Three researchers tell Adam Levy how and why they switched labs and scientific disciplines at the same time.

After completing a PhD in cancer biology at the University of Chicago, Illinois, in 2017, Tim Fessenden moved to a laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge to focus on immunology.

Fessenden, who is now an editor at the Journal of Cell Biology in New York City, says that alongside adjusting to a new lab culture, he needed to learn new techniques, adding: “I am a lifelong student, someone who always wants to be the dumbest person in the room.”

Fessenden is joined by physician-scientist Ken Kosik, and Jennifer Pursley, a particle physicist-turned-medical physicist.

Kosik’s neuroscience research and collaborations are influenced by his close working proximity to physical scientists. In 2004, he quit a tenured post at Harvard University’s Longwood campus in Boston, Massachusetts, moving to a more multi-disciplinary location at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Pursley, who left the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in Batavia, Illinois, in 2010, says of her move to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston: “I walked into this completely new environment — I didn’t know anyone. It was a real shock.”

This is the fourth episode in a six-part Working Scientist podcast series on moving labs.

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