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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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June 6, 2007

Massachusetts Moving

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Posted by Derek

And while I'm on the subject of that last post, I wanted to make a quick appeal to the readership. My new position will be taking me to the research-happy Greater Boston area, which I'm looking forward to. At the same time, though, there are the usual moving issues - balancing commuting, real estate, and schools for the kids.

I'd be very glad to hear from readers with personal experience with the towns, schools (and roads!) of that part of Massachusetts. My wife and I have some ideas of where we'd like to start looking, but I'd like to get as much reality into the hopper as possible. The e-mail address is up there on the left - thanks!

(Oh, and if anyone's looking for a nice house in the New Haven area, give me another week or two and I'll have something to show you. . .!)

Comments (38) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Closing Time


1. Yttrai on June 6, 2007 7:56 AM writes...

Welcome to our neck of the woods. I hope you love it here.

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2. Analytical Chemist on June 6, 2007 7:59 AM writes...

As a fellow recent transplant to Boston, I have a simple but practical view of the area and it's high cost of living. I see Boston in the context of rings (I95 and I495) and spokes (I90, Highway 3, 2, etc.). Many of the better bargains are on the outer I495 ring (Chelmsford, Bilerica, Framingham, Natik, etc) and they are nice places to live and commutable to Cambridge if not central Boston. For myself, the closer I am to NH, the happier I am--better cost of living and livability with all the access to Boston when I want it.

Remember that it is a buyer's market now in the Boston area.

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3. Yttrai on June 6, 2007 8:12 AM writes...

Welcome to our neck of the woods. I hope you love it here.

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4. Jordan on June 6, 2007 8:15 AM writes...

Keep an eye on the commuter rail lines. They'll provide the maximum commuting flexibility. You don't want to have to rely 100% on the car to get around.

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5. JSinger on June 6, 2007 8:28 AM writes...

It sounds like you're interested in more suburban locales than I'm familiar with, so I'll just join in welcoming you to our area!

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6. steevil (Dr Weevil's bro Steve) on June 6, 2007 9:34 AM writes...

I'm a URI grad, but live in Baltimore. However, I do know a couple people who work in Boston. My brother-in-law commutes from Leominster, and a friend commutes from North Providence, RI.

Their situations are analogous to mine. I work in the DC area, but really, really don't want to have to live down there.

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7. Keith Robison on June 6, 2007 9:36 AM writes...

Welcome to Beantown!

I second the vote for considering the commuter rail lines. One drawback to commuter rail (or the 128-proximal subway lots) is that most of the parking lots max out early in the morning, but there are a few newer large park-and-rides where this is definitely not true (e.g. Anderson in Woburn, the new facility in Lawrence). South-side commuter rail is a bit more convenient into Cambridge, but there is a little blue shuttle but from North Station that makes life easier.

There are also some suburbs served by regular express commuter bus routes, though they pretty much all go to Boston and not the Cambridge biotechs, and of course this is all academic if you are headed for one of the biotechs/pharmas on the outskirts, where there really aren't good transit options but you can still get in the traffic headaches.

What sort of town are you looking for? It is remarkable how different in character towns directly adjacent to one another can be -- one a semi-dense town, the next one over horse country.

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8. pa on June 6, 2007 9:38 AM writes...

Avoid MASS like the plague. New Hampshire is the ticket.

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9. Still Scared of Dinosaurs on June 6, 2007 10:25 AM writes...

Another welcome to the area!
You'll get more focused advice if you let us know what general location you'll be working in, even as unspecifid as Boston, Cambridge, Waltham/Lexington, etc. My first advice if it's one of the first two is to live on the same side of the Pike/Charles/River Roads axis (aka the Axis of Awful) because it creates a number of pinchpoints regarding North/South travel.

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10. Wavefunction on June 6, 2007 10:50 AM writes...

Incidentally I am in the GB area right now for a conference. Beautiful location!

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11. Mark M on June 6, 2007 11:15 AM writes...

Many of my MA pharma candidates who have school age children like Acton because of the balance of cost of living and decent schools.

