Researchers tell Julie Gould how they grapple with questions of identity as retirement approaches.

Because many scientists see their career as a calling, when retirement arrives, it can bring with it feelings of insecurity and worry about what this means for them.

Microbiologist Roberto Kolter, emeritus professor at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts, is keen to show others that retirement is a joyous time and a chance to broaden one’s scientific area of interest. It can also bring with it new speaking and travel opportunities.

Experimental physicist Athene Donald is soon to complete a 10-year stint as master of Churchill College at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. Donald tells Gould how she is handling the nervousness that comes with the arrival of a second retirement phase, and what she is doing to balance continued involvement in academia with the slower pace of life.

Inger Mewburn, who leads research training at the Australian National University in Canberra, and Pat Thompson, education researcher at the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, acknowledge how hard it can be to give up something that has given you purpose and drive for so many years.

Some, such as Thompson, have developed hobbies alongside their working careers that they are looking forward to doing more as they step back from academia. Both Mewburn and Thompson agree that an important part of the process is figuring out which parts of your working identity, such as writer or educator, you want to carry through to retirement.

This is the third episode of the six-part podcast series: The last few miles: planning for the late-stage career in science.