For all of you postdocs who worry about an uncertain future, endure low pay, fret about getting stuck on uninspiring research, then you might take heart from the example of Francis Crick. In late 1953, at the age of 37, Francis Crick began his postdoc in the United States at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, where he was supposed to work on X-ray crystallography studies of ribonuclease:

"I wrote two very dull papers," Crick said. "And Harker expected me to be in promptly in the morning. To which my response was to leave promptly in the evening! And as we were in a new country, I didn't do as much reading and work out of hours as I would have - as I do now. So it was a year off, in a way." Crick had brought his wide, Odile, their two-year-old daughter, and his teen-aged son by his first marriage, Michael. They rented a house in Fort Hamilton, a section of Brooklyn which was then small-town suburban, next to an army base, a fifty-minute subway ride from midtown Manhattan, and almost as far from Crick's lab. "Really, we were miserable," Crick said. "Not only that, but when you go to a country - not now, but in those days, when one had no money - one arrived with very little money. And because you're paid at the end of the month, you've laid out everything ahead. So we were often down to our bottom dollar, and I would go home and hold up a dollar to Odile and say, "That's our last dollar; I'm not paid for two days!' And I always knew when times were hard because she produced potato pie, which is a delicious thing of potatoes and onions, and that meant that we were getting very hard up. So altogether it wasn't the happiest experience." - The Eighth Day of Creation (Revised Edition), Horace Freeland Judson, p. 263-264

The academic science career path is an exercise in endurance. Crick's story makes me feel better, until I realize that, by the time he began his postdoc, Crick had already done the work that would win him the Nobel Prize little over a decade later.

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