to pen a few words, because it’s always been great when you have.

    Cheers, mate.

  18. I am so glad you wrote this blog post even though you felt it might be a bit “too revealing”. This is such a good example on how the science lifestyle can get the best of you and all aspiring and senior scientist should have this in the back of their minds. I believe that the science community has lost a valuable member today, but I completely understand your decision. I must say that I see large differences in the science “culture” you describe compared to my own local science community and I hope that the “U.S” will make PhD life more compatible with a personal/family life in the future. Nevertheless I asked my husband to read your post so he can be aware of the “dangers”. My life consists of science. It’s my work, my main interest and my hobby. His life consists of work (of course, we need to pay the bills as well) but his life quality comes from dedicating time to his non-work related interests. If science takes me for a downhill ride I hope that him reading this blog post will make him see the signals earlier and give me a wake-up call!

    I cheer you on with your new life and hope to find you writing again somewhere, sometime. P.S I found it so fun that you have started brewing. Beer brewing is the main non-science interest among all my male science friends! I hope to taste one day – Sweden is “right next door” from Norway :-)


  19. Kevin, I’ve been following you since The Other 95% days. I was sad when you came here from there, and now I’m sad to see you leaving here. But I TOTALLY understand. I wish you the best of luck.

    ….And I’ll still be following you, on fb at least, and checking out the new website.

  20. I’m so sorry you’re leaving Kevin. The blogging world won’t be the same without you. But I’m sure you’ll find success and happiness, and I’ll take some of that beer as soon as you ship international!!

  21. Kevin,

    as a half Swedish, half American deep sea vent PhD student, there is so much that you’ve said in your final blog that rings true in my mind. I am in the write up phase of my PhD now and am looking ahead to the next chapter of my career, but in truth, I struggle to feel positive.

    I look around me every day and see people barely making a living and working longer hours than city stockbrokers – and with less job security. The profession is appears to be dominated by people that have failed at being – well – ‘human’. The structure is set up by and for workaholics obsessed with their subjects – to the exclusion of all human relationships. They have few friends and no families. I see hardly any women beyond post doc level, because they are forced to choose between a career or family. A drop in publication rate is career suicide. On a daily basis I hear people bragging about the insane hours they work, yet I never hear anyone saying “but what about having a life?” Most PhD graduates will have to spend the next decade of their career as journeymen. Hardly a career environment conducive to fostering human relationships.

    The irony is never lost on me that it is often objectively discussed by my colleagues that countries that work fewer hours in the week often have increased productivity and yet this is ignored in science. Sleep and lunch are for losers. On research ships this is even worse, where safety is routinely ignored as scientists try to work 48 hour shifts without sleep. I’ve been on oil rigs and they at least understand the importance of rest and mental health.

    But I should count myself lucky, because I’m doing my research in the UK. We at least have free healthcare. In the US, the insecurity is greater and the macho workaholic culture is even more ingrained.

    I can’t but help think that science is missing a trick, because this hyper-competitive environment excludes so many talented people who are not prepared to make the anti-human personal sacrifices that are expected. Science today has more in common with the monastic life than any other profession, as people are expected to do little more than eat, shit and work.

    I’m sorry that you’re leaving the profession, but I’m not surprised given your personal and professional situation. As a half Swede, I understand the value of a state that is prepared to support its citizens and remove the barriers of insecurity that prevent people from achieving their full potential – to the betterment of the individual and society. I hope that one day Americans will realise this. For all the faults of Sweden, and I know that you will already be aware of some of them, I am proud of what has been achieved there and I’m glad that you have been given the freedom to flourish as a human being in that country. It’s just so sad that you had to leave your homeland to do this.


    I hope you’re at least proud of your contribution to the sum knowledge of humanity – something that few people can ever say they have done. I for one appreciate the science you have done (I’m doing vent population genetics and phylogenetics) and I hope that you’ll at least keep an interest in science – even if it is as an occasional hobby. I for one have already accepted that I may one day have to leave this profession for the reason that you have so well articulated. I so want to be a success in science, but there are also other ways to leave a positive imprint on human society. By raising up children to do better than previous generations for example. Or just by being a good person and letting the positive memes spread.

    You only have the one life and the important thing is that you and your family are happy.

    Lycka till!!

    And thanks for the inspiration.

  22. Kevin,

    Much sympathy for your plight. Academia (ok, and life in general) can be a clusterfuck, and it sounds like just about every bad thing hit you, but you still managed to turn it around. That, my friend, is an accomplishment to be proud of. All the best in your new adventures!

  23. Having also been traumatized by an advisor in grad school, I feel you. Grad school is frankly not a psychologically healthy environment and what was done to you is frankly rather effed.

    I’m sorry to see you go – as a small-time rarely-updating sea life blogger, all of y’all are celebrities to me (as silly as that may sound). I hope that your venture will be successful and that you and your family’s fortunes continue to improve.

  24. Good luck!!! I’m glad I got to see another perspective of science that you don’t get to see when everything is shiny and new. People often want you to think that the path you’re on is easy, shiny and will bring great glories (especially when you’re a undergrad ha) . But, hey, the realistic path is one that’s filled with hard work, failures and some successes. Many months ago, you played one of my favorite songs for me one night (Ring of Fire) online, and while I could tell you were sad and inebriated, I also felt like you had so many talents that you would have to find some kind of happiness one day. I’ve absolutely enjoyed your writing and your kindness. I wish you the absolute best of luck on your next endeavor. You influenced all kinds of people, I’m sure, but I can only speak personally – that your writings and online presence really helped to inspire me to be passionate – not just about science – but about anything I am interested in.

    Everyone has a great journey inside of them — and yours is already epic. :) Have fun in the snow!!

