|Postdoctoral Research Scientist|
|Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory|
|Science and research|
|Large business (250+ employees)|
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A day in the life of a Postdoctoral Research Scientist in the United States
Working on the development of fusion energy - a potential new energy resource.
Briefly describe the organisation you work for
I work for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who have various research missions but the one I am involved with is the development of fusion energy - a potential new energy resource. Alongside this work there are many other experiments investigating physics relevant to astrophysics as well that we conduct.
What do you do?
I anaylse data from some of the diagnostics at the National Ignition Facility (NIF). As well as this I am working on the fusion campaign, trying out different paths to reach a working fusion energy platform. I conduct some of my own research still performing and collecting results from experiments investigating plasmas relevant to astrophysical examples.
Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?
I started really enjoying research during my undergraduate when I worked during my summers in the research labs. I realised that my love for solving puzzles was ideal for figuring out the mysteries you get in data when performing experiments! Each step of my career I have always considered options beyond research but the research always draws me back with the opportunities and interest I have there.
Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?
When I graduated from undergraduate I thought I would never do a PhD and the same when I started my PhD I thought I would be doing something different afterwards. Now I have just stopped planning so much and just do what I enjoy.
Describe your most memorable day at work
I don't have one memorable day at work so much but I love it when I get to spend some time in the lab figuring out and building experiments. An ideal afternoon is then one I where I sit and analyse some data or read papers to try to understand my results and come to a conclusion. An optimum day is also one finished in the pub with colleagues as having a good group dynamic within a work environment is key to enjoying what you do!
Are there any challenges associated with your job?
In this job there are always challenges. There are so many questions and always something you won't know and that can be intimidating sometimes. You have to remember it is OK to keep asking questions, no matter how senior you are or how much you think you should actually know. It is not a weakness.
What’s your work environment and culture like?
The work environment is busy with lots of very smart people working on so many interesting projects. It can be infectious sometimes too with the enthusiasm people have when they are working on a new breakthrough or an interesting piece of work.
What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?
I have always loved doing outdoor sports whilst at university, whether climbing, running, sailing, ultimate frisbee, walking, to name a few. The skills gave me the standard team working, communication and social skills that you need in general work environments. They also taught me to try new things and challenge myself. Also it is always good to take time out to do something you enjoy that isn't work as then you will look forward to your work rather than dreading yet another day of work with no break.
What would you like to do next with your career?
I don't want to plan too much but I am loving the research I am involved in and if I could make it to have my own research group or team where I can steer the direction of the work more that would be amazing.
What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?
Top tips are not to worry too much about finding the perfect job straight away. Things take time and you have long careers ahead of you which you are most likely not going to spend in the same job. Challenge yourself and try something new that appeals to you. Talk to people too and find out what they think of their work and most importantly before taking a job consider the team you will be working with- they will make all the difference in whether you enjoy what you do or not.
What topics from students are you happy to answer questions on?
I am happy to help answer any questions to do with progressing in a research/academic career or how it works being a woman in a very male dominated environment. I am also happy to answer more general questions too.
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