Starting from the dataset of the publication corpus of the APS during the period 1955-2009, we reconstruct the individual researchers trajectories, namely the list of the consecutive affiliations for each scholar. Crossing this information with different geographic datasets we embed these trajectories in a spatial framework. Using methods from network theory and complex systems analysis we characterise these patterns in terms of topological network properties and we analyse the dependence of an academic path across different dimensions: the distance between two subsequent positions, the relative importance of the institutions (in terms of number of publications) and some socio-cultural traits. We show that distance is not always a good predictor for the next affiliation while other factors like "the previous steps" of the career of the researchers (in particular the first position) or the linguistic and historical similarity between two countries can have an important impact. Finally we show that the dataset exhibit a memory effect, hence the fate of a career strongly depends from the first two affiliations.