Greatest Hits II

Go to the profile of Andrew Jermy
Feb 01, 2019
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The last 11 ¼ years has been about far more than just the variety of editorial roles I held at Nature [see Greatest Hits I for more details on that though]. As any reader would expect for the period that covers one’s late 20’s through to turning 40, there are several important milestones in my non-working life that have also marked the journey from a still somewhat callow youth through to the foothills of middle age, with its inherent responsibility and grumpiness. Thoughts of conquering the world have been dented, dinged and shaped by real life, while priorities have evolved accordingly.

 When replaying what has gone before in the past decade and a bit, to focus only on work-life would be to listen to only one side of the record. To get the context in which these events played out, it is necessary to flip the record over and hear about life in general as well. This is something that I have tried to do these past few years musing on this community and I will do the same now when reflecting on some of the greatest hits of my time at Nature. So please enjoy this second volume about home and family life, which to my increasingly aged perspective provide ‘the point’ of doing everything covered in volume I.  

9. This is a low

Before Mrs Jermy became so, our paths first crossed when I joined the laboratory of Hiro Yamano at the now-closed Marie Curie Research Institute, set as it was in the beautiful Surrey countryside with views over the South Downs. Having left Manchester to move south and avoid a rut that I could foresee myself getting stuck in following some post-PhD postdoctoral work, I had been temping as an office admin in Clapham before I joined the MCRI for a second post-doc. I was renting a room from a friend in Earlsfield, a part of South London that was then ‘up and coming’ [and probably always will be owing to its proximity to the dodgy end of Wandsworth preventing it from ever actually arriving]. As I tried to settle into the Yamano lab, my daily routine consisted of rising at the crack of dawn and heading out of London on two trains, over-ground to South Croydon and then on to Oxted, before either cycling or walking the 2.5 miles out into the countryside to get to the research institute – about a 90 min trek in total. The setting for the institute was idyllic and initially things looked promising; the Yamano lab did interesting work on the roles of the anaphase promoting complex in the eukaryotic cell cycle and everyone in the lab was super friendly. In my first few weeks at the institute, I gave a lunchtime seminar on my PhD studies using Blue Native gels and other approaches to probe the workings of the SEC complexes in yeast. My performance must have been passable, because just after, as I sat out on a bench overlooking the valley before me, the future Mrs Jermy [who was then a research technician in another lab at the institute] came over to introduce herself and tell me that she enjoyed my presentation. We arranged to go for a drink at some point, although it took another couple of months before we actually managed to do so. Mostly positive then, apart from the routine of travelling out from London, which was painful and thinking back I probably used this as an excuse for not fully committing to working the necessary hours in the lab to settle and progress. I was also carrying quite a lot of debt from my time in Manchester, and living in London [even with mate rates on rent] was expensive, so my overdraught was a millstone gradually increasing in weight and slowly grinding away at me in the background.

An institute retreat gave an opportunity to get to know the future Mrs Jermy a little better and we arranged to go on a date in Redhill the following Friday. With the evening going well, I was surprised to find myself invited to accompany her to a charity ball the following evening. I found out later that had I declined, her father [my future father in-law and Gramps to Jermy’s minor and minimus] was lined up as her chaperone for the event, so I wasn’t a last-minute stand in for another potential suitor. Regular attendance at ball’s were not something that this scruff had been accustomed to and I certainly didn’t own a tuxedo. Thus, since no shop could rent me a suitable suit to walk away with on the same day, I found myself checking through pockets, diving down the back of the sofa, begging, borrowing and scratching together enough money to buy one for our second date. Obviously, things turned out well in the long run, but dating, together with a cluster of friend’s weddings and other events were putting great pressure on my overdraught and credit cards. Meanwhile things were not going my way in the laboratory either, experiments weren’t working and I was struggling to adjust to a different laboratory and the exhausting round trip out to Surrey each day. One of the first signs that work and financial pressures were beginning to take their toll came when I developed alopecia – first with coin-sized sections of my stubble and hair falling out, and then progressively larger sections of baldness along the sides of my head and face as these smaller plaques met up. I didn’t go to a doctor at this point, mainly out of embarrassment but also because I hadn’t registered since moving to London, I simply grew my hair longer, tried to cover the gaps and carried on as if nothing was happening. I limped through for six months more, only just surviving from one pay check to the next [with the help of the occasional payday loan], grateful that my new girlfriend enjoyed sitting around reading and watching television rather than demanding to be wined and dined in an expensive fashion.

