I am a senior thesis away from completing a B.S. in Astrophysics. I am very interested in a career in Plasma and Fusion Physics, and I live near 2 national labs where such research takes place. However, I have decided not to go to graduate school. I'm poor and I already owe over thirty thousand in student loans from my undergraduate career, I'm about to turn 29 and I don't want to spend the better part of another decade in school, and I've always found self-study to be more effective for me anyhow. Anyways, my GPA isn't impressive and I don't really know anyone well enough to get a reference letter out of them. I think my career would move a lot faster if I jump into working right now, even if I start off doing relatively menial things. I can be learning from textbooks I buy myself and picking up things at work in the meantime. I got this idea from a physics listserv I was subscribed to, in which a physicist described an international student who convinced a university researcher to hire him as a lab assistant despite not being a physics graduate student (sounds somewhat romantic, I know). I am hoping that I can communicate so much interest, prior knowledge/relevant skills, willingness to learn, willingness to work for peanuts, and willingness to assist with just about anything even remotely physics related, that I can convince someone in the department to hire me as an assistant, then move up to more responsibilities as I learn more. The really good news is that I have previously applied to one of these institutions for an internship, and they were so impressed with my resume that they encouraged me to apply for something in the future. I did not get the job because I was not enrolled in college at the time, and since I don't ever plan to be enrolled again, I'm guessing I won't be eligible for any other internships, either, especially once I finish my degree (which will be soon, I hope). I'm also not qualified for any of the regular jobs they have posted (most are for professionals), so I see my idea as my only hope. I know this idea is a little unusual, but I was hoping that someone could give me some advice on how to approach it so that I have a better chance of being hired. For example, how should I begin this communication - email, phone call, letter? Should I go directly to the department I'm interested in, or try to go through the person who interviewed me for my internship, being that he's familiar with my qualifications and was the one who specifically encouraged me to look for more job opportunities at the lab? I'm sure that going through Human Resources is the worst possible point of contact. What entry level tasks would a professional physics lab need done that I can mention being able to do (so far I've thought of coding and typing up/editing papers)? Thanks so much for any ideas you can give me.