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Physics Career Advice needed for desperate Phd student in experimental physics

  1. Feb 8, 2012 #1
    Hello all,
    I am a new member here and am currently doing my PhD in nanoscience related area. My husband is a succesful phd and currently in academia. I joined phd right after my masters, and hence have no industry experience. However, I am keen to enter industry after I graduate. I want some help in reviewing my current profile and would appreciate advice/suggestions on how I can improve it. Those of you are in industry please give me your inputs , and if you have a PhD or hire/ interact/ with physics PhDs, your viewpoint would be very helpful

    One thing I'd like to mention : I had my baby last year - meant 4 months of not being productive academically + we had to rush for a family health emergency and be out of country for 2 months -- all of which contributed to some heavy slack in my work. Unfortunately its reflecting as personal ineffeciency in my profile right now,( although I am back with twice the fortitude and willingness to make things happen.. and am determined to make it up in everyway I can)

    1. Publications - still working towards my 1st paper.. Is this okay?
    So, even though this is my 4th year, I am still working on my first journal article. Very soon, my supervisor will put me on a different project whose publishing prospects I cant predict right now.. So, considering the worst case scenario -- Is it better to graduate quickly with 1 publication or instead work harder (extend visa, add a semester/year ) and publish a couple more ?

    2. How can I make myself more 'employable' ?
    I honestly feel this is my only area of strength -- I have hands on experience in a decent number of experiment/research tools.. ( AFM, SEM, FIB, Etching, deposition and lithography tools in a Nanofab/cleanroom enviroment, nanomaterial synthesis (nanotube and graphene growth)

    3. Will an internship help ? If so, what kind of companies should I look for ?

    I am guessing semiconductor and pharmacetuical..but you can probably enlighten/disillusion me better?

    4. Programming/Software skills

    Barring the C programming course I took back in my undergrad, I dont know any other programming. I always wanted to learn labview, but I dont know how to get started. Does this matter ? and if so, can you suggest what language/package I should get familiar with. I dont mind doing a undergrad course in the area, since we can do that as PhDs, but I'd like to know what would be useful, befor I venture into one. Maybe MATLAB ??

    Although I have loved and always love doing physics, currently I feel like a total loser for having typed this pathetic post - but ahead, I will look and see how I can make things work ..

    Thanks a lot,
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 13, 2012 #2
    advice needed please

    I am bumping this one - Guys, dont tell me you have no suggestions..
    451 views and ..?

  4. Feb 13, 2012 #3
    I really don't much about experimental physics but aren't those skills worth something to someone? What has the previous students done with those skills? Does your adviser have any industry contacts?

    It really worries me that you need to ask an internet forum for which companies are in your area of study... I mean there's always Google to get some idea.. Again, your adviser?? Fellow students?? How are you in the dark about this??

    MATLAB is a very good skill to have, C++ is also a good one. I've used Labview before but not extensively. Just a quick search on Indeed.com yielded ~2000 jobs for Labview, ~6000 jobs for C++, and ~40,000 jobs for C++. Granted, C++ starts crossing the lines into developers and strictly CS type jobs. But.. if you're goal is have a marketable skill then C++ is the way to go. When I was in computational physics, we mostly used Matlab and C++ along with some other application specific software.

    I'm a little over 2 years into my PhD and I still haven't picked my area of research. For the ones I'm interested in I've been researching like crazy the industry opportunities associated with the areas. I've gotten a ton of information from advisers, current students and Google. I've even gone on LinkedIn and contacted people of the companies that are related to the fields. I've asked them about the company, flexibility in their field, etc.

    Once I actually pick my research area I plan on contacting companies and seeing if they want to collaborate with me. Depending on how far along you are with your PhD this would be wise, in my opinion. But most grad students don't bother with this stuff, they usually let their advisers deal with actually talking to people outside of their departments. Bump that. I'm going to go get what I want and I would suggest you do the same. With the internet you can (or attempt to) contact anyone you want.
  5. Feb 13, 2012 #4


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    Gold Member

    Sounds like you will be more or less tied to the location of your husband's academic position. If that is true, then look at the industries in that area, and inquire what their needs might be. They may not have any needs that relate to your specific research background, but the whole purpose of the PhD is to teach you how to approach any new topic and get into it. So you should be able to research areas other than what you have done your doctoral work in.

    As to the matter of publications, that is somewhat hard to say. Some industries that are fairly research driven will take note of publications will be put off by lack of them. Others, that are much more results oriented, could care less about publications. Look at your market, and go ahead and make an early approach to those you judge to be less research driven.
  6. Feb 13, 2012 #5


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    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Search the university website for courses that use LabView and C++, and then talk to the instructors. Preferably one would find a course related to one's research area or field.

    Regarding " . . . , but I dont know how to get started," prospective employers want folks who solve problems. One needs to learn how to get started, and how to overcome new challenges.
  7. Feb 14, 2012 #6
    Someone suggested to me that people in experimental condensed matter should sell themselves as physical chemistry or materials science majors that know enough EM to get instruments to work, since physical chemistry and materials science share similar core coursework, research goals and many experimental techniques with condensed matter physics.

    That would suggest computer hardware, memory devices, optics and displays, medical instrumentation and pharmaceuticals as good places to look for jobs. Traditional materials science areas like steel, coal and structural plastics, probably not so good.
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