Then came the event that marked the crescendo of the pressures that had built up over the preceding months and ultimately led to my crashing out of academia. The as-yet-unknowing Mrs Jermy was lucky enough to secure funding to go to MBL Woods Hole for six weeks one summer to use a microscope suite laid on by Zeiss for her work tracking Kinetochore dynamics. I agreed to flat- and cat-sit for her while she was away, and much to my surprise, the first morning after she had departed from Heathrow for the US, I woke and found myself unable to go to work. I simply couldn’t face it, and didn’t really know why, but I called in sick and just hung around the flat. The same happened the next day too, I called in sick, mooched around the flat and around town, called Mrs Jermy and a friend [but didn’t tell them what was going on] and then went to the pub, pretending that everything was normal. By the third day I knew that this probably wasn’t normal for me and that I was depressed, but it took a few more days before I finally started to accept it and speak to people. I broke down on the phone to my Mrs Jermy Senior, told the future Mrs Jermy what was happening, arranged to go back to my flat and talk to my friend and landlord and then booked an appointment at a GP. I was signed off work for a week and told to relax, then for another week. More mooching, more going to the pub, no feeling happier, just empty. At this point, using transatlantic phonecards to communicate, Mrs Jermy and I began to diagnose the cause of my depression; debt, a punishing routine, the fact that I was no longer enjoying being a bench scientist, the dream of having a career as a research scientist dissolving before my eyes. So, in the first step of what has turned out to be a twelve-year game of career-change leapfrog, Mrs Jermy prescribed the solution; leave the lab, move in with her, clear my debt and find another job.

By the time she returned from Woods Hole, I had handed in my notice both at the MCRI, and in Earlsfield, and applied for two jobs at Nature Reviews, neither of which I got, but the interview for one of which led to a conversation with the Chief Editor of Nature Cell Biology about a certain locum position that had opened up.

It took a while to get back on an even keel, certainly well after I joined NCB, and in the meantime, I just winged it as best as possible. My subconscious mind knew well before I could accept that my time in academia and any previous career plans were a bust, and I ignored both obvious physical symptoms and what I was feeling. But I was lucky, in the end; I had Mrs Jermy to catch me when I fell and to help put me back together far faster than would have happened otherwise. And the timing was serendipitous coinciding as it did with a pregnancy that gave me my first shot at an editorial role.

10. Suburbia

Six months into being a Locum Associate Editor for Nature Cell Biology, I somehow manage secure a position as an editor for Nature Reviews Microbiology. Having relatively recently moved in together, the permanency of the new contract finally helped to close the lid on the instability and depression that marked the previous year. I was okay and owed most of that to my amazing and supportive girlfriend. Being back on solid ground myself, we then started talking about the future, and in particular what direction she wanted her career to take. With a love of microscopes, the not-quite-yet Mrs Jermy decided that she would like to study for a PhD, and in short-time secured a place to train at University College London, just down the road from where I work. Suddenly we find ourselves weighing up whether travelling from Surrey all the way to Euston and Kings Cross each day makes sense, especially when there are plenty of commuter towns to the north of those two stations in which we could make a home together and have much faster journey times to and from work. At this point my financially far savvier better half owned [or at least had a mortgage on] a one bedroom flat in Redhill. While surveying potential towns to make our own, our joint desire for a house with substantially more space and a decent sized garden revealed just how limited our options were. Hertfordshire, where we were looking is an expensive part of the country to live in, with great towns and good commuter lines into north London. It wasn’t long before we realized that the only option really on the table was Stevenage – a town once described in the guardian as “the armpit of the south” of Great Britain ­– where house prices are £50-100K cheaper than the surrounding towns, where [not coincidentally] this editor grew up and where the Jermy seniors still resided. Fortunately, having viewed nearly 40 houses and having offers accepted and then rescinded on two, we managed to find an extended three bed end of terrace with a 40-foot garden to move into in the window before the property market falls apart in the global crash. A mile and a half across town from my childhood home, and only 45-60 minutes door to door from our respective workplaces, we had found our own slice of suburbia. A permanent job, a new PhD position and a three-bedroom home to think about filling up. What to do next then…

