Career Information for Current Students
Our partners at Physics Today have provided the following articles.
Curious as to where your physics degree can lead you professionally? Learn first-hand about various career paths taken by physics students and other employment-related experiences, including the importance of summer research/internships.
Every college student has heard the stories of friends, family, and neighbors struggling to land that first job right after graduation, and of that most feared phrase in every job ad: Experience required. After all, it’s impossible to get real work experience while you are an undergrad, right?
My summer internship with the Society of Physics Students was a wonderful experience. As a Mather Public Policy Intern, I not only learned how science policy is conducted at the national level but also furthered my career interests.
Supporting Science: From science research to science journalism: How an internship sparked my career transition
Sometimes the most powerful realizations are the slowest to materialize. It took me years—and writing this essay—to realize what I really learned at my SPS internship in the summer of 2002. I had just graduated from Mount Holyoke College, and it was my third time with a summer gig. I would spend the summer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, researching if there was enough dust near the Sun to damage a spacecraft.
When I was a rising senior at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN, I ran a mentoring program and coached a MATHCOUNTS team at a local elementary school. My experiences at the school sparked my curiosity about how federal and state educational policies that directly impact curricula are developed. So I applied for an SPS internship in 2002 as a means of satisfying my curiosity.
In the end, I left with more questions than answers…and a strong desire to teach.
Looking up, I saw a colorful double helix hanging still, several stories tall, illuminated by filtered sunlight from the 12th-floor skylight. My first impression was of open space. I sat on a bench next to imitation palm trees, waiting for a Friday afternoon meeting at the end of my SPS summer internship. I was surprised to find such stillness in the building that is the heart of basic science research in the United States, the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, VA.
Intern Alpha: How the SPS internship program was born (and what I learned about communication along the way)
One afternoon years ago, when I was an undergraduate working away in the physics lab, my professor Gary White called me in to his office for a chat. We had been developing educational outreach projects at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, LA, using common household items to create optics demonstrations for inner-city elementary school children. White had taken a new job at the American Institute of Physics (AIP) just outside of Washington, DC.
In 2005 I was an SPS summer intern at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, MD. Working with Ganesh Ramachandran, I used an atomic force microscope to make some measurements of molecules that self-assemble on gold. The experience was often challenging. It took some time to learn how to use the $150,000 machine without breaking its fine tip. On the nonwork side, the fire alarm kept going off in the building where I lived for the summer.