Drs. Jon Lewis & Lisa Borghesi
Indiana University of Pennsylvania & University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Jon is an Associate Professor of Geoscience at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Lisa is an Associate Professor of Immunology at the Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The universities are located ~60 miles apart. They started in their tenure track positions concurrently, a stroke of good fortune rooted in perseverance and resilience.
The Job Search
The Rewards of Being a Dual Career Couple
Advice for Dual Career Couples in Science
Please describe your job search strategies and process.
As a geologist and an immunologist, our job search strategy was to apply to faculty positions that offered us the best opportunity as individuals regardless of whether opportunities for the trailing spouse were immediately apparent since, often, such opportunities become clear later. We were both sincere and forthright with prospective employers about being in dual-career situation.
Prior to attaining my faculty position, I (Jon) was the trailing partner and I viewed this as an opportunity not a problem. This is a critical part of my philosophy. Six months prior to defending my dissertation in CT, I followed Lisa to her postdoc position in CA with the certainty that I would complete my degree. Even before leaving CT, I felt welcomed by the UC Davis structural geology and tectonics community - everyone was open to opportunities for collaborative research. Indeed, six months later I received an NSF Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowship that allowed me to build on these relationships. Not only was I fully included in Departmental activities but I was offered the opportunity to teach a majors class, which provided teaching experience critical to opening doors in the job hunt. Two years later Lisa secured her next postdoc in MA. I cold-called the structural geology and tectonics folks at UMass Amherst to inquire about potential opportunities and, again, was welcomed into an enthusiastic and supportive community. At UMass I was officially an Adjunct/Senior Postdoc, which allowed me to PI grants and continue in my research. My experiences at UC Davis and UMass demonstrated how important the local community is to both success and fulfillment. During this time I was productive in my research, gained important teaching experience, and developed countless connections within the community. This doesn't mean I didn't fret about ultimately securing a tenure-track position. I applied to quite a few faculty positions before finally accepting a tenure track position at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. At that point, Lisa became the trailing partner. Lisa called the Immunology Department at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School to inquire about potential opportunities. Consistent with our philosophy, Lisa was up front about the fact that we were a dual-academic couple. Her inquiry turned into a tenure-track faculty position, and we both started our new positions in July 2004.
What benefits or rewards, if any, have you found as the result of being part of a dual career couple?
Having a partner living under similar academic boundary conditions is exceptional because: (1) we generally understand the challenges and expectations we each face; (2) we can be supportive when the inevitable hard knocks come; and (3) we can truly share in the joys of our individual successes.
What advice do you have for other dual career couples in science?
"Two body solution." During our postdoctoral training, we viewed our situation as a classic two-body problem in which the challenge is finding fulfilling careers for each half of the couple. This was wrong. In reality, we were a two-body solution. Flexibility, sincerity and perseverance have served us well.
Alternate navigation. The leading member competes for the best opportunity on a national/international scale; trailing member has to create opportunity at a very local scale. Most communities are just that, communities. This means that in many cases they consist of people that have faced challenges themselves and can appreciate your circumstances. Bottom line, building sincere bonds within your community is not likely to be deleterious.