EDUCATION – Dating in Academia (The Rock Chick)

It’s time for the Rock Chick’s first post for the 30 Dates Blog.  A professional academic, the first Experiment Topic she’ll be investigating is ‘Education’ in a very scientific manner!

Miss Twenty-Nine xxx

Rocks or People?

If you read my Experimental Dater profile, you might remember that I’m a geologist (the clue is in the alias!).

Which explains why a recent conversation with my colleagues went like this –

Me: “I’m thinking about dating…”

Geologist A: “Rocks or People?”

Geologists fall about laughing 

An exchange which clearly illustrates the world I live in. A slightly geeky world, in which your colleagues are your friends. Banter prevails, be it around the coffee table, in the lab, or over a beer.

When pressed for possible suitors (after reassurance that my plans don’t include a sudden change in the field of my research, Geologist A went on to tell me  “I have no friends that you don’t already know!”.

And so, albeit unwittingly, Geologist A has neatly summarised two key elements of dating in the academic community, and together they form the topic of this, my first (ever!) blog post.

How to date when contracts are largely short-term, and require a great deal of geographical flexibility? How to meet people outside of an all-encompassing world of science, teaching, research? And is this, in fact, necessary? Or is there good reason to stick with ‘insiders’?

First, though, a bit of context. Let’s start with another statement:

Academia is a great way of life. 

Why? Well, I have (almost) complete freedom to work on whatever takes my fancy; I could in fact rather easily switch to geochronology, if that was what floated my boat.

I have travelled around the world for ‘work’, in the last two years visiting South Africa, Italy, Prague, and Canada, with Hawaii on the horizon. I currently live in (one of) the most liveable cities in Europe, close to the Alps; a lifelong ambition. I am surrounded by interesting, intelligent, open-minded people.

I can continue to behave like a student, whilst being paid a proper salary…

But, as with any job, there are disadvantages.

Chief among these is that I do see academia as a way of life, and not ‘just’ a job.

The type of work (principally a lot of *thinking*) makes going home at the end of the day and switching off difficult, while the hours of work tend to be governed by the stage of your research (in the lab, writing papers, writing funding applications, on fieldwork…). As an academic, early in your career, it is necessary to embark on a series of short-term contracts, usually of between one and five years. There is an expectation that you will be mobile during this time, willing to move several times, often across continents, in order to work with a range of people and, very literally, ‘broaden your scientific horizons’.

And there is the constant reminder that there is no guarantee of a permanent position at the end of it all, and certainly no guarantee of one in a recognised institution, somewhere you would choose to be.

Choice, therefore, is at a premium. Which brings me neatly back to Geologist A’s first question –

“Rocks or People?”

For someone thinking of pursuing a career in science, this can feel like the real choice.

Not in the way it was intended – literally whether to age rocks or date people – but whether to go all out for a scientific career, or take a ‘real’ job, if you will, with its greater security and stability, and the associated improved opportunities to settle, have a family, and so on.

The answer to the question depends on a multitude of factors.


It is somewhat easier to move around, make new friends, and start afresh, when you are younger (though these things are never that easy).

The willingness to do this tends to wane with advancing years, often related to ….

Relationship Status.

I know firsthand that, when in a stable relationship, the choice of whether to take a job in the USA versus Europe takes on a new dimension.

In contrast, being single has dramatically opened my mind to the possibility of moving across the pond.


I would argue that women tend to worry more about the future, putting stability and security high on their list of priorities. It is one of the main reasons for the steep drop off in women at the mid-upper echelons of the scientific ladder (among many others, which I do not wish to dwell on here )

OK. Let’s say you’ve made your choice, as I have (for now, at least).

I’ve chosen “Rocks”. But that doesn’t mean I have to miss out on the “People” part completely… does it?

The answer: I hope not! In my opinion, being surrounded by like-minded people is one of the great benefits of being an academic (I know, I said that already).

But in terms of dating it has another side to it, as illustrated by the Geologist A’s second response:

“I have no friends that you don’t already know!”.

Read: “We don’t get out much!”

We work in a University environment, often away from ‘home’, and as a result we tend to cluster together.

This can be for the simple reason that we don’t speak the language of the country we find ourselves in.

Partly, I think it is a deeper-seated suspicion of those outside of the academic ‘bubble’, and they of us.

I’ve heard it said that academics never grow up! Which I’m all for, but all of this does make meeting people outside of the academic sphere difficult, particularly when living abroad.

And the consequence of all of this?  We date each other!

Take my dating history, for example.

I’ve had two ‘serious’ relationships. Both were with fellow geologists. I’ve had a couple of more minor dalliances, one with another scientist, and one with, yes, yet another geologist.

Perhaps I should be broadening my dating horizons, never mind my scientific ones…

In summary, I have concluded that I have some good reasons to take up this challenge.

I am ready to renew my interest in the People of the world, as my most recent relationship ended a while ago.

I am a relative dating novice; it’s time to put that right.

I want to compare dating in the ‘Real World’ with my experiences in the ‘World of Rocks’.

Additionally, I am interested in the spectrum of sexuality, and of my position on it. But more on that another time … 😉

So, finally, thanks to Miss29 for the inspiration… And wish me luck!

 The Rock Chick

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Experimental Dater Nineteen – The Rock Chick | 30 Dates - The Experiments
  2. GEOGRAPHY – Single Brit Abroad (The Rock Chick) | 30 Dates - The Experiments
  3. WORDS – Lost in Translation? (The Rock Chick) | 30 Dates - The Experiments

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