Taking a Year Off--where should I work?

theoretical_phys
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Taking a Year Off--where should I work?

Postby theoretical_phys » Sun May 03, 2009 9:44 am

So, I have been on this forum since I was a sophomore in college. I always thought that I would be ready for graduate school as soon as I graduated, but things typically don't turn out as planned. I'm currently a senior (graduating in under a week), and I decided to take off one year in order to better prepare my graduate school applications, get a little more research experience, study for the GREs, etc.

Now comes the question: What in the hell should I do?!

I was offered two research jobs. However, I have a very big dilemma (of course!). The first job is safe. It is at a large state school, and I would be working as a research associate in physical chemistry. It is a guaranteed 10-12 month internship. To me, this job sounds like it would give me very good experience and be beneficial even though I am not interested in pursuing graduate studies in physical chemistry. I didn't hear responses back from any other facilities, so I accepted this job around three weeks ago (it isn't officially in writing, but I told the department that I would work for them).

BUT. Last Thursday, I received a random and unexpected email from a second job. This second job....is kind of my dream job. I want to go to graduate school in astrophysics or study some form of experimental cosmology. I was offered an internship at Fermilab in an Experimental Astrophysics group. The catch is that the group can only guarantee funding for 10 weeks in the Summer. I was told that I have over a 50% chance of obtaining funding after the summer, but it is still a little uncertain. Once I I begin working at Fermilab and the group becomes more acquainted with me (and my work), I was told that the members could push for the extended funding with better luck.

So...I guess I now have to choose between a "safe" job, or a riskier (but awesome!) job. There is also a possibility that I could push back my internship at the large state school for the 10 weeks that I am at Fermilab. In this case, I would be able to still work in the astrophysics group for 10 weeks, but also have a stable job in the coming year. However, if Fermilab was able to extend my funding, then I would be royally kicking myself for not taking the chance.

Any ideas what I should do?

excel
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Re: Taking a Year Off--where should I work?

Postby excel » Sun May 03, 2009 10:57 am

I suggest that you accept the Fermilab job. Golden opportunities like these dont come by often, and we must not let such opportunities pass.

I think you can tell the state school that you would like to accept a summer appointment at a national lab-- an opportunity that you simply cannot pass. They can decide whether they would hire someone else or postpone your internship to after summer or whatever.

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grae313
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Re: Taking a Year Off--where should I work?

Postby grae313 » Sun May 03, 2009 11:33 am

I agree with excel, I think you should definitely go to Fermilab, and bust your ass to try and impress them so you can get extended funding. This could just be their way of making sure they don't commit too much funding to a dud, so they can try you out first. If they want you there, most likely funding can happen. But if I'm wrong and even if you don't have funding after the summer, you'll have 10 weeks at Fermilab on your resume and you can probably find something interesting to do for the rest of the time.

I think the state school will understand if you tell them the situation.

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noojens
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Re: Taking a Year Off--where should I work?

Postby noojens » Sun May 03, 2009 7:12 pm

I agree with the Fermilab recommendation -- just don't piss off the state school group. The physics community is small, and if said state school is the institution you went for undergrad, researchers there will probably have connections to the folks who'll be writing your grad school recommendations.

I suggest being completely honest with your potential employer at the state school group. They'll understand that the Fermilab opportunity is too good for an aspiring physicist to pass up (especially since it's more relevant to your research interests). I'd be surprised if they don't let you push back your start date, or if they'd be particularly upset if you opt for the Fermilab extension rather than working in their group.

Good luck :)

astrofan
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Re: Taking a Year Off--where should I work?

Postby astrofan » Mon May 04, 2009 9:54 am

theoretical_phys wrote:BUT. Last Thursday, I received a random and unexpected email from a second job. This second job....is kind of my dream job. I want to go to graduate school in astrophysics or study some form of experimental cosmology. I was offered an internship at Fermilab in an Experimental Astrophysics group.


I assume you mean the Experimental Astrophysics Group headed by Dr. Steve Kent? Sounds like a great opportunity; I actually know both post docs in the group (one I met at AAS in 2008 and the other I met while he was in grad school). They both seemed to really enjoy both Fermilab and the group. Do you know what you will be working on? I assume it would be SDSS-II or DES.