11. Let’s get married

Fast-forward another 12 months and things were swinging along nicely. We were both working in London, sometimes getting the same train, often not. Occasionally we’d meet up after work to eat, otherwise we would make our way home separately since PhD lab work and office schedules didn’t always overlap conveniently, I also worked from home two days each week. By this point we were settled and starting to think about the longer term. Marriage was definitely on the cards, and it was essentially just a matter of time, although nothing could be assumed of course. I’d manage to save enough money to be able to afford a ring of some sort, and so I decided to pop the question. Knowing the hopefully soon-to-be Mrs Jermy, wouldn’t want a big public declaration, I opted for the more private setting of home. I did want it to be a surprise though, so I concocted a plan by which I would spring a surprise meal the day before her Birthday; the thinking being that I could catch her off guard with the meal, but pretend that it was to celebrate her birthday privately (we were planning to be out with friends on the actual day itself) so that she didn’t twig before I proposed for real. Nervously, I went ring shopping, opting to buy cheap but tasteful placeholder so that if agreeable to my proposal, we could go any find a ring together that the imminent Mrs Jermy would be happy wearing for the rest of our years together. I then booked a half day off, returned from London early to prepare the house, cook the meal and suit up for the big moment. I placed her go-to cocktail dress on a dress-makers mannequin in the hallway and then waited, peeking out of the kitchen window for her approach.

On entering the hall, my potential fiancé found the dress-wearing mannequin sporting a note suggesting that she change into the dress and then join me for a surprise birthday meal in dining area of our otherwise open plan downstairs. I’d cooked a starter of Asparagus wrapped in Parma ham, then a main of pan-fried duck breast, potatoes and veg. I think I was lazy and bought a pre-prepared desert. Being essentially trusting, she bought the early birthday schtick and so when I presented a card following on from the main course, I don’t think what was about to happen was foreseen. She opened the card in which I had quoted lyrics from one of my favourite songs by The Proclaimers (sharing a title with this track in my Greatest Hits). She started to read…

When we're old if they ask me

"How do you define success?"

I'll say,

You meet a woman

You fall in love

You ask her and

She says…

By which point I was down on one knee in front of her, with a small box presenting the ring that I hoped to seal the deal with open in her direction. The now certain-to-become Mrs Jermy replied in the affirmative and relief and joy came flooding through – there were a few tears, not all of which were mine, and then we called family to share the good news. Being only a little way across town, my parents were over within minutes, bringing bubbly to toast the news, and we saw my new in laws a couple of days later. A short nine months of planning later, and we were married in front of family and friends.

12. Father and son 

Living close to the Jermy Seniors for the years in which we were back in my hometown meant that we saw far more of them than I had over the preceding 12 years spent in Manchester, London and Surrey. We frequently had Mum and Dad over for dinner, but as a newlywed couple they were at pains not to encroach on us too much, and would often post notes through the door rather than knocking on and inviting themselves in. While redecorating the house after moving in, Dad would come over to lend a hand (and vice versa, when they needed help in the garden). However, he was even less handy that yours truly, and was something of a bodger when it came to DIY [nails through water pipes, crooked shelves and so forth]. So, when he offered to come and help me build a shelving unit to slot in place next to a new dishwasher, I told him not to worry, something that I found myself regretting just a few days later.

