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Near the End of A PhD and Have No Job

by Astro_Dude
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stevencruiser
#163
Feb6-12, 05:23 AM
P: 7
Where there is a will,there is a way.Be optimistic and fight with the difficulties.
mal4mac
#164
Feb6-12, 06:08 AM
P: 1,177
Just keep on applying! And don't dismiss Academia... I'd expect you to have a chance to get "Research Software Engineer" kind of jobs in Academia with just python. It would help if you could put a compiled language on that CV. Have you never taken a course in C, Pascal or the like? Academia will rate your PhD far more highly than industry if you are competing for jobs that only require a BSc. If you are applying in the UK, check out:

http://www.jobs.ac.uk

... just type python and see what happens. I'm not sure if there is a similar site for other countries, maybe others can chip in with suggestions.

Also, why not apply for a teaching training course, at least as a backup plan! Again, I'm not too sure about the situation elsewhere, but in the UK you could do a PGCE and get a grant for doing that. If you don't fancy coping with unmotivated schoolkids forever there's always the chance of eventually "teaching the teachers" by moving to a teacher training college lecturing post... and a PhD + PGCE will certainly help for that move...
mal4mac
#165
Feb6-12, 06:21 AM
P: 1,177
Quote Quote by twofish-quant View Post
If you are a skilled fortran programmer, and you know just enough C++ so that I can tell you "please fill in the blank here", then that's enough for you to get hired. Once you get hired, then you can learn the rest on the job.

Note here that for this to work, it has to be a job in which your fortran skills are considered useful. This is *NOT* true with most programming jobs, but it happens to be true in jobs that require lots of PDE crunching.
Nah... you can get any kind of job with Fortran experience, at least I did. I did heavyweight PDE crunching in Algol and Fortran and next job went on to develop human computer interfaces/expert systems in Basic (of all things :) The interviewing prof. was a physicist who had gone the same route ... all you need to do is to be very confident at interview and convince the prof that you are good at picking up new things, like him...
Locrian
#166
Feb6-12, 11:20 AM
P: 1,745
Quote Quote by mal4mac View Post
Nah... you can get any kind of job with Fortran experience, at least I did.
Really? You got any kind of job?

Or did you get two jobs?
twofish-quant
#167
Feb6-12, 09:52 PM
P: 6,863
Quote Quote by stevencruiser View Post
Where there is a will,there is a way.
Sometimes there isn't. One thing that you have to do from time to time is to give up and try something else.

Be optimistic and fight with the difficulties.
Optimism can be a bad thing. Look up Stockdale paradox.
mal4mac
#168
Feb7-12, 07:01 AM
P: 1,177
Quote Quote by Locrian View Post
Really? You got any kind of job?

Or did you get two jobs?
More like seven jobs, all using different languages in different application areas, some internal transfers - but still makes the point, *any* programming skills are readily transferable to other languages and areas.

Maybe not *any* job, but t-q was implying that Fortran skills were a narrower qualification than they are in actuality. Maybe because he has had only one job? He said: "it has to be a job in which your fortran skills are considered useful. This is *NOT* true with most programming jobs, but it happens to be true in jobs that require lots of PDE crunching."

I think *IT IS TRUE* with most programming jobs. For instance, you can transfer to Basic or C in fairly short order. In one transfer, I was employed to write Object Pascal programs with only Fortran/Basic/C (no OOP) experience.

If you have the skills to write heavyweight PDE programs, you have skills that can be transferred to writing many kinds of program. As Zapperz stressed, you might have to, also, do a lot of learning on the job. Learning OOP properly from scratch was a big job! But my Fortran skills got me in the door...
ParticleGrl
#169
Feb7-12, 08:54 AM
P: 686
Maybe not *any* job, but t-q was implying that Fortran skills were a narrower qualification than they are in actuality.
In my experience in the US, you won't even get an interview with most programming jobs unless you specifically list the language they are looking for on your resume. In that sense- Fortran is quite a bit narrower than most languages. HR isn't going to say "well, if he can do numerical programming in fortran..." they are going to say "i was told to pass up only those resumes that say java."
mal4mac
#170
Feb7-12, 11:23 AM
P: 1,177
Quote Quote by ParticleGrl View Post
In my experience in the US, you won't even get an interview with most programming jobs unless you specifically list the language they are looking for on your resume. In that sense- Fortran is quite a bit narrower than most languages. HR isn't going to say "well, if he can do numerical programming in fortran..." they are going to say "i was told to pass up only those resumes that say java."
It's a similar situation for many non-academic appointments in the UK. It comes from HR departments not being flexible enough. But good professors know that bright students can easily pick up, say, Basic if they know Fortran, and they can easily develop interfaces if they can program PDEs.