One thing to keep in mind though; generally they won't hire an undergrad to do work that a grad student could do for a year. When I was looking for work last year, I saw openings at STSCI (they run Hubble) and CXC (they run Chandra), but they were not really research positions. They needed help with their processing pipe lines and helping other astronomers use the products. They were great jobs with good pay, but offer no chance of publications in astronomy (nor any real science analysis of the observations). activegalaxybuff would be able to give you a better idea of this as he works at STSCI.

I don't know what you will be doing at Femi, but you might want to ask them and your chances of getting a publication out.

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twistor
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Re: Taking a Year Off--where should I work?

Postby twistor » Mon May 04, 2009 12:10 pm

Are you *** stupid?

Take the Fermilab job, even if it's only for 10 weeks.

theoretical_phys
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Re: Taking a Year Off--where should I work?

Postby theoretical_phys » Mon May 04, 2009 1:55 pm

Thank you for the advice so far! I have pretty much decided to go to Fermilab. However, I'm still unsure if I should just go to Fermilab for 10 weeks and push back my internship at Louisiana State University OR turn down the LSU internship all together and take my chances at Fermilab. I have another day or so to decide.


Thanks, again.

acmilan
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Re: Taking a Year Off--where should I work?

Postby acmilan » Mon May 04, 2009 7:31 pm

pretty much what's been said so far:

1) get in touch with FL and ask them what you'd be doing - do they need a research assistant who'd be doing actual research or a water boy :mrgreen:

2) talk to the state school program, be honest with them, don't play mind games and try to be too smart with them 'cause it will probably come to bite you in the behind later on.
Just tell them how things are and ask if there is any chance to push back with 10 weeks or not and if, should Fermi lab extend your stay with them, you could stay at FL ... who knows, the state school might not be in such dire straits for an RA and maybe in a position to wait 10 weeks to see how your situation develops and only then hire someone else in case you stay at FermiLab.
Unlikely, but won't hurt to ask

Of course, you should tell the state school that FL is offering you research in the area you intend to pursue in grad school, so they would probably understand you position on this one ... and they know well that an RA at Fermilab is a dream for any aspiring grad student.

3) As gray mentioned, there is a good chance that Fermilab is offering you just 10 weeks as a try-out period, so bust your but, bring bar endeavors to a minimum and do your best to impress them - you do that and I bet they will "miraculously" come up with extra funds to extend their stay with them.

4) even if FL end up NOT keeping you after the 10 weeks are over, you can always find something else - even then, however, you'd have a stint at Fermi on your grad school application, which in all likely hood would beat any state-school RA especially one that is not in your intended area of research.

In short, whatever happens after those 10 weeks, going with FermiLab would be worth it - it is that good of an opportunity and you will most likely hate yourself if you were not to take it ... at the same time, there are lots and lots of state schools out there, not exactly the chance of a lifetime :wink:

First things first, though - ask the FL group what exactly they need you for.

Good luck and congrats - these are sweet issues that you are having :mrgreen:

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twistor
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Re: Taking a Year Off--where should I work?

Postby twistor » Mon May 04, 2009 10:06 pm

grae313:

I've been meaning to ask you:

Is your handle related at all to I-313?

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twistor
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Re: Taking a Year Off--where should I work?

Postby twistor » Mon May 04, 2009 11:47 pm

Nevermind, I was thinking of I-330.

theoretical_phys
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Re: Taking a Year Off--where should I work?

Postby theoretical_phys » Sat May 23, 2009 11:54 am

Thank you to everyone who replied!

I have an update. I decided to go to Fermilab this summer. Thankfully, the professor at the large state school was very understanding, and he will hold the job until Fermilab makes a decision on the extended funding. So, I will now have a job no matter what this coming year in research.

Thank you, again, to everyone who replied. These responses were very helpful.

theoretical_phys
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Re: Taking a Year Off--where should I work?

Postby theoretical_phys » Thu Jul 30, 2009 5:15 pm

Okay, this is the last update.

I wanted to thank everyone (again) for telling me to go to Fermilab. This summer has been a great experience, and they did decide to extend my funding for the next year.

Thank you. :)

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noojens
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Re: Taking a Year Off--where should I work?

Postby noojens » Sat Aug 01, 2009 12:47 am

congrats

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grae313
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Re: Taking a Year Off--where should I work?

Postby grae313 » Sat Aug 01, 2009 4:09 pm

theoretical_phys wrote:Okay, this is the last update.

I wanted to thank everyone (again) for telling me to go to Fermilab. This summer has been a great experience, and they did decide to extend my funding for the next year.

Thank you. :)


Awesome!




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