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12. Mark M on June 6, 2007 11:22 AM writes...


Having lived there myself, I dont recommend Billerica. Chelmsford is a bit better but you still have a considerable commute to Cambridge and the cities are not terribly close to commuter stations.

For innumerable reasons, you will want to avoid Lowell.

Waltham, Weston is another good suggestion.

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13. Hal on June 6, 2007 11:33 AM writes...

I was born and raised on the South Shore of Massachusetts (south of the city) and, outside of living in Boston proper, couldn't see myself anywhere else in the Bay State.

Also - when your son hits high school age, send him to Boston College High School. Educational experience of a lifetime.

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14. Brian on June 6, 2007 1:14 PM writes...

You might want to hold off on buying for a little while. Prices around Boston are still in a bubble and are in the process of falling.

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15. Joerg Kurt Wegner on June 6, 2007 2:20 PM writes...


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16. L on June 6, 2007 3:50 PM writes...

The southern NH suburbs are definitely an attractive option if you want to be commutable to Boston (ca. 1 hr by car) and still have decent schools and a nice plot of land. Just keep in mind the "double tax" - higher property taxes in NH plus the high income tax you'll be paying to MA. In that case you'd also be at least 30 min away from the nearest commuter rail stop and more dependent on I-93 to get back and forth to Boston (the northbound commute home can be a mess at the state line).

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17. gaetor2000 on June 6, 2007 4:16 PM writes...

We have a place in Waltham. It's just a short drive down 2 to the end of the red line (alewife) which is very convenient to get to the cambridge biotechs.

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18. LuckyChucky on June 6, 2007 5:04 PM writes...

First, congrats on the job! I recently took a position in Cambridge and am settling in. Derrick, is your job actually in Cambridge or close by? I love working in Cambridge but the commuting, even from one end of Cambridge to the other is a pain. It seems people here like walking in front of traffic and the street sweepers and road crews like to work during rush hour, very strange. But that aside, its pretty cool being around so many pharma companies big and small...I really feel at home. I think if you love the business (and I know you do) then you'll love it here, But then again, I haven't been through my first winter yet....

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19. Walt on June 6, 2007 8:31 PM writes...

Congratulations Derek!

Everyone is missing the point -- you are moving to Boston when the Red Sox are actually killing the Yankees. This never happened when I lived in Boston.

Boston seems even more vibrant now than when I lived there in the 1970s -- enjoy.

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20. Mark Senak on June 6, 2007 8:37 PM writes...

Congratulations! What nice news. And Boston is just a wonderful place and will be lucky to have you. Very, very nice news.

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21. John Costello on June 6, 2007 8:58 PM writes...

Answer depends on where your job is. I assume it's in Cambridge, but where? And if it's across the river in Boston, that changes things.

Cambridge is the People's Republic of. They do not like cars. Most of the old parking spaces around MIT are long gone. Getting into Cambridge by car is a hassel. Go west or south.

You will _not_ want to move to the North Shore (Salem, Peabody) simply because of the commute.

Boston, aside from Chinatown, the nearness of Cambridge's restaurants, etc., also has three SF cons every year. Arisia (in Cambridge resently) Boskone (South Boston) and Readercon, coming this July to Waltham (yes, it's a 20 minute commute, but it still counts as a Boston con.)

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22. ac on June 6, 2007 11:02 PM writes...

If you want a suburban feel that doesn't involve a commute, you should consider Newton. The cost of living is high, but the public schools are consistently ranked in the top 20 or so nationwide. If you want to be a little farther out, you should also look around Wellesley. Again, it's expensive, but the town is really great.

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23. Steven Jens on June 7, 2007 1:48 AM writes...

If you are going to be in Cambridge, as has been speculated, Waltham is not only close by car, it also has a commuter rail line into Porter Square (which is three subway stops from Kendall or two from Alewife).

I have a coworker with a family who seems quite happy in Salem, very close to the commuter rail line there. His kids aren't in school yet, though, so that hasn't been a factor, and that commuter rail line goes into North Station, which is a nice walk to Kendall Square in the summer, but a pain to get by public transit.