I'm not sure how universities work in the states, maybe the HR filter is more "up front" than in the UK. But, surely, professors looking to (say) program PDEs in C++ would stress to HR departments that numerical Fortran programmers are acceptable! (Or is there such a glut of unemployed C++ programmers this year that Fortran programmers are heading for skid row? Is it really that bad out there?)

"Working in a bar" doesn't look great on the CV - good for keeping people skills polished, but some evidence of continuing brain work would be useful! Why not do some open source development? Or volunteer - charities may be looking for people to develop databases or websites... Keep the brain working and add some languages to the CV...
Astro_Dude
#171
Feb11-12, 09:14 AM
P: 50
Update -

I was fortunate enough that I was able to find some temporary work between my graduation and the end of the year to keep my *** afloat. I applied for hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of jobs, and never got anything past phone interviews.

In the end, I got a job (non-permanent) doing much the same work I did as a grad. It pays ok, and I'm at least enjoying the environment. I have to count whatever blessings I have though I guess until I can manage something better.

The fact is, industry has no interest in me, and I'm going to try to learn a compiling language while I'm here. It's the only real way to get more interesting to them. Also, maybe there will be a change in Washington to actually make hiring in industry actually happen again.

I want to thank everyone for their support here through this dark time. I am at least going to survive for a *little* while...

-AD

Quote Quote by mal4mac View Post
I'm not sure how universities work in the states, maybe the HR filter is more "up front" than in the UK. But, surely, professors looking to (say) program PDEs in C++ would stress to HR departments that numerical Fortran programmers are acceptable! (Or is there such a glut of unemployed C++ programmers this year that Fortran programmers are heading for skid row? Is it really that bad out there?)
Here's how it works.

HR: Well, you're clearly smart enough to handle this position, tell us why you want to change fields. Ok, *other questions*. Sounds good, I'll pass this along to the next person, you should hear back in about two weeks.

OPTION A:
*it was a lie, not passed along*

OPTION B:
*passed along*
"Hiring Manager" : Oh, well, screw this person, they can't hit the ground running immediately. NEXT

------

There's a huge glut of programmers. You have to be extraordinary if that is your only skill. The thing we *do* have an advantage on is we can do the scientific programming that a lot of industry needs. That is, a lot of CSCI majors apparently don't have the math skills physics majors do, and certainly don't have the physics understanding we do. So it will help if you want to go into coding a missile or something.
jk
#172
Feb11-12, 10:09 AM
P: 148
Quote Quote by ParticleGrl View Post
In my experience in the US, you won't even get an interview with most programming jobs unless you specifically list the language they are looking for on your resume. In that sense- Fortran is quite a bit narrower than most languages. HR isn't going to say "well, if he can do numerical programming in fortran..." they are going to say "i was told to pass up only those resumes that say java."
While this is true in a lot of cases, it also depends on the company and their needs. I once got a job because the hiring manager was convinced that I could learn the skills necessary to be a developer even though my work history did not include development.
Another example: I just got a gig working with the Ruby programming language - I know zero Ruby at the moment. The hiring manager was convinced by my history, references and whiteboard interview that I can be productive in Ruby fairly quickly
Astronuc
#173
Feb11-12, 12:37 PM
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P: 21,915
Quote Quote by mark55 View Post
I'd disagree I think because generally c++ is using programming techniques not used in FORTRAN - most code (at least that I come across) in FORTRAN is procedural and most code in c++ has some aspect of OOP in it. So sure you can write procedural code in c++, but I have rarely come across code in c++ that is not using OOP ideas. So there is something new to be learnt to make the switch.
Fortran was adapted to OOP in 1990.
http://www.clear.rice.edu/mech517/F9...EC_oop_f90.pdf
http://trs-new.jpl.nasa.gov/dspace/b.../1/97-0004.pdf

There is some evidence to suggest that OOP Fortran is more efficient than C++.
ParticleGrl
#174
Feb11-12, 12:50 PM
P: 686
One caveat- most of the people I know using fortran code (which is academic HEP) are using it for legacy reasons, so its big chunks of fortran 77, not fortran 90. So its not just that they are coding fortran, they are coding on obsolete fortran.
bpatrick
#175
Feb12-12, 01:26 PM
P: 125
I know this might not be of any help to you, since I pretty much browsed the thread, but I have a few friends who have had horrible luck coming out of their PhDs trying to get jobs in applied math, astrophysics, and theoretical physics.

Becca ended up taking a year off and spending 80+ hours a week learning stats/finance stuff and passing 3 actuarial exams in her first year post PhD (PDE theory was her dissertation subject). She's now doing well as an actuary somewhere near Orlando.

After a year looking for work/post-docs (after a PhD in *i think* theoretical high energy particle physics) and no luck, Saad spent a few months learning MCAT material, took those, joined the army, went through OCS then into their medical program. He's almost done with his MD, and liking the field, the atmosphere, the fact that he got loads of his undergrad debt covered, and med school comped.

