“If you have a good science education then the world is your oyster, and you can do almost anything.” – Tanja Beshear, physicist working in industry

‘Turning Science into Things People Need,’ is a project exploring scientists who chose a career in industry instead of the ‘traditional’ academic path.  I’m interviewing 25 of these successful scientists to get their stories and understand:

  • Skills and attributes of a scientist that are useful in industry
  • Roles in a commercial organization that are suited to a scientist
  • Skills and habits that a scientist should develop to be successful in industry

As I work towards completing the book, I will post interview excerpts and other thoughts about careers in the private sector on this site.  Check back often, and thank you for visiting!


Here are five job types that I have found can be an excellent fit for a physicist:

  • System engineer
  • Reliability engineer
  • Project manager
  • Engineering manager
  • Process development engineer

That’s right, they all have either ‘Engineer’ or ‘Manager’ in the title.  The fact is, few jobs in the private sector will have the word ‘physicist’ in the title.

No problem. Just make sure you remember how working in industry is different than working in academia, and you’ll be just fine.


Tell better stories with the same facts

July 30, 2016

Many early career scientists wanting to build a career in industry approach it with some trepidation because they worry that their experience working an a university research lab won’t be seen as relevant to a hiring manager who needs people to design hardware for sale. This is a relevant concern, but need not put an […]

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Good data analysis skills are rare

June 30, 2016

I’ve been very surprised how rare good data analysis skills are in industry, even among those trained in technical disciplines. Scientists are groomed to perform in-depth data analysis well because it is a critical part of figuring out how nature works, and this is the fundamental goal of science. This positions people trained in science […]

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Three types of jobs

May 29, 2016

Broadly speaking, there are three types of jobs: A job where your task is to do what someone else tells you to do.  These jobs are typically paid by the hour.  Many involve physical labor.  For doing this job, you are typically paid $. A job where your task is to figure out the right answer […]

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Learn to determine what matters and what won’t…

May 19, 2016

One very important piece of advice given to me by Ashok Balakrishnan is that in industry you have to learn to figure out quickly what really matters and what doesn’t. As he relayed when I interviewed him for my book, “Turning Science into Things People Need“: “(In industry) there are certain things that are important […]

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Industry is a Great Place for a Scientist

March 27, 2013

I began my graduate school career much like many other physics majors I knew, thinking that I would follow the traditional career path through earning a PhD, a post-doc or two to build my research and publication portfolio, and ultimately securing the coveted position of a tenured professor. It wasn’t until the final year of […]

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How working in industry is different than academia

March 20, 2013

I was speaking with Paula Chambers of Versatile PhD the other day about why we scientists struggle to transition into industry. Our conversation got me thinking more about this issue. I think there are two different aspects to the challenges that scientists face: 1) Selling ourselves and securing a rewarding job 2) Ensuring that we […]

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CPIA Connects Students and Local Companies

April 12, 2012

The Colorado Photonics Industry Association (CPIA) is a not-for-profit member organization of companies, universities, and government labs that do research and/or supply products and services that use photonics technologies. Their primary mission is to promote the substantial photonics industry that exists in the state and to provide resources to help their member companies grow and […]

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Gary Shade, Failure Analysis Engineer

September 12, 2011

Gary Shade is a Senior Staff Failure Analysis Engineer with Insight Analytical Labs in Colorado Springs, CO where he performs failure analysis on PCB assemblies and semiconductor devices. He was the president of the Electronic Device Failure Analysis Society from 2006-2008 and is an expert in the field of Photoemission Microscopy. Gary has a BA […]

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Scott Sternberg, Executive Vice President at Vaisala

March 15, 2011

Scott Sternberg is an Executive Vice President at Vaisala, a global environmental and industrial monitoring device company headquartered in Finland. He is also President of Vaisala Inc., the company’s US subsidiary headquartered in Louisville, CO. Prior to Vaisala, Scott was a Business Development Manager for Roper Industries/Photometrics in Tucson, AZ. He has a BS in […]

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