I also have to echo ac on Newton - decent schools, I've heard, not crowded, with access to the subway and probably not as expensive as Wellesley or Weston.

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24. soapchemist on June 7, 2007 7:37 AM writes...

Congrats! (I know - echo in here)

Within the "inner ring" - that is, within RT 128 - I would recommend the communities of Newton, Lexington, Waltham, Brookline and West Roxbury. Schools are good (my son in in the Boston Public School system, and as long as you fight to to get your child into the 'right' school, they will do fine, mine is excelling) and the convenience of commuter rail or subway is present. Oustide the 128 ring, I have heard that the best school district in the state in in the own of Sudbury, so that could well be a consideration. The communities of Needham, Weston and Wellesley are solid choices as well.

My family and I moved here 2+ years ago and have found West Roxbury quite agreeable to us!

Congrats again!!!

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25. Spike on June 7, 2007 8:38 AM writes...

Belmont is also a good choice. The commute isn't that bad. I live on the east side of Belmont and commute to near Cambridgeside Galleria. At 7.30 in the morning it only takes 20-25 minutes. Coming home at 5 pm can take half an hour. You just have to watch out for the Harvard students that can't read the "Don't Walk" signs and the drivers that can't read the "No Left Turn between 4 and 7pm" signs.
House prices can be expensive, although they are dropping. We made the decision to have a short commute rather than have a large yard and a cheaper house. The schools are pretty good in Belmont (as they are in Lexington, Winchester, Acton/Concord, Sudbury, Newton etc).

If you live further out the commute can be quite long. I have had colleagues that spend 3 hrs a day on the road. They hardly see their families.

Public transportation is OK but it can take quite a while to get from a to b.

All companies in Cambridge/Boston will have employee parking but you will know all about that (costs can range from free to > $1000/yr)

Welcome to the area.

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26. s on June 7, 2007 9:11 AM writes...

You should check out Boston Magazine's Best Places To Live spreadsheet.

The high school spreadsheet may be of interest as well, even if your kids aren't there yet.

As far as those who say that the commute from the south is better than the north - I've heard some horror stories from both sides. There's just no easy commute around here. Of course, I'm biased, since I live up north. But even when I lived in Brighton, it regularly took me 40 minutes by car to get to Kendall Square, and one hour by T. It really depends on whether you're commuting to Cambridge (and even then, are we talking Kendall Square or Cambridgeport?) or Waltham or Boston proper. If you have your heart set on the commuter rail, you probably want to live west or south - I don't find the northern lines convenient for any biotech or pharma job.

Newton, Weston, Andover, Sudbury, and Lexington spring to mind. You might want to consider Reading and North Andover as well, too.

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27. SP on June 7, 2007 9:22 AM writes...

I don't get the appeal of suburbs- I live on one side of Cambridge and work on the other, my commute is 15 minutes, 20 with bad traffic, or 15 minutes guaranteed if I bike since I just go through the traffic. My family shares 1 car and some days it just sits in the driveway since you can walk or take the bus everywhere- that's thousands in insurance, gas, and registration saved every year.
There are pockets of Cambridge where housing is relatively cheap compared to the fancier parts, and as noted, prices are falling. The schools are very interesting system too.

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28. Paul on June 7, 2007 11:47 AM writes...

Hear hear, Soapchemist! There's nothing bad about actually living *in* Boston, rather than some suburb. The commute is faster, and you get to actually do the fun stuff in Boston on your weekend.

I don't live in Boston, but my sister has for the past 7 years, starting as a student (SMFA art school!). She's lived all over the map, until recently moving every year. So we've seen a lot of places to live in Boston!

I can second Brookline as nice, plus they have a independent school system. Some parts of Jamacia Plain are nice, though that tends to be a bit more dense. But where she lives now is Roslindale, which seems like one of the nicest bits of urban Boston to actually live in. It has a real community feel.

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29. tgibbs on June 7, 2007 1:30 PM writes...

If you want to live closer in, I can certainly recommend Jamaica Plain as an area of Boston with a real community feel. And a pond and an arboretum. Mostly triple deckers, but there are single-family houses as well. I can't comment on the schools, however.

