How did he manage it?

How do you rise? You work very hard and you get yourself noticed. Science has an account of doing that by Eleftherios P. Diamandis.

Here’s how it worked for me. I arrived at the University of Toronto in 1982 as a postdoctoral diploma candidate in clinical biochemistry. Coming from a rather poor country—Greece—was a disadvantage, so I did all I could to adapt to the new environment, fill in my knowledge gaps, and make a good impression with hard work and dedication. When I finished the diploma training in 1984, the chair of the department showed interest in finding a job for me. But I had to go back to Greece first to complete my medical degree. I finished it in 1986.

He went back to Toronto. He got a job at a biotech company, which wasn’t what he most wanted but he gave it his all.

The job was good and challenging, but it was not what I was aiming for in the long term. Meanwhile, a new chair had taken over in the department, and I set out to persuade him to hire me as an academic clinician-scientist.

I worked 16 to 17 hours a day, not just to make progress on the technology but also to publish our results in high-impact journals. How did I manage it? My wife—also a Ph.D. scientist—worked far less than I did; she took on the bulk of the domestic responsibilities. Our children spent many Saturdays and some Sundays playing in the company lobby. We made lunch in the break room microwave.

My colleagues and I managed to publish numerous papers, and I was invited repeatedly to present at national and international conferences. I was able to demonstrate, in the department’s annual report, scientific productivity comparable in quantity and quality to the full-time academics in the department. I made sure these activities were noticed.

Did you see it? It went by quickly. His wife worked far less than he did and took on the bulk of the domestic responsibilities.

Remember Agata Hop’s cartoon?

H/t Jen Phillips



  1. chris61 says

    Couples in which both partners are academics frequently make that choice. He acknowledges that she helped him. You’d have to ask her whether he helped her in return.

  2. sambarge says

    I know a lot of married PhDs (ie. both partners have their PhD). In every case, the female partner took longer to get her doctorate because, at some point, she took time to have and rear children. She took on the bulk of the domestic duties, freeing the male partner to pursue their doctorate less encumbered. There was not always a clear choice on this. It just “happened”. In many cases, the female partners insisted that it was their choice to back away for 1 or 2 or 5 years to have a baby or two. And I’m sure it was. No one was encouraging them to keep working and don’t worry about kids; you can have them when you’re ready.

    Invariably, the male partner gets tenure and the female partner is stuck in sessional lecturer hell. The university is unmotivated to offer her tenure because, let’s face it, she’s trapped there anyway. He’s not going to give up a tenured position on the chance that she might get tenure elsewhere so… She puts up with Intro to XX class 101 and no security because she has no choice.

  3. Silentbob says

    @ 1 chris61

    Couples in which both partners are academics frequently make that choice.

    I see you two are unacquainted. Allow me to do the honours. The point, meet chris61. chris61, this is the point.

  4. chris61 says

    sambarge @3

    Most of the Phd couples I know both members of the couple are tenured. Many of them though didn’t marry until post Phd though so I could see where that might make a difference. But yeah, if you chose to take some years off to raise children your career will suffer for it and I’m not sure how one would get around that.


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