When I was in graduate school in the eighties, the dream job if you were in theoretical high energy physics or pure math was probably the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton but for everyone else it was Bell Labs, on which Jon Gertner has a tribute in the New York Times today. Unfortunately for me, I never had the chance to go. Also just as I was finishing my PhD, the AT&T monopoly was being broken up and the slow decline of Bell labs had begun. Gertner points out that while we glorify silicon valley these days as the hot bed of innovation, it stilll doesn’t compare with how Bell Labs changed the world. The NIH may be the closest thing in the US right now (and it may not last) in terms of size and freedom to pursue risky projects but we’re scattered over a large campus and it can easily be months between talking to colleagues in other buildings even though it would be of great benefit to interact with them more often.