I have a colleague who lives in the Chestnut Hill area, and has positive things to say about the schools.

Further out, I've been favorably impressed by what I've seen of Norwood, particularly if you can use the commuter rail to get in.

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30. Neil on June 8, 2007 8:19 AM writes...

Congrats on the position! My advice is to consider carefully your commute. Boston is a great city and I think you'll have fun here, but commuting can be a daily nightmare. The public transit authority is something like $7B in debt and completely out of touch with the needs of its riders.

Most import is whether you'll be in Boston e.g. on the Charles or the Longwood Medical Area or in Cambridge, probably north or west of MIT. Question #2 is will you have parking? I hate having to drive to the Longwood Medical Area, but it takes 40 minutes to drive from Arlington versus 1h15 - 1h30 via public transportation (waiting for and changing buses, etc).

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31. Jordan on June 8, 2007 11:52 AM writes...

Some great recommendations here. Belmont and Arlington are both very nice and close to Cambridge. They are well-served by bus lines that take you into Cambridge itself.

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32. Brooks Moses on June 8, 2007 3:23 PM writes...

Several people I know have recently bought houses in the Boston area; their advice has universally been to get a buyer's agent (and they have recommendations for good ones -- feel free to email me if you want me to ask for details -- although the good ones tend to specialize in relatively small areas); apparently it made a tremendous difference in the amount of effort required to find a house like they wanted, and in figuring out whether it was indeed a good deal and in negotiating about it.

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33. ann on June 9, 2007 7:54 AM writes...

congrats & good luck. I haven't lived in boston, but drove up there regularly on weekends for a few years.

Lower NH is beautiful, miserable commute (especially if the weather is bad). No sales tax, if your wife is into shopping.

Lowell is a dive...avoid. To the best of my knowledge (as of a few years ago), Lowell is the northernmost stop for the commuter train.

I would personally try for a stop convenient to a commuter train, even if it is only for a back up plan in case the weather (or traffic) is really bad.

Acton seemed ok, definately not upscale though if you are looking for that.

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34. imachemist on June 9, 2007 11:42 AM writes...

I work in Cambridge and can give you some opinions...but they are only useful if that is where your employment is.

As others have already posted, you've got to tell us where you are going to be working (or at least let us know what city it is in). Much of the advice given here is fairly meaningless if you are going to be in Waltham or Andover!

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35. MolecularGeek on June 9, 2007 6:13 PM writes...

Congrats on the new gig, Derek. Hopefully, it will be evidence for "good things come to those who wait".

I was in Greater Boston until last month. Personally, I would agree that Lexington and Winchester are good options if you want to be inside 128 with a commute to Cambridge or Waltham. One thing that makes a huge difference in the commute is being able to negotiate flexible start hours with your new employer. I ordinarily didn't start until 10, and I worked until after the main rush was over. With kids, you might want to negotiate for the other direction of course, but it's amazing how much easier the commute is if you can just shift it 15-20 minutes out of the peak hours.

Drop me a line if you want to talk in more specifics. I'm just getting used to the house-husband role, and I'd be glad to share my numerous opinions.


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36. Karl Miranda on June 11, 2007 7:32 PM writes...

Derek,I used to work with Julie Dixon at Bayer when Cathy and Brent were there...hope you still remember me. Anyhow I am at Novartis, Cambridge now and if you looking for places to live in check anywhere north of I-90 and south of route 3 and between I-95 to I-495. Many towns in that area are good. I live in Lexington myself but you may want to check out Bedford, Waltham, Belmont, etc.. Some of them are close enough to Cambridge to drive or you can take the subway's Red Line or the commuter rail. Best of luck on the move

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37. Abe on June 12, 2007 10:34 AM writes...

Wow, sounds like a lot of us are in or around Kendall Square.

Would anyone be interested in a meeting of the Derek Lowe Fan Club? Maybe grab lunch at the MIT Trucks?

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38. GATC on June 12, 2007 1:58 PM writes...

Best of luck with the new job and the move Derek.

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