Trudi Schüpbach and Eric Wieschaus: A shared passion for nature’s truth  pg. 3

Over the dinner table

With Eleanor and Laura on the beach in 1989 near the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, where Eric and Trudi teach an embryology course most summers.
Photo courtesy of Trudi Schüpbach, Ph.D.
Perhaps most remarkably, the couple managed to achieve successful scientific careers while raising three daughters. Ingrid, 33, is a lawyer in Boston, Eleanor, 25, a software programmer in New York City, and Laura, 22, a graduate student in social work at New York University.

Eleanor Wieschaus paints a picture of growing up in an extraordinarily stable and loving family, where Schüpbach helped the kids with homework and Wieschaus cooked dinner. “We ate together every evening,” she says. “That was non-negotiable, even when I was a teenager and wanted to hang out with my friends. My dad’s a great cook -- he likes to make Italian.

“It was a great role model to have two parents who loved their work,” Eleanor continues. “They showed me that it’s possible to have a great career andto have kids who look up to you, respect you and love you.” She pauses, then laughs: “But they’re just normal people. Well, semi-normal. After all, they are scientists.”

Wieschaus and Schüpbach are characteristically modest about their parental achievements. They point out that juggling a science career and a family can work well -- as long as one accepts that the lab and the kids will be the only things in one’s life for awhile.

“You get up, get the kids to schools, get to the lab, work all day, then get home and make dinner,” say Wieschaus. “Then there are hours of work left to do when the kids have gone to bed. It would be horrible if you didn’t love both. If you’re happy with just career and family, you’ll make it. But if you need anything in your life beyond family and science to make you feel good, it’ll be hard.”

In the early years, Wieschaus and Schüpbach were too busy raising their girls to discuss research over the dinner table. But now the nest is empty and they talk science a lot more.

“We have side-by-side labs and we share a weekly lab meeting, so we know what’s going on with each other,” Wieschaus says. “I like the everyday activity that’s part of big science more than the great discovery.  A lot of scientists have ambition keeping them in the lab. I’m there because I like what I do.”

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