Thursday, September 4, 2014

Career Profiles: Astronomer to Senior Editor for Nature

The AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy and the AAS Employment Committee have compiled dozens of interviews highlighting the diversity of career trajectories available to astronomers. The interviews share advice and lessons learned from individuals on those paths.

Below is our interview with Leslie John Sage, an astronomer turned Senior Editor for Nature. After two postdocs and a year as a visiting assistant professor, he switched into the field of publishing as an editor at Nature. He is very satisfied with his job and particularly enjoys helping people present their science in the clearest, most straightforward way. If you have questions, suggestions, advice to share, etc. about this career path, please leave a comment below.

For access to all our Career Profile Project interviews, please visit We plan to post a new career profile to this blog every Thursday.

What field do you currently work in?


What is the job title for your current position?

Senior Editor for Nature (in the Physical Sciences division)

What is the name of your company/organization/institution?


What city, state, and country do you live in? Work in?

Washington, DC

What is the highest degree in astronomy/physics you have received?


What is/was your ultimate/final academic position in astronomy/physics?

Non-tenure-track Faculty

What has been your career path since you completed your degree?
  • post-doc New Mexico Tech 1987-1989  
  • post-doc  Max Planck Institute for Radio astronomy 1989-1992  
  • visiting assistant professor UNLV  1992-1993  
  • astronomy editor, Nature 1993-present  
  • research associate U Maryland 1994-present
If you have made a career change, what was your age at the time?


What have been particularly valuable skills for your current job that you gained through completing your degree?

Broad knowledge of astronomy.

What, if any, additional training did you complete in order to meet the qualifications?

Six months intensive training in the London office of Nature followed by close supervision for about two years.

Describe a typical day at work.
  • Evaluating newly submitted manuscripts, 
  • deciding what to do with manuscripts on which I've received reports, 
  • answering questions from authors and referees, 
  • scheduling travel, 
  • drafting new talks, 
  • responding to pre-submission enquiries.
Less regularly: 
  • work on invited chapters for various volumes, 
  • attend committee meetings, 
  • draft documents for internal use,
  • travel globally to speak about Nature and on other topics.
Describe job hunting and networking resources you used and any other advice/resources.

I saw the ad in the AAS Job Register

What advice do you think advisors should be giving students regarding their career path?

**Don't expect a traditional academic job.**

How many hours do you work in a week?

45-50 hours. Typically 7 in the office, and 2-3 at home, with an average of a couple of hours over the weekend (mostly responding to emails).

What is your level of satisfaction with your current job?

Very satisfied. 

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? 

Helping people present their science in the clearest, most straightforward way.

What do you like most about your working environment?

Working with a lot of very smart people with very diverse interests.

What opportunities does your job provide to be creative and/or to take initiative?

The job allows me to travel extensively, all around the world.

What advice do you have for achieving work-life balance (including having a family)?

Don't think you can achieve it before you're about 40. 

There is a worry among those considering careers outside of astronomy or academia that you can't "go back" and/or that you feel that you betrayed advisors, friends, colleagues. Have you felt this way?

I don't feel this way, but there are some people who definitely look down on me for choosing a different path.

What do you do for fun (e.g., hobbies, pastimes, etc.)?

Read a lot of fiction, take cruises with my wife, walk the dog, facebook. 

Can we include your email address for people who may want to contact you directly about your specific career route?

Yes, l.sage [at]

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