Umm, Josh (PhD in astrophysics sometime back around 2007 and not being able to find a job ... he was mainly looking for something in defense/government since he's a Bethesda native), got a job as a teller at a bank in Baltimore about 6 months post-PhD and has very quickly moved up over the years. I think they made him shift supervisor after 2-3 months, then assistant manager within the first year. He's now some regional loan manager / pseudo-quant. I think he's liking it and doesn't really mind that he had to start at "the bottom" right after he was done with his doctorate.

just some random stories of 3 of my friends/acquaintances and how they've dealt with not finding jobs in their fields post-PhD. Good luck though with getting something in your field, you still have time, but there are definitely options.
twofish-quant
#176
Feb12-12, 11:22 PM
P: 6,863
Quote Quote by mal4mac View Post
I'm not sure how universities work in the states, maybe the HR filter is more "up front" than in the UK. But, surely, professors looking to (say) program PDEs in C++ would stress to HR departments that numerical Fortran programmers are acceptable!
HR departments are extremely busy and they forget. Typically, you give someone with no-science experience a set of keywords, and if they see the keyword on the resume, then they pass it on.

It's also easier to work it the other way. If you have numerical skills in Fortran, spend a month programming some basic C++ and you can add that to your resume.

The other thing is that it's assumed (and usually assumed correctly) that if you can handle C++, you can handle anything.

"Working in a bar" doesn't look great on the CV - good for keeping people skills polished
You'd be surprised. Something that I have seen happen is that someone with something unusual on their resume gets an interview because of that unusual job.
twofish-quant
#177
Feb12-12, 11:26 PM
P: 6,863
Quote Quote by Astronuc View Post
There is some evidence to suggest that OOP Fortran is more efficient than C++.
Yup. Unfortunately unlike straight fortran, no one seems to have gotten OOP Fortran to interoperate with all of the other OOP languages out there.

There is some evidence to suggest that OOP Fortran is more efficient than C++.
I wouldn't be surprised if Fortran objects were more efficient than C++ objects, but I'd be extremely surprised if this applies to templated C++. The thing about templates is that you can get rid of the pointer call which allows you to vectorize loops.
chill_factor
#178
Feb13-12, 03:37 AM
P: 900
Just a question:

I noticed that most of the job questions here are about hardcore theoretical physics, and how they should get jobs involving programming and finance.

However, there's alot of physicists who do experimental work in things like condensed matter, who do not have a rigorous theoretical background and instead use commercial instruments to make measurements and the extent of programming required is Excel and maybe a bit of Mathematica.

How should experimentalists sell their skills, especially if its in a non-semiconductor materials field (biologicals, polymers, superconductors)?
Locrian
#179
Feb13-12, 12:51 PM
P: 1,745
Just look at the things the company you're applying to needs. Characterization and testing are common ones - what type have you done and can do? Are you comfortable using/maintaining SEM/AFM etc?

Look at what projects you've started and completed and make them applicable to the work the employer does.
elkement
#180
Feb15-12, 03:56 AM
P: 132
Quote Quote by chill_factor View Post
Just a question:

However, there's alot of physicists who do experimental work in things like condensed matter, who do not have a rigorous theoretical background and instead use commercial instruments to make measurements and the extent of programming required is Excel and maybe a bit of Mathematica.

How should experimentalists sell their skills, especially if its in a non-semiconductor materials field (biologicals, polymers, superconductors)?
I was once in the position you have described - I went from superconducting thin films (prototypes for microwave applications) to steel (samples from production). None of the characterization methods or software tools was exactly the same.

I used the following selling approach that worked out fine:

I emphasized the general approach in characterizing high-tech materials, that is: how to organize standardized measurements (you could call this "quality management"), consolidate results gained from different types of measurements (electrical, microstructure...) and use an efficient approach to compare the results with production parameters.
Efficiency is key - I believe that in industry you have to prove that you are capable to use tools most efficiently without "re-inventing the wheel" (programming or developing stuff from scratch this is already available - because tools are likely to be cheaper than you labour costs).

There is a lot of menial and organizational stuff involved, such as setting up the measurement process, creating sample forms in paper or in digital form, involving the lab technicians, thus motivating other people... You need to prove that you are a hands-on guy and not an "absent-minded professor who wants to do deal with real research only" (This is a bias you can sometimes find in industry and I personally tend to say it is not unjustified sometimes.) I was "forced" to do also project management and controlling at the university -finally this help a lot to underpin my "down-to-earth / real live" approach.

In addition I pointed out the similarities in measurement techniques, such as TEM vs. SEM, X-Ray diffraction versus TEM dark field, sample preparation using ion mills vs. sample preparation using laser ablation etc. I sold myself as a physicist with diverse experience in different measurement techniques that would allow me to use any related technique.


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