I was in Scotland on a work trip to visit some labs at the University of Glasgow. I’d taken the train up, arrived in time for some dinner and despite it being November 5th, I had decided to forgo the fireworks in favour of an early night. I was roused at 2am by my vibrating phone, although was still somewhere in between being awake and asleep when I answered to hear Mrs Jermy in distress. Fearing that something terrible had happened with Jermy minor, who was now growing steadily within Mrs Jermy [see the next track], I was entirely broadsided, and devastated to be told instead that my father had passed away suddenly from heart failure in the early hours of the morning. Not knowing that I was away, my mother had been trying to call but I hadn’t woken. She’d instead called friends from her church, who kindly drove around to our house to try and wake me, on finding me absent told Mrs Jermy the news, and then spent the rest of the night looking after Mum. I remember that it took a while for me to fully grasp what I was being told, it felt surreal and disjointed as if a dream. I think I called my mother and then I just sat in the cold Glasgow hotel room shivering and distraught, before the need to plan for the morning kicked in. I looked at times for the first train home, packed my stuff, emailed my host at the University of Glasgow and my boss at Nature to let them know that I was cancelling the visit and going to be out of the loop for a few days. Then I sat and drank tea in the dark until 5am when I checked out early, and headed home. While on the train I had the distinctly unpleasant duty of sharing the news with my younger brother, whose phone had been off all night.

Those first few days were almost as surreal as my hotel room experience. There were tears anew every time we saw a family member for the first time since Dad died, there was a lot of tea drunk, and much humour, sometimes dark, always fond. Actually, it turns out there is not much to be done in those early days following on from the death of a family member. I took a turn to visit him for a final time laid out at the funeral parlour, and then at the beginning of the following week I got up and went back to work, the bitterly cold and gloomy morning appropriately numbing. A few weeks later was the funeral, a fitting tribute to my Dad who was spectacular only in the way that he was entirely unspectacular but touched many lives all the same. He was active in Scouting, at the church and in the local area. There must have been more than 250 people at his funeral, a testament to his place in a community that I can’t help but feel is largely absent in my life, and perhaps declining in general around the world. That day I properly understood one of the points of being a church goer for the first time in my life. With my brothers and a few other pall-bearers, we carried the coffin into the church. I had prepared a slide show for the wake with photos of Dad from birth through until just before his death. I had also written a eulogy for the service, unsure if I would be able to deliver it or not. I worked in a few jokes, and more serious reflection, managing to get all the way through to the end before I cracked, dragging the rest of my family down with me as I did so; we blubbed and hugged for a few minutes through the next hymn. The Scouters present formed a guard of honour out from the church and down the road, saluting as Dad was taken to the crematorium where only family members went to say our final farewells. Then it was off to the wake, where I got drunk on red wine before staggering home to watch a Doctor Who special on television that evening. He would have approved I think, on both points.

13. Babies

One of the bittersweet notes about Dad dying was that he had known that after a good few years of trying and failing, Mrs Jermy and I had fallen pregnant and were expecting our firstborn the following year. Like his middle son, Dad was often quick to well up at good news, and he had done just that when we’d told them about our pregnancy. I find it terribly saddening still that despite his joy at the knowledge of his impending third grandchild, he never got to meet Jermy minor [and later minimus].

Anyway, this is jumping the gun somewhat, let’s rewind a bit. After much deliberation, Mrs Jermy had decided to leave the PhD programme after two years. As had been the case for me, lab life was not working out as hoped for Mrs Jermy and rather than forcing herself through an additional two years of work for the entry level qualification to a career path that had been decided against, she opted to train to be a high school Chemistry teacher. Throughout the training, Mrs Jermy and I knew we wanted kids, yet despite much trying it just was not happening. No babies, not even a pregnancy. We explored with our GP whether there was a medical reason, nothing conclusive, although we were initially told that my sperm count and quality were too low to get pregnant [it turned out that after speaking with a fertility expert, I was actually pretty average for my age/these days and this shouldn’t be a major problem]. Anyway, we followed the course of tests and periods of trying to conceive naturally, and then were offered the option of going through ivf in an attempt to bring Jermy minor into the world. Tests and consultations aplenty. Caffeine, alcohol and any food even slightly bad for us are jettisoned; you get a very limited number of chances at ivf on the NHS and we could not afford to fund many [if any] cycles ourselves, so we wanted to maximise our chances first time around. Then came the injections. I became a dab hand at finding untenderized spots into which to gently slide the needle into the pincushion that was now Mrs Jermy. Scans showed things were working as expected and on the scheduled day enough eggs to keep the Easter Bunny busy were removed. Then my bit came [best not to say anything more about that here] and we achieved fertilization. After 5 days growth we have three good-looking blastocysts, one was implanted and two become popsicles for future possibilities. Cue the waiting. A few weeks later and good news – we were pregnant for the first time ever.

