Note: This post explains what’s been going on around here for the past while, and provides reasons for the radio silence. It contains personal details that may be of little interest to some readers, so be warned.
I haven’t been able to post here in a while, but there’s been a reason for the silence. Partly it’s because I’ve been involved in the process of moving across the world to Sydney, Australia, where I’ve begun a postdoctoral position at the University of New South Wales. Moving from Canada to Australia has been a great experience, and I love my new home, but it’s also a massive process which requires pretty much all of a person’s time.
I also recently defended my Ph.D., another process which took a lot of time and energy. It was complicated by the fact that we had to leave Edmonton, fly to Toronto for a family event, I drove to Montréal to defend during said family event, and then we flew to Sydney from there. Frankly, it was a hell of a week.
However, as important as all that has been, it’s not the only reason I’ve been quiet.
The biggest reason that I’ve been quiet is that the day I drove to Montréal to defend, I received word that a friend and fellow Ph.D. student, Matthew Ian Helgesen, died suddenly and without warning. Since hearing of that, I wanted to write about it here to express my feelings; I’ve also been blocked on writing anything else until I did that. But it’s taken me a while to come to grips with it and be prepared to say anything.
I met Ian when I came back to Edmonton during my Ph.D. (to help my wife deal with her mother’s terminal illness). He was a student in the lab where I did my M.Sc., and as the Psych department at the University of Alberta was kind enough to give me an office to work at while I was in Edmonton, I thought that I would spend time with my old lab and perhaps do some work with them.
Ian was there from the moment I wandered back into the old digs, and I felt an immediate kinship with him. He was a geek’s geek, the sort of person that I could turn to and make a joke about British sci-fi or statistics or computers and get a laugh. He was doing research in areas similar to the work that I had been doing before I left that lab, and we ended up collaborating on a couple of projects that were just beginning to bear fruit when he died. Looking back, I had been worried because he was having health problems that were interfering with the pace of work (they seemed non-threatening at the time, though it’s impossible to know; I still don’t know what eventually led to his death), and a part of me worries that I didn’t pay enough attention or that I missed something I should seen. I know that that’s not true, logically, but it’s an impossible thought to shake.
Ian’s death shocked a lot of people, friends and family both, coming at as young an age as it did. I can’t help feeling that he never had the chance to reach his potential, scientifically; I’m hoping to help his (and my old) supervisor publish the work that we were doing at the time, but I’m certain that there was more and greater things to come from him.
I never got the chance to know Ian as well as I would have liked. In part it was a lack of time, in part it was because Ian was a deeply private sort of person. Even despite that, though, he was a good friend and colleague, and he’ll be sorely missed.
With that said, my future plans include writing more on this blog, especially related to behavioural ecology; for my postdoc I’ve joined a group which isn’t in this area, but it’s still a field of great interest to me that I hope to continue publishing in and this blog will be a good place to express those ideas and interests. So I’ll see you all around the blogosphere!