I'm starting my second year as a graduate student in physics at the University of California, Irvine. It's been sort of a long journey getting here, and along the way I've made several academic/career decisions about what I wanted to do, only to find out that the day-to-day work of that job was quite different than I though it would be. I started out college in aerospace engineering. I thought that the job of an aerospace engineer would be to work hands-on in a lab, conceiving and building new and innovative designs for rockets and airplanes, and to do some theoretical work and mathematics. I was wrong. It appears that most aerospace engineers work in front of a computer rather than in a lab, and because airplane and rocket design has changed very little in the last half-century, most of their work is in making small improvements in existing designs, not radical new innovations. I was lucky enough to land an internship at NASA, but I worked in front of a computer with an Excel spreadsheet, which is not what I'd expected. I changed my major to physics, mostly because I liked the physics classes better than the engineering classes, and I decided to become an astronomer. I wanted to probe the mysteries of the cosmos, and I got a job as an astronomy research assistant. But to my dismay, astronomy research is about 7% astronomy and 93% computer programming. I don't think that my professor (who had about 150 astronomy publications) even owned a telescope, and all everyone in the department ever did was computer programming. So now I'm in a graduate program in physics with an emphasis in chemical and materials physics, which I hoped would give me a chance to do hands-on lab work. But I don't have a particular interest in condensed matter physics or materials science, and I still feel like I want to work in space exploration in some way, but I also want to do hands-on work in the lab. But maybe a job that combines designing robotic space exploration missions with hands-on lab work doesn't exist. I'm kind of confused about it all. I feel like I keep running into a "bait-and-switch" situation, where careers in science and engineering are marketed as innovative hands-on design or observation, when in fact they're mostly computer programming and computer simulations. I've decided that ideally I'd like to work at a place like JPL, working on designing the robotic space exploration missions. But if my experience holds true, I'd probably be spending most of my time in front of a computer, and very little time in the lab building stuff. Are my expectations wrong? Did I believe things I shouldn't have believed? Is my experience unique? Why do careers continue to not be what I thought they would be? I would appreciate your advice and input.