Par for our course, following on from the trials that led up to this point, nothing went easy still. We lost Dad, Mrs Jermy suffered from disabling SPD which left her hobbled and eventually using a stick to get around. Jermy minor measured big [although emerged a respectable but not prize-winning weight, unlike like massive minimus a few years later] and so when the due date arrived Mrs Jermy underwent a sweep to try and get things moving and then a day later her waters partially broke. But, importantly, they do not break fully and so 24 hours after that labour needed to be induced. Things went slow and then seemingly stopped altogether. Eighteen hours later and with signs of infection beginning to show, any preferences went out of the window as an emergency C-section was performed. But even this did not go to plan. Jermy minor was out, screaming and wriggling pretty quickly; I held my son for the first time, and carried him over to Mrs Jermy. But things are not going quite so well for the new mother; there is an increasing amount of blood appearing in my peripheral vision, on the surgeon’s gowns, equipment and floor, and the light chatter has died away to be replaced with concentrated silence. Over the course of the next 90 minutes, the surgeons fought to stem bleeding and I split my time between cooing at our new-born baby in his incubator, and freaking out next to his now-asleep mother that I might have to raise him as a solo parent. Calmness returned to the room, finally reassuring noises and explanations started to come the way of this frantic father and Mrs Jermy was closed up, taken into recovery and then to the ward. Both mother and child need courses of antibiotics, which mercifully work, and sometime in the early hours of the morning, having been awake for nearly 48 hours, I called Mrs Jermy Senior to ask if she can pick me up and take me home, since I was close to a state of collapse, needed a few hours’ sleep in a bed, and since driving myself would have be asking for trouble. The next day the Jermy in-laws and Mrs Jermy Senior came into the hospital to meet Jermy minor, the latter experiences joy and sorrow when we introduced him by his full name, including the middle names we gave him in honour of my father, Mr Jermy Senior.

The following day we were allowed home and were freaking out even more. Crap! We had a baby and no clue about what we are doing. We divided the day up into zones where either Mrs Jermy or myself take it in turns to look after Jermy minor or to sleep. It’s was a competition for the first few days to see who would be the first to get him to sleep in his cot rather than in our arms, the winner getting some extra sleep. It was particularly hard on Mrs Jermy, who was still using a cane owing to her SPD, and who after nearly 2 hours in theatre felt like she had been punched in the gut over and over again. Slowly we got into the groove though and by the end of a two-week paternity leave, things were a bit more normal and a but more under control. The day before I return to work, Mrs Jermy was able to carry Jermy minor up and down the stairs for the first time, and so life continued to resume, just differently from before.  

14. Suburbia (reprise) 

What I did not share with you during the previous track is that on finding out that we were pregnant, the Jermy in-laws [still relatively young and spritely despite being retired] offered to look after up to two grandchildren for five days each week, until such time as they were in nursery or school. Childcare in the UK is expensive and not only would this save us many thousands of pounds each year, but it would also ensure that Jermy minor and minimus had a close relationship with their maternal grandparents. The only catch being that they lived 45 minutes away from our house in Stevenage, making the daily routine hellish for yours truly to drop them off and then head into London to the office, or back home, to work. The solution was to move away from Stevenage, and Mrs Jermy Senior, and find somewhere better placed for the childcare run. We settled on an equally unfashionable commuter town that is another satellite to London, this time just over the county border into Essex. Our house in Stevenage sold in a matter of days for well over the asking price, affordable ex-council houses in that area being in high demand for people wanting to move out of North London.

To ensure that the whole deal went through we found ourselves having to break the chain, selling our house to avoid losing our buyer, before the family selling us their house had settled the chain upstream from themselves. So, with Jermy minor only 6 weeks old, we nervously put our belongings into storage and moved in with the in-laws. Fortunately, things calmed down and less than a month later we picked up the keys to the second, and maybe last, Jermy towers, where I sit writing this now.

