It has been exactly one month since I have taken up work as Herr Prof. Dr. Ir. Six at ETH-Zurich. It is not that I call myself that way, but it is just to point out that they are a bit more formal at ETH than at UCD. For my students and direct colleagues, I am still Jo Six. Although, several of my colleagues still think that I am Joe instead of Jo. It was only this past week that the department chair figured out that I was probably not Joe, but Jo.
Anyway…What has Jo done at work in the past month? It was an interesting experience to walk up the stairs to the F floor of the TAN building to enter an empty office. I am used to walking to my office and seeing all kinds of activities by students, postdocs, technician, but on that first day, it was me and myself. It gave a clear message to me: “It is me, and only me, who needs to build up this new research and teaching program in Sustainable Agroecosystems.” So, I went sitting down at my fancy desk in my enormous office and started to think what I needed to do first.
I was having a hard time trying to sort out what needed to be done first from all of the things I needed to do, but luckily, the good old email inbox rescued me by presenting a whole list of emails to be answered. It was clear that it had been all nicely fun to take 2 months of vacation, but now there was a whole mess to be dealt with…and so, I just started to do things without worrying about what should be done first. I have been pretty much in that mode for the last month. Just doing one thing after another without too much thinking about the next episode in my scientific career. However, I would say that in the last week, I have finally started to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I am starting to get some time to sit down and think about how I want to build out my new research and teaching program at ETHZ. It is actually interesting to weigh the different options, but I have not come to a conclusion yet; that will probably still take some time.
In the last month, I have had a chance to meet with my new colleagues at several meetings; some of those meetings were more interesting than others, just like some of my colleagues seem more interesting than others at first sight. But, I guess, that is all to be expected and with time, I will figure out with whom I will effectively collaborate. There is no doubt, however, that there will be plenty of opportunities to collaborate with lots of people on lots of different interesting projects. The challenge will be more to pick out the most interesting ones and drop the other ones so that I am not immediately, and hopefully never, drowning in work. I have to make sure that I keep having some time to enjoy the Swiss Alps while skiing, hiking, running, paragliding, etc.
Since that first lonely day, I have been lucky enough to welcome Charlotte, Juhwan and Ariani to ETHZ and soon enough Gina and Engil will be joining too. I feel very honored that they all were eager to follow me to ETHZ; it makes the landing here softer and more familiar. And then hopefully, I will soon have people in the admin position and in the technician positions that I have advertised. There are a lot of applicants already. So, I do not think that it will be a big problem to find the right people. Hence, I think that the Six lab will be up and running before not too long.
One other nice thing in the last month was a week in Northern Italy by Lake Maggiore for a workshop. The workshop itself was maybe not the smoothest, but I enjoyed very much the evenings with my French, Belgian, and Dutch colleagues and of course the excellent pizza and wine (and limoncello) played also a role in those nice evenings…I was surprised how the wine seemed to help with my French…