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Career Advice

  1. Apr 18, 2006 #1
    I have a question concerning a career move. I have a chance to switch from the nuclear industry to the aerospace industry. I am just wondering if this is smart or not. Based on the current events taking place in the world and the concern and threat of individuals acquiring and transporting nuclear materials illegally is it smart for me to change my profession. I have about five years experience performing nuclear measurements and NDA. I also hold a B.S. in physics, fully DOE and NRC cleared, and have about seven years experience in the nuclear industry. I cut my teeth on Pu-239 measurement and currently manage a HEU holdup program in a category one fuel manufacturing facility. I suspect with so many different types of detection equipment being developed and the need for experienced and qualified personnel to run them not to mention people that can train others, serve as a nuclear material inspectors, instrumentation developers, detector scientist, etc. It seems like there is going be a large need for anybody with experience measuring and quantifying nuclear materials every where. I suspect that most of the cold war people have retired and gone on and there are only a handful of people in the country that know how to measure, and quantify fissile grade materials. I am thinking I can name my ticket in a few years. Should I stick around or change career paths? Any thoughts?
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 18, 2006 #2


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    It looks like you've answered your own question, i.e. stick to the nuclear field.
  4. Apr 18, 2006 #3


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    One might check opportunities at various National Labs, particularly those affiliated with NNSA.

    The aerospace industry is somewhat volatile jobwise. Alot depeneds on the budgets and priorities of NASA and DOD, particularly AF and Navy with respect of aircraft and missiles.
  5. Oct 12, 2007 #4


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    Right now may not be the best time for the NNSA labs; Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia.

    Both LANL and LLNL have recently changed management at the behest of Congress. The
    University of California has been replaced by LLCs with the University of California and Bechtel as
    the principal members. However, the management companies LANS - Los Alamos National Securiy,
    and LLNS - Lawrence Livermore National Security are commercial companies, and are now subject to
    a bunch of taxes that UC as a public institution was not; especially LANS being subject to
    New Mexico's "gross receipts tax". The cost of running these labs has gone up - but Congress has not
    covered those costs with additional revenue. The management at both labs are being required to plan
    for economic downturns under Section 3161 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 1993 as
    invoked by NNSA:


    Dr. Gregory Greenman
  6. Oct 12, 2007 #5
    I heard the same from the national labs that were in attendance at the career fair my university hosted. It's a shame.
  7. Oct 12, 2007 #6


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    Unfortunately, the current political climate is so acerbic; anything the current Administration asks
    for in terms of budget for the labs is rejected by the Congress. Congress seems to want to wait
    until a new President, more to their liking, takes office before funding these programs.

    However, this is EXTREMELY short-sighted of the Congress. By the time they decide
    what programs they want to fund after a new President takes office; many of the scientists
    will have moved on to other jobs out of necessity. People can't be expected to put their lives
    and their family's finances on hold while the Congress sorts out a partisan squabble.

    When all these scientists are settled in new jobs, and the Congress decides it wants to fund
    these programs and says "Come on back to the Labs!"; does anyone think that those once
    "burned" by this partisan squabble will put their careers on the line again?

    It took a half-century to build the great research institutions that are the USA's National Labs.

    It's going to take Congress just a couple years to destroy it.

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
  8. Oct 14, 2007 #7

    since we are on the subject, i am curious:

    doctoral grad students (at least at my school) have almost no information on what it is like to work at a national lab, since no one comes back. am i to interpret this as good or not? is it more like working in industry then?

    more specifically, i have heard two things:

    (1) postdocs at a NL pay very well and lead to permanent positions at that NL
    (2) postdocs at a NL will lead to a good job there, but one that is always hindered in terms of "vertical" progress. however, if one does a good academic postdoc (i.e. top 20 school) then one has the possibility of joining a NL as "the boss", having broken the glass ceiling. (the analogy is made to the issue of having/not-having an MBA in business).

    i am curious about this because a NL would seem to have the following benefits:

    (a) great pay and benefits
    (b) virtually guaranteed funding for projects
    (c) no teaching responsibilities, only research

    all of which i like.

    i would be most grateful if you could confirm or deny any of the above, as a currently doctoral grad student looking for "life after graduation" rapidly approaching.


  9. Oct 14, 2007 #8


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    Unfortunately, I don't have any information on what it is like for post docs.

    Although we do have post docs in many of the programs here; we don't have many in the
    program I work in. [If a new post doc didn't already have a clearance, their term of post doc
    would be mostly over by the time they got one.]

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2007
  10. Oct 14, 2007 #9
    i guess i can understand that.

    of the people that you work with though (staff scientists, not postdocs), do you at least know if any of them had previously done a postdoc at a NL?

  11. Oct 14, 2007 #10


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    Yes - I have a co-worker that did a post doc here; but he had a clearance; and he did his post doc
    about 22 years ago - so I don't think the experience is relevant to today's climate.

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
  12. Oct 14, 2007 #11
    i see, thanks for the input.

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