15. Shed heaven

Both 2015 and 2016 were brutal work-wise, launching Nature Microbiology involved long hours and a lot of travel. Midway through 2016, in a single morning, Heidi, one of the original launch team came into and told me that she had accepted a post to return to academia to start her own laboratory, while Claudio, then a locum editor standing in for Nonia who had been seconded to Nature, asked to take three months of shared parental leave to look after his recently born child. The notice period for each request had them leaving on exactly the same day at the end of September. While happy for both at these great opportunities, this left myself and one other editor, Mike, to get the journal through a period of three months essentially on our own, just at a time when submissions had risen to the point where we had work enough for four editors plus me. What followed was a punishing period where we each worked 70 hours a week [including a two-week trip to China and Japan where I clocked 85 hours each week] that left us utterly drained by the time we closed the office for Christmas.

In the new year when the team returned to full strength [and expanded by one as we kept Claudio when he returned], I needed a break. But rather than finding a beach to lay on, I had in mind something entirely different. Before we bought Jermy towers, the previous owners had fenced off a corner of the plot and put two rectangular sheds into a triangular space. While this suited them, it wasted a lot of space in the corners and since the sheds were getting run down, I decided to tear them down and design and build my own triangular shed from scratch. Some research indicated that to make it the full triangle would bring it too close to the house and thus require planning permission, so I loped one corner from the pencil sketch to leave me with a trapezoid design. Over the Christmas break I sourced and ordered the wood, screws and other building materials. Since I was going to build it right up against the fence, there could be no light through any windows in the walls, so I decided to use clear Perspex panels for the roof. Everything that was about to become a shed arrived during January and I booked two weeks’ vacation at the beginning of February for the build.

Now I am not a builder by any stretch of the imagination, but I did once harbour a desire to be an architect, even getting some work experience in an architect’s office as a schoolboy. My sketched plan was simple, and modular, and I thought that I could achieve it working on my own. So it was that for two cold and occasionally snowy weeks in February 2017, I had probably the most fun I have had in years, out in my garden with playing with power tools, building a shed. I made a bunch of mistakes, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed or worked around, and once I had finished the room, painted the shed jet black, added the recycled white door with its porthole window, and affixed guttering, it was also probably two of the most satisfying weeks spent I have spent working on any project, journal launch included. Several years later the inside it is still a total mess, as a shed should be, but it survived a hurricane a couple of weeks after I finished it and is still standing and keeping out the elements.

 

16.We are family

I’ve written before here about what happened when three became four, and how we Jermy’s are often a germy bunch and so I will not retell the tale of Jermy minimus’s first few weeks. But I will briefly note that we never did discover why we were not able to conceive naturally, and the problem persisted when Mrs Jermy and I were trying make Jermy minimus a reality. So, with things once again not happening ‘naturally’ we returned to the popsicles frozen down and stored by the good people at Bourn Hall. Alas, once thawed and implanted they were unable to take hold and so we had to undertake an entirely fresh round of ivf. Since our first course had resulted in a successful pregnancy, there was no more ‘free’ options on the NHS, but we did not want to mortgage our future for what was a chance, but may perhaps never work out. So we opted for egg-donation, where the bulk of the cost for a course is picked up by another couple who are unable to get pregnant owing to infertility, on the proviso that they get to use half of the eggs harvested. As with Jermy minor, we were fortunate going this route and 9 months later we doubled the number of children in Jermy towers, and halved the amount of sleep on average that either Mrs Jermy or I got each night.

17. Changes

Teaching is a hard profession. I’ve worked long hours in the laboratory, and as an editor, mostly for wages that are by no means fantastic. But compared to the expectations for work and consequent remuneration placed on secondary school teachers, in the UK at least, I have had it easy. During her teacher training and subsequently in two teaching posts, Mrs Jermy has had a workload enough to use up six if not seven days each week, rising early to squeeze in some paper work before lessons began and then working into the evening once home. In later years once Jermy minor was on the scene, this involved spinning so many plates that inevitably some had to crash to the floor, and it was generally the case that Mrs Jermy felt that she did not get to devote enough time to doing either work life or family life properly. Teaching and parenthood of young children just don’t seem to be compatible, especially if you want to do one or both of them well, and so another change in career direction was discussed and prepared for, as we began to plan for Mrs Jermy to leave teaching directly and develop an educational resources business. I will not go into the details of that business here, since that is now my job for most of the week and I do not want to contravene the policies of this community in advertising it. But through imagination, insightful knowledge and sheer hard work, Mrs Jermy’s new business has been taking off and when the maternity leave for Jermy minimus ended, she became solely self-employed, spending more time with our family while working furiously in the gaps, when minimus is napping, when minor is at school, or in evenings and on weekends when I have been around for childcare.

