Your wife is a native of South Florida and has a large and supportive family nearby.
You have two boys aged 5 and 7 who are close to their grandparents and who are used to the South Florida climate.
So why would you give all this up and move thousand of miles north to work and to live on Prince Edward Island? Why would this now be the picture of your life?
It has been about 6 months since the Kerr family arrived in PEI.
Russ has found a wonderful challenge and professional opportunity as the Canada Research Chair for Marine Natural Products and his family have found a welcoming home.
Having moved a lot myself, how did you make that fine balance between the work opportunity and how this move would change your family life?
You are right Rob - of course the work pulls you but if this doesn't work for the whole family, it cannot work.
It all started as a bit of an exploration - nothing too serious - just looking. I had been in Florida for 15 years and while I had my own lab, I was starting to feel a bit stale. Not bad but there was an itch.
Why might you have felt that?
If you run a high-end research lab in the US it is a bit like being a producer in the movie business. You are only one project away from the end of your funding. Like Hollywood, because the US is very commercial, much of the research money is also tied to work that is quite conservative. Paradoxically in the US it is easier to get money for a sure thing than to push the envelope.
I wanted to see if I could find a funding platform/process that would help me go deeper in my field. I also wondered if I could also find a way of being broader as well as deeper. My itch was that I knew that I could discover more important things if I had a better environment for discovery. (Trusted Space???)
At heart I am a pioneer and I felt that I was reaching a point where I was ready to go for it.
But at first there was no dramatic plan to go anywhere and of course I knew that no matter what the work - if this did not work for all of us - it would not work.
PEI looked like the place where the work aspect of what I sought could be possible. What made the work more interesting was the broader scope and interest of the Public Private network forming at UPEI and the support of the PEI BioAlliance.
Also the nature of Canadian funding allows high end research to take more risk - by being more stable it would allow me to spend most of my energy on science rather than fund raising.
But I did not know much about them and they did not know much about me. Also we had no idea about what would it be like to live there? After all my wife would be leaving her home state and all her family and their support system and we would be bringing two boys aged 5 and 7 with us. This part of the move had to work.
So the process was a bit like dating. I saw this interesting work going on at UPEI and they noticed me. The end goal was the Chair. But first I had to see if UPEI would support me and I and my wife had to feel good that we all could be happy up there on Prince Edward island.
The "dating" took about a year. I looked at them and they looked at me. A variety of thresholds had to be crossed and were crossed. My candidacy for the Chair had to be supported by UPEI. As it became more clear that the work that I wanted could be a reality, so our discussions became more serious. My wife Stacey and I spent many long evenings weighing the pros and the cons. You can imagine what it was like.
But then we had to choose and we chose to make the move.
So how has reality met expectations?
Well - both at work and in our home life, we have been delighted.
First of all the move itself. We were so well supported by Rory and the PEI Bioalliance team. He is an amazing human being and has worked so hard to help us get established.
The work has been special. I have been able to have a team of 4 to support me and we have access to a very well equipped lab. It is great being so close to other teams. There is an open plan concept here and I bump into people who are doing good work all the time. All this is set in a wonderful small but well equipped campus in a very friendly university. I have all the work, the gear and the interesting colleagues I need without all the baggage that you tend to find in a large university.
A really nice surprise has been to discover how close we are to the business community. Funny, here I am being paid a wage by the government and I have more freedom and better access to the business world than I did back in the US. I have been made to feel very welcome. Where else in the world would a scientist be routinely met by the Premier and asked how things are going and be told how wonderful it is that I came here?
So how is it working out for Stacey and the boys?
Well you saw the picture. The boys have become hockey fans. The boys have made our move so much easier - they have been the magnet that has pulled us quickly into the community. When we arrived in August the boys went into a summer camp. It seemed that overnight, we knew their new friends and the parents of their new friends. I think we have more friends here in 6 months than we had in 15 years in Stacey's home state.
Other newcomers on our team with no kids and both working have had a slower time. I also think that our boys ages of 5 and 7 are ideal. They are entering the school system early enough for there to be room for them before the grades settle.
What about the nitty gritty of housing?
Queen Victoria Park next to where the Kerr's live in Charlottetown (Flickr Blue William)
Well we live in a very special part of town and we have a cottage and we have NO mortgage. So while my income is less that in the US my standard of living is much higher as is our quality of life.
So on balance - a good move?
Yes for us. I am finding the work and the work conditions all I had hoped for and we are finding the place better than we had expected.
Would this be good for everyone?
No. I think that we fit and that others might not.
Not everyone wants to be out there in research. Not everyone can leave their family. Not everyone will find living in a small place good for them. But for us it is great and we look forward to putting down roots here.