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Charlie: as fellow AMO experimental physicist who got a PhD less than a year ahead of you but went straight industry, I recommend you look into how to translate your experience into what someone in industry may be looking for. Brain dump to follow. Take or leave what you'd like.

One of the challenges of an experimental physicist PhD is that you're a very good hack at nearly every engineering field, but not a product builder (largely because the apparatus you're building is n=1). You're not an EE but familiar with what they do and can "hack" their day job. You're not a ME but can hack solidworks to make a part and putz in the machine shop. You're not a programmer but can hack that too. You'd be great in any research environment, but those are hard to find. R&D departments usually skew heavily D, and not so much R.

I've found that systems engineering (the design and test type, not the network admin type) is a solid field for experimental physicists. But most systems engineers reside at bomb building companies. I've been fortunate to find a good fit at a life sciences company that builds products for research labs. Maybe you can too?

To the wider HN crowd, any other industry niches that you know of that fit the experimental physicist skill-set? Usually something that mixes both hardware and software is best. The typically advice I hear is become a programmer... but code without hardware is boring :) ducks

P.S. Charlie, the research work you've done is _really_ cool stuff.


It's always a tricky messaging problem, as the people who need a physicist have no idea that they exist. They think they need an engineer, or an analyst, or a problem-solver, but the idea that experimental physicists might fit the bill rarely comes up without a human-networking connection.

The other challenge is at my end, as I'm trying to remain a scientist at heart -- very few applications are limited by the fundamentals of nature. The trick is finding someone working on a problem that advances, in an absolute sense, human progress. Have a real shot at quantum computing? I'm in. Have a demonstrable shot at eradicating polio, improving desalinization, or helping people authenticate news-sources online? Sounds good, let's do it.

Note from the wider HN crowd: physicists exchanging job search tips in this thread? very cool.

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