One of the problems in this cottage industry is that productivity and profitability is currently defined not by the market; growth has been swift and there is plenty more space into which the business can continue to grow. The limiting factor, however, was the amount of time available and the ability to get the work done single-handed. We had always planned for me to join Mrs Jermy in this endeavour in the long run, but when we started plugging in the numbers it became clear that now was the right time for me to leave Nature and join up.

As the above attests, Mrs Jermy and I have taken it in turns throughout the past 13 years to support the other through some twists and turns in the directions our careers take. First, she supported me when I bailed out of academia under a cloud and found my way to Nature Reviews Microbiology. Then I supported her while she moved into and out of a PhD and into teacher training. Mrs Jermy picked up the slack while I made the moves to Nature and to launch Nature Microbiology, and in return I did the same when she launched her business. Ever since making the decision to leave Nature Microbiology I’ve been waiting for the fear to hit that we are making a mistake, but I am yet to wake in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, indeed no sleep has been lost at all. It’s clear that the timing is right to join the family business, to better our work and our life, to spend more time with our children and to take more time to look after our health. 

There is sadness to leave a job and team that I love, but no regret. And I am super excited to finally after all these years be working professionally with the phenomenal Mrs Jermy, who is not only my new boss, but also my wife, partner and best friend.


Sleeve notes

If you made it this far, thank you – and well done, I do have the habit of letting these blogs get away from me. 

In posting some vignettes about work and home life during my time at Nature, it is not my intention to suggest that these events should be important to anyone else. Everyone has their own stuff going on, every day of every year, some of it deeply personal, some of it public, some of it super cool, most of it mundane. What it important and interesting to one person may barely register with the next. No, these posts are mainly written because I have an urge to write them as a form of catharsis, not because I am expecting them to be of interest to others, although if readers do wade through them and enjoy them then it is a silver lining that does give me some warm fuzzies. There is also, to an extent, the hope that by discussing life beyond work as an editor, it helps to show that we at Nature and other such publishing groups are not a different species, but are normal people, with normal lives and good, honest reasons for working hard to do what we do. I hope that it is clear that editors are not ‘them’ to the research community’s ‘us’ but are partners to researchers, ones that focus on a particular part of the scientific endeavour. We don't get it right 100% of the time, we have stuff going on in our lives just as anyone else does, but mostly [there are a few exceptions], we are normal folk who want to work with you to bring the results of your scientific studies to as wide as possible an audience. In a time of change and challenge for the scientific publishing industry, this should be remembered.

I’ll be back here on the community from time to time. If you want to get in touch, you can reach me by email at jermynate@gmail.com or on Twitter where I am @jermynation.   

Thanks for reading. 

Go to the profile of Andrew Jermy

Andrew Jermy

Consultant, Germinate

Andrew gained his PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of Manchester, UK, studying fungal protein trafficking and secretion. He was subsequently a microbiology editor at Nature for more than a decade, joining Nature Reviews Microbiology in 2008 as an Associate Editor after a brief stint as locum editor on Nature Cell Biology. Over the following 4.5 years Andrew developed a passion for the field, commissioning Reviews and writing on all aspects of microbiology. He also took a keen interest in developing new approaches to communicate with the microbiology community. In January 2013 Andrew joined the Nature team as Senior Editor, handling primary manuscripts from across the field and championing microbiology in Nature’s pages and beyond. Andrew left Nature in April 2015 to become the Chief Editor for the launch of Nature Microbiology. Having helped to establish Nature Microbiology as one of the premier journals in the microbiology publishing landscape, and in search of a better work-life balance, in January 2019 he left Nature to become Chief Publishing Officer (and tea boy) for the family GCSE and A-Level educational resources business established by his wife over the preceding three years. 

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