Going to Ghent

Ghent Travel Blog

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I've never been to terminal five of Heathrow before (always being redirected during teething troubles), but it surprisingly nice. We flew from Montreal to Brussels overnight on Sunday-Monday, with a five hour stop-over in Heathrow. Lydia really enjoyed the shopping, buying a new cute hat and spending her life savings on Smythson of Bond Street stationary (which she promptly left on our next flight - but she got it back a few days later), and I enjoyed the relative tranquility of a terminal which doesn't make constant repetitive statements about staying by your luggage and boarding.

So we had two days in Ghent, Belgium, for my job interview at VIB (the Flanders Institute of Biotechnology).
We spent the first evening wandering around the city, with nice old buildings, Ghent Castle and stunning Churches and Belfreys (including a couple of World Heritage sites). English was more common here than in Montreal, with the Flemish much more comfortable in adopting a language for utility. One of the nice things about the city was the way almost the entire population got about by tram or cycle. The beers, of course, were stunning, with an extraordinary diversity in flavour.

Our second day, the 15th, was also our first wedding anniversary, and the most important one to Lydia (being paper). Unfortunately she had to make do with a romantic dessert date in an exotic city, as I spent the day at the interview and couldn't even give her her present (I had foolishly assumed that Smythson of Bond Street could whip up some social cards in under three weeks, but at least I knew they did handbags as well as stationary).

So the interview went quite well, my talk was well recieved and the questions they asked very exceptionally difficult ones, but ones I had previously contemplated. It was very odd though being introduced as "the youngest person they have ever had interview for VIB, at 28", and my age was brought up at each stage. More worrying though was after my talk, when I was interviewed by the external panal, and the first question they raised is why my current supervisor didn't support my application. I was thrown off to say the least, but when they explained that he hadn't sent in his letter of support I breathed a sigh of relief - forgetting to send in a letter was okay. I just wish they had let me know in advance so I didn't have to send an urgent email to Jessie and Sasha pleading for the letter to be sent within 24 hours.
The letter eventually came four days later, well after they made their final decision, but in the end I guess it wasn't make or break - they offered me the job! Really good news since the position had tough competition. The advantages are obvious - we'd be in the heart of Europe, in a charming town, a quick train ride from anywhere else. It would be amazing for science too, since the position includes a research budget of 2 million Euros. I essentially wouldn't need to worry about grants and could do any project I could think up and would have great collaborators available. The key disadvantages are the low salary (Belgium pays researchers far lower than the rest of Europe, even if they are willing to give them big budgets to spend on science) and the fact that it is not an academic position. My position would be with the VIB and would only be hosted by a university, so no tenure-track or anything. That makes it an amazing position for five years, but insecure after that if my work doesn't generate patents for Flanders.
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photo by: lasersurge