  25. I’m sorry to see you leave science blogging Kevin, but I understand your reasons for leaving science in general. Good luck with the brewery – I will definitely make sure to come taste your brews at some stage.

  26. I’ve enjoyed your posts over the years, Kevin. And sharing craft beer and music picks over the Twitter wires. I’ve also appreciated your open and forthright nature. It’s altogether too lacking in general a d especially in the sciences. Best of luck with the new brewing adventure! Never stop dreaming.

  27. Your two paragraphs about academia, your PhD adviser and “familyism” are absolutely true (I am a mother of two, and recently completed my PhD). I find that academia remains a boys club, a place for men to hang out and avoid “real life” responsibilities. I got out as soon as I finished my degree. Many of the men and women I met in academia had disastrous personal lives, dysfunctional relationships and screwed up kids. I will add that the women tended to have more stable heads on their shoulders. Consider yourself lucky to get out. While I am grateful for the knowledge and love of learning I continue to have because of the PhD, I find that reality is not welcome in academia. It is not a place for people who actually mature.

  28. You will be sorely missed, Kevin, but I’m happy you have a future to look forward too in a country that supports you and your family. The work/life balance issues you mention are a big reason I why I became a science writer instead of a scientist myself. Then on the writing side, it is so frustrating to do what feels like good and important work — and to not be able to support yourself accordingly. Creative folks have always been unlucky this way, but it’s worse, I think, right now, and especially in the United States. Someday, you may feel the itch to write again and feel you are in a place where you can afford to devote a little time to doing it. Remember us — and consider guest posting — when that happens. I wish you fair skies and calm seas on your journey.

  29. Kevin,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. I’ve cried and struggled and lost my mind, too. Even though I’ve now got a tenure-track position, I don’t still feel so much pressure and economics are still difficult. Not only is it arguably the worst job market for scientists in a century, jobs that exist seem to commonly come with tremendous pressure and little room for life to happen. I should say that I really like my job, but I cannot yet tell whether I am driving my stress or someone else is. I suspect the former, which is part of who scientists must be now. So many people here have said this much better than I and with more candor, reflection and quality. Still, thank you for sharing your perspectives and experiences. It makes the rest of us feel less alone and that is good for everyone.

  30. “We thought about it for a long time, “Endeavor to persevere.” And when we had thought about it long enough, we declared war on the Union.” — Lone Watie from “The Outlaw Josey Wales”

  31. Good luck, Kevin. You have the passion and spirit to do well in the next phase of your life. Reading your blog,I was struck by the acrimony of your advisor and I can say I’ve seen the same thing at all supervisory levels across many universities where I’ve worked. The academic community needs resources to control and reverse the consequences of bullying, egos that are out of control, and expectations that don’t meet reality. Maybe it’s time we all band together to address this.

  32. Thanks for putting yourself out there with this post. I have felt what you call Familyism very strongly in my career. From a PhD mentor commenting that I was _____whipped because I spent time at home with my wife and our children, to the exact same denigrating attitude by colleagues because, as a faculty member, I go home after work to eat dinner with my wife and daughters instead of joining the gang at the pub.

    One irony is that there is a very strong movement that I have encountered that focuses on “women in science.” This culture deals with these kinds of issues surrounding women, but as a male father I am alienated from this culture as well. I support the notion of women in science completely, but I sometimes wonder if the stalwart crusaders every considered that- as a male- the expectations surrounding my work life strongly influence whether my wife and daughters flourish. How about “Families in Science??

  33. Good luck in your future endeavors Kevin! I completely understand your difficulties and frustrations with the scientific/academic world. I suffered through many years to obtain that magically PhD, only to be confronted by the uncertainty of moving from place to place following post docs until that tenure track position would finally be in reach. However, to move from place to place meant I had to either 1. leave the one I loved to follow an uncertain career, 2. attempt a very long and very distant relationship, 3. make him leave his stable and well paying job that I would probably have to be a dean to make an equivalent amount. I chose another option. I decided I didn’t want to move around hoping for a tenure track position, so I got a job at a community college. Gasp! I love teaching and I really love my job. What I hate is the reaction I get from former committee members, grad students, colleagues, and especially my advisor. In their eyes I was a once promising scientist (nsf pre-doctoral even) and now I’ve fallen to the lowest rung of academia. But while they are working 80+ hours a week, constantly applying for the next grant or revising the same publication for the millionth time, I work 30 hours a week and my starting pay was the same or more that my fellow grad students that went the college/ university route. I do not have to do research, publish, and I actually get summers and holidays off. I have time for hobbies and most importantly I’m happy. So Kevin, do what makes you happy and forget about what others expect you to do.

  34. Kevin:
    I’m not a loyal reader yet, but will go to your blog. Your story makes me value my thesis committee more than ever! I don’t publish much, do a lot of art and photography, and ended up at a small community college on an atoll documenting coral disease (sadly, not a long-term gig, have to return to reality soon). I feel for you, and wish you every success… like others, I don’t drink much (hardly at all) but I value beer as a solid good. May you make wonderful new friends.

  35. Bookmarked this page to remind myself that life is not only about a job (attaining a PhD, securing second year of postdoc, etc). I have been struggling keeping a healthy relationship while getting a PhD, and every time it comes down to a choice of revising that article or spending a day with my spouse I have to claw my way from the computer. It is an unfair choice. Frankly, a little tired of making it. Additionally, there is practically no time and money for kids until I am after 33-35, which is still young but not nearly the energy level of 23-25. I admire your choice to build relationships anew, and moving to another country to be comfortable.

  36. All the best Kevin! I will miss reading your articles. I hope everything works out in Sweden for you and your family. You deserve a break and I am sure one will come along soon.

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