Academia, Industry, or National Labs?

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What do you guys think is the best area to be employed in? Depending on various degree levels, which area is better for undergraduates, graduates, or those who already obtained a degree? Which area is more helpful for getting into graduate school (if you're an undergrad) and which area has more opportunities for advancement? Is there any difference in treatment or the type of work done?

I ask because I have a choice between continuing research in my current lab at my university as an undergrad or becoming an intern at a national lab, but I also think this thread would be beneficial to many people.
 

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  • #2
Choppy
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I think that's kind of like asking whether the Atlantic or the Pacific ocean is a better place for a fish. The question is a little too broad to warrant much relevant discussion.

Maybe it would help if you spoke to some of the specifics of your choice. What kind of research are you currently involved in? What would this internship involve? What are your long term goals?
 
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Right now, I'm currently working on boosting solar cell efficiency and cost. I mainly do grunt work as it is a high school internship for the summer, but I will be entering as a freshman undergraduate in the fall. The professor says he's willing to offer me a paid internship when I do start college because many of his graduate students are graduating and the equipment takes 2-3 years to be properly trained in. In the future, he stated I have the opportunity to go to multiple conferences if I like to travel and would allow me to apply to REUs in the summer.

On the other hand, the National Lab is a bit secretive about their work, but they offer a variety of positions. It seems that most internships would start of with, again, grunt work. I also know from a couple of friends that work there that it's not so lenient but that pay is better - although I wouldn't mind a lower pay, as long as I can live independently. Basically, you must work full-time during the summer and all rights to the research belongs to the lab.

I want to obtain a BS in Physics with a concentration in optics. Originally, I was just going to obtain a BS in Physics and Chemistry, but working with this research group I realized that optics had the right amount of math, chemistry, and quantum mechanics for me. I do plan to obtain a PhD in Physics at an Ivy league school (hopefully, but plans change), but i'm not quite sure what I want to specialize in. In the end, I do wish to do research in physics, although I don't wish to do solar cell engineering after undergrad.

Edit: When I say working full time in the summer, I don't have a problem with that. The national lab just won't let you do research experiences like REU if you're doing a year round intern.
 
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  • #4
Vanadium 50
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Where you ultimately work as a career is not determined by where you do research your freshman year in college. And a) it's probably a bit early to be worrying about intellectual property rights, and b) you probably will have a similar arrangment with your university.
 
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  • #5
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I want to work in a national lab someday for the Department of Energy or something related to it. I think I will probably work in the field of bio-energy and solar cells if I can get to do so.
 
  • #6
Vanadium 50
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Delong, my advice to you is that same as to the OP: you need to focus on the task at hand, and not something ten years down the road. Have you gotten into grad school yet? If not, that's what you need to be focusing on.
 
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Delong, my advice to you is that same as to the OP: you need to focus on the task at hand, and not something ten years down the road. Have you gotten into grad school yet? If not, that's what you need to be focusing on.
Yea I agree on taking things step by step. I just have this end goal as a kind of star in the sky to guide my slew of vagaries....
 
  • #8
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I think you're missing the point of this thread. Any information is beneficial because there are many people in many fields and many levels wondering about this information. Whether or not the information applies to me doesn't matter. I, and many others, are just curious about life outside of being a student.
 
  • #9
boneh3ad
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National Labs are not always secretive. Even at the nuclear labs like Sandia, Livermore, and Los Alamos there is a fair bit of open science going on (though most of it is somehow tangentially related to the defense programs). Interns (and other short-term employees) generally are doing almost entirely open science tasks anyway given that it takes too long and too much money to get a clearance for those employees.

National Labs are very much looked upon as being very good places to work (both as a long term option or as a stepping stone/resume building option). Further, even though you wouldn't necessarily have the summer off to do a REU elsewhere, the work at the labs is generally considered on par with or better than the experience you would get working in an academic lab anyway, so I wouldn't rule that internship out. It ought to come down to which job interests you the most professionally.
 
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  • #10
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. I, and many others, are just curious about life outside of being a student.
I feel a little like a loser readint this becauae i'm twenty sic eight tears older than you and i ahven't gotten to grad school or made anything significant eith my life outside o school. Although things are shaping up more recently in my work life but no dream career quite just yet sigh. I decided that things like dream careers bormally just take a lonng time to realize if ever. And as for life outside of being a student i personally think it's overrated because i'm just a huge science junkie and i can only get my fix through school. Although i do like to think outside the relationship of student and teacher and believe that true academia is defined by tge search for knowledge regardless of your title. But yea anyway
 
  • #11
Fervent Freyja
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I think you're missing the point of this thread. Any information is beneficial because there are many people in many fields and many levels wondering about this information. Whether or not the information applies to me doesn't matter. I, and many others, are just curious about life outside of being a student.
Well, the fact that you even posted such a question suggests that you haven't really done much research on the topic. And you expect people to spend how many days answering it for you? Really, why do you feel entitled to a response at all? Remember, this is a public forum and you are the one asking for *assistance*.

Rule of thumb: If a person is in the position of having to ask a question, then it only follows that they will not be in the position to judge the answers given anyway. Either take it, leave it, or hunt it down yourself.
 
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  • #12
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@boneh3ad Thank you, I'll take that into consideration!

Well, the fact that you even posted such a question suggests that you haven't really done much research on the topic. And you expect people to spend how many days answering it for you? Really, why do you feel entitled to a response at all? Remember, this is a public forum and you are the one asking for *assistance*.

Rule of thumb: If a person is in the position of having to ask a question, then it only follows that they will not be in the position to judge the answers given anyway. Either take it, leave it, or hunt it down yourself.
I understand that this is a public thread, made for the public and used by the public. Whether you, or anyone for the matter, chooses to answer or not is your choice. No one has to respond with positive feedback - or even respond - but a negative response (e.g. shut up and look elsewhere) is a waste of my time, the poster's time, and the time of those who need or want assistance.

I personally believe PhysicsForums is a valuable tool for research that gives specific insight into topics that can only be obtained through personal communication with many different types of people with different backgrounds. It is research and your post will not deter me away from asking questions out of curiosity or necessity.
 
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