This is a repost of an article I was invited to write for the Academic Life Histories Blog, a great collection of articles about navigating academia. See it here.
I always knew in the back of my mind I wanted to have children. However, I never really thought about when that would be. About halfway through my PhD that started to change. Work was progressing well and I was really enjoying the freedom of being able to dive deep into my own research interests. I was fortunate to have my own scholarship and a great supervisor who gave me all the freedom I wanted but was also there for me for long chats about science and academia. I was making my own plans and working according to my own schedule, which wasn’t exactly always nine to five. After some time, I suddenly started to realise that these conditions were actually pretty ideal for having a child and that, as I wanted to have children anyway at some point, why wait?
Towards the end of my third year as a PhD student my son was born. As I was doing my doctorate in the UK, that unfortunately also meant that I only had a few months of funding left. I took a couple weeks of paternity leave and, when my son was about five weeks old, flew with my family to Southern Germany for a job interview. I was lucky to get offered a postdoc position. I still had my PhD to finish though…
Today is the start of a new research period for me. I was very lucky to be awarded both a von Humboldt postdoctoral fellowship as well as a Zukunfstkolleg fellowship. These fellowships will give me the freedom to fully develop and pursue my own research ideas and set up my own interdisciplinary research program.
The next couple years I will aim to set up a unified framework for investigating the link between consistent behavioural variation, the emergence of collective properties, group functioning, and ultimately individual fitness and between-group dynamics. I will employ a combination of detailed laboratory experiments, field surveys, and computational modelling to study consistent behavioural phenotypes and collective behaviour of three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus).
By developing this framework and fully bridging the gap between the fields of Animal Personality and Collective Behaviour, I aim for this project to yield crucial new insights into the ecological and evolutionary implications of consistent behavioural phenotypes and the evolution of sociality.
Today I submitted a grant application for an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, entitled The ecological and evolutionary implications of individual differences in collective behaviour. The goal of the proposed project is to develop an interdisciplinary research program to investigate the link between consistent behavioural variation, the emergence of collective properties, group functioning, and ultimately individual fitness and between-group dynamics. I am very excited about this project and have started to lay the foundations for it here in Konstanz. Now 10 months wait ahead!