This original idea was to narrate a bench by bench account of the move from London to Leuven. Moving was a big decision, as it meant relocating with family, learning a new language and adapting to a new culture. There were ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors in the decision and after two years, I am happy to say that there have been no regrets.
Moving lab and family present very distinct challenges. The family move was remarkably straight forward: it was run like a military operation. My wife focused on the retreating front, I focused on the advancing front and it worked well. I arrived in Leuven on 28th August (2018), with our furniture arriving on the 29th. Our internet was installed on the 30th, while I unboxed a house. Family arrived on the 1st September and, on the 3rd, our Belgian life begun: my first day at work, my wife working remotely and my kids on their 1st day at school here.
The lab, on the other hand, proved to be more challenging. Firstly, because it really meant a new lab.
Second, because it meant leaving the old lab.
The Leuven lab opened doors in early January 2019 and by the time the Covid-19 pandemic forced Belgium to “lockdown” in March 2020, we were just reaching full speed. Transitioning between the labs, recruiting and retraining personnel and having to start funding afresh have caused massive disruption to the research. That, of course, alongside the inevitable loss of expertise (since only one lab member came with me from London) and samples (too many boxes and a batch of dodgy labels that did not stick at -80oC).
Still, once the “lockdown” gates are raised, we start again. There is some very exciting science being done and I am looking forward to sharing it soon.