Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Finding Where You Fit

As a compulsive long-term planner, I've been considering lately where I'd like to ultimately end up (though graduation is still a way off...). One thing I've determined is that I don't want to end up at another R1 university a la GiantU. The resources are fantastic, but there's no sense of "department". We're a bunch of separate groups, and after your course work is done, you retreat to your research cave, until you emerge with a thesis. While a decent fraction of the grad students are in two main offices, some groups are hidden in their own little corners, such as mine. It can be stretch to interact with other students simply because I never run into them (especially since I'm something of a morning person).

SnowTech was a rather smaller school, and I honestly wouldn't mind ending up there permanently, given a good snow blower. I liked knowing all of my professors, even the ones I never took a class with. I don't want to be a research rock star. I'd rather be a good teacher and a decent researcher than develop the next carbon nanotube. My undergraduate professors also generally seemed a bit calmer and frankly, happier, than most of the MSE faculty at GiantU. Maybe it's that their teaching time was more valued. Maybe being in the middle of nowhere attracts a mellower kind of person in the first place.

At this point, there are three paths I can see myself taking: the national lab system, small engineering school professor, or industry. This of course assumes openings at any of these, but such is the way of job searching. I'm lucky that my two-body problem involves a non-academic, which in some ways makes him easier to move around. I've been lucky enough to have a summer internships both in the national lab system and industry, so I'm not simply hoping I'd like them better. There's something oddly reassuring about knowing you have to leave work by 6 pm, or the gaurd

For most of my life, I've known at least roughly where I was going to be in 4 years. I started looking at graduate schools in high school. For the first time, I'm honestly unsure. It's a strange sensation.

1 comment:

  1. I once told an octogenarian in my field that I couldn't imagine ending up at a university after graduating where I didn't have access to good public transportation. He happened to be a major player in my field who worked at a small college town in the south. He smiled at me, as appropriate for his age and told me that I may change my mind. I got 1 offer for a postdoc. Public transportation was not a deal breaker for accepting it. The world after graduation is immensely unpredictable.