I’ve just returned from a week in Chicago. Well, technically Evanston, but Chicago looms large on the horizon. I was at NetSci’12, the biggest network science conference of the year, held at Northwestern University. NetSci is always a highlight for me. Representing things with networks can be an extremely powerful tool, and once you start to think about it, almost any complex system has a networky element to it. This means that NetSci has a very broad scope, and I heard fascinating talks on topics such as economics, epidemics, social networks, mobility, communications, ecology, gene interactions, …the list goes on and on. Another great thing about NetSci is that the first two days are dedicated to satellite symposia. These are independently organised workshops on more focussed topics. This year I went to LangNetSci, about all things networky related to language, and Netonets, about networks of networks and their importance to infrastructure and systemic risk. Both of these workshops were well worth the time, and there was hearty discussion and a real sense of collegiality in both, which continued through the main conference.
Every scientist is a specialist in a very particular area, and this means there are very few work opportunities anywhere in the world. This often means they move far from home and the next job might not be in the same country or even the same continent.
This is of course a fantastic opportunity. I get to do a job I love, while living in an exotic country, learning about a new culture and language and working with people from all over the world. But of course there are difficulties too. Living far from home means being far from family and friends, and the comfort and enjoyment of living in a familiar culture and landscape. Visiting home reminds me of all the things that I miss.
This is not the first time I’ve lived ‘overseas’ and it might not be the last. Having made friends in several countries, wherever I go I’ll be far from some of them. It’s very easy to travel these days; the world has gotten a lot smaller, but it still feels pretty big sometimes.