Wouldn’t trade places

Last week at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum, I was surrounded by the most successful researchers in math and computer science. The laureates had all won the Fields Medal, Abel Prize, Nevanlinna Prize, or Turing Award. Some had even won two of these awards.

I thought about my short academic career [1]. If I had been wildly successful, the most I could hope for would be to be one of these laureates. And yet I wouldn’t trade places with any of them. I’d rather do what I’m doing now than have an endowed chair at some university. Consulting suits me very well. I could see teaching again someday, maybe in semi-retirement, but I hope to never see another grant proposal.

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[1] I either left academia once or twice, depending on whether you count my stint at MD Anderson as academic. I’d call my position there, and even the institution as a whole, quasi-academic. I did research and some teaching there, but I also did software development and project management. The institution is a hospital, a university, a business, and a state agency; it can be confusing to navigate.

4 thoughts on “Wouldn’t trade places

  1. After 24 years in industry I just joined my alma mater as a staff instrumentation software engineer.
    I’m paid in large part by grants, but I’ll never have to apply for one.
    Since the institution is starved for staff engineers, and given that I’m far cheaper than a contractor, I predict a fun and fascinating “tenure” here.
    Plus the retirement benefits are tough to beat, even with their erosion in recent years.

  2. Horses for courses! (pun *not* intended but too good to ignore)
    It’s a team thing, globally speaking.
    etc.
    The variety of what people can do and what they enjoy doing is beautiful, amazing, fascinating, and entertaining. I’m also fortunate to have found something that I enjoy and am good at. And I’m delighted that other folks are doing the rest of it.

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