04 Mar 2019

Musings and Music about Moving to Californ-i-a

That's right. After living in Austin, Texas for 15-ish years, I'm moving to Davis, California to continue my postdoctoral research. Here are some musings some musings about my move and a playlist.

A little background

Back in May 2018, I began working as a postdoctoral researcher with Titus Brown at the University of California, Davis. My main project was to be the “technical facilitator” for a multi-institution project aimed at building cloud computing infrastructure for data-intense biomedical research. Essentially, I needed to help ~300 scientists and engineers at dozens of institutions across the US and the UK to build trust, foster collaboration, and create innovative solutions.

My tasks of networking and community building were mostly solved online (with tools like Slack, GitHub, and Zoom) or with in-person meetings that we organized in different cities. Since my work could be done remotely or on the road, I didn’t really need to move to California, so I opted to keep living in Austin in an apartment on the hike and bike trail with a lovely view of the Colorado River. The first 6 months of my postdoc was quite a whirlwind of learning more about computer science and community governance, but it was very rewarding. I would’ve happily continued working on this project, but the National Institutes of Health put our project on pause in October. But that’s okay! Titus, myself, and others have great ideas and plans for turning the lessons we learned into useful resources for future projects.

Returning to university-life

Around November last year, I started talking to Rebecca Calisi about collaborating on some neuroethology (the study animal behavior from an evolutionary and neuroscience perspective) research projects in her lab AND making science videos. On the research side, we are going to be investigating how the brains of male and female birds differ in single-parent in two-parent settings. Cool, right? My expertise in this area is not with handling birds but with conducting molecular experiments and analyzing transcriptomic data. On the science communication side, we already spent a week in Puerto Rico filming I Can Science, a video series aimed at helping the next generation of scientists find their career path!

I’m looking forward to returning to the university environment. It’s been 14 months since I finished my PhD, and I’ve spent that entire time traveling or working from home. Working remotely has its perks, but excited to have more face-to-face conversations with my colleagues because I think it’s really useful (if not critical) for advancing science. So, in order to make that a reality, it’s time to finally move to California.

Playlists for moving

Even though I’m really excited about moving, I’m not at all looking forward to packing or saying goodbye, and looking for apartments is super stressful. So I’ve been searching for songs about moving to California to play in the background. I found a few that I’ve played ad nauseam that I thought I’d share as a Spotify playlist.

my california playlist

During my musical search, I realized that songs about moving to California can be divided into 3 categories. Songs like Led Zeppelin’s Going to California and Robert Ellis’ California are about someone wanting to leave their broken heart and their past behind in search of a new life. Then, there are songs like the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication and Tupac’s California Love that aren’t about heartbreak but are about people in search of fun, fame, success, beauty, and other worldly things. Then there’s another class like the Beach Boys’ California Calling and Jo Dee Messina’s Heads Carolina Tails California that describe a longing for the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean.

I can relate to all the songs I mentioned (who doesn’t want love, success, and sunshine?), but none of them really capture the essence of why I’m moving or how I’m feeling about it, which something like “I’m looking to forward to the science, the adventure, and new relationships that await in California, but I’m sad to leave behind all my friends, family, memories, Barton Spring, and the live music scene”. If there’s a song out that that goes like that, let me know about it! In the meantime, if you’re in Austin, reach out so we can hang out while I’m still in town!

P.S. Thanks to Shane Hanlon and S. Edrie for feedback on a draft version of this post.

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