A fond farewell and new beginnings...

Last week, I finally bid farewell to my lab at Stanford, thus ending my five-and-a-half years of being a postdoc. As excited as I am to move on, it was a bit bitter-sweet: I'm leaving friends and a location where I've become quite comfortable. (To be fair, I'm moving to a job ~20 miles away, so it's not like I'll never see my friends again or anything.) I'm also leaving some projects 'hanging', though I hope to be involved in seeing them through to completion when folks in the lab are able to finish up the required bench-work.

In order to start my new job (see below), I've had to renew my American work visa, so my significant other and I took a brief 'baby-moon'[1] to Vancouver, BC. I did my M.Sc. at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, and I hadn't been back in 10 years. I remember Vancouver as the most beautiful city in Canada, and I wasn't disappointed: the downtown core remains amazingly clean and welcoming compared to other cities where I've lived. 

It's interesting to think that both Vancouver and San Francisco suffer from the common problem of being located on peninsulas, preventing the sort of suburban sprawl associated with less expensive locales. However, it looks like Van is handling this better by encouraging the construction of modern high-rises to meet housing demand. San Fran appears very apprehensive about construction in general, but it's difficult to see how anyone could consider these buildings 'ugly'. Also, it's not as though their presence is changing the charm of the traditional neighborhoods like Gastown or Davie Village - at least from the tourist perspective. I'm not expert on the causes of the exorbitant cost of living in the SF Bay Area, but it does strike me as obvious that improving public transit while allowing higher-density housing would help a lot[2].

Now that the visa situation is taken care of, I can talk about my new job: I'm going to be working as a computational research scientist at Counsyl, a South San Francisco-based genomics company that specializes in non-invasive genetic screening, such as is used for family-planning, checking fetal health (something our 'family' did recently), and cancer risk assessment. Non-invasive screening of cell-free DNA in the blood is a relatively new field that offers amazing opportunities for detection and monitoring of diseases that previously required surgeries and biopsies. It's a brand-new field for me, so I've been doing a lot of background reading to get myself up to speed. I have to admit that I'm somewhat excited about being able to tell people that I work on human health related problems, rather than trying to explain how studying yeast regulatory evolution will unlock the mysteries of the phenotype[3].

So there you have it. Unlike in academia, I'm certain that I won't be at liberty to discuss the specifics of my work here, but I'll try to post about the the field and the generalities of switching to industry science when I can.

[1] I was only made aware of the concept of this 'pre-baby' trip last week, so it's fortuitous that we'd already planned one.

[2] Vancouver is also an expensive city, but a quick Craigslist search reveals that it's nowhere near as bad as SF. I recently read a book, The Gated City, that spends a lot of time explaining that the entrenched interests of the Bay Area benefit greatly from the high-price of housing, and have fought mightily to institute NIMBY laws allowing them to resist any type of change. It also strikes me that fewer people drive in Van as compared to SF as the downtown streets are far less congested. Don't even get me started about all the misguided 'environmentalists' around here who don't understand that urban areas are actually good for the macro-environment.

[3] By no means have I lost my interest in evolution, nor in how phenotypic mysteries will ultimately be unlocked.