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A pregnant pause

A return to the lab.

What is the science behind short-term memory loss? As the sleep-deprived mum of a six-month-old boy, I'd enjoy knowing the technical aspects of my hamstrung brain. I study craniofacial development and evolution with the aim of understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying coordinated morphological change in the teeth and jaws, mostly in primates.

I've had frequent memory lapses since returning to the lab in December after half a year of leave. Finicky bench work was challenging enough when my pre-offspring focus was at its sharpest. I will have to compensate for my sideways mind by finding tactics that enable me to be productive while managing the baby's demands on my time. I am my own work–life balance guinea pig.

The next 12 months will be about finding my balance as a partner and a parent, regaining my stride as a scientist, and achieving my career goals. I aim to be a tenure-track assistant professor with my own lab and minions. (What's a bona fide scientist without minions?) Will I cut it? Or will I cut out? Private industry may offer me a more liveable (and lucrative) work–life equilibrium. I must thoroughly research how my skills could best be applied in an enjoyable non-scientific career. And I must talk to people who have successfully made this leap. This is my quandary and my journey as a postdoc.

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Boughner, J. A pregnant pause. Nature 457, 502 (2009).

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