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Putting Your PhD to Work

Chad Husko, Argonne National Laboratory

The OSA Ambassador program
I’m excited to volunteer in the inaugural year of the OSA Ambassador program. Our goal is to further the professional development skills of our student and Young Professional members.

‘Putting your PhD to work’
To this end, I am focusing on the topic of ‘Putting your PhD to work.’
In brief, the skills learned during an optics degree in are in high demand in many areas outside of optics. My goal is to communicate to optical scientists and engineers about these tremendous opportunities outside academic and industrial career paths and how to seek them out. The following is a summary of the talk.
Ph.D. research is a challenging and rewarding pursuit.           Conducting research and sharing our results is the main focus of these years.
As we approach the final period of our studies (or earlier for some!) we begin to consider our next career steps. It is often surprising to learn about the wide variety of careers available beyond academia and industry.
The good news is that the skills learned in a PhD are in high demand across a variety of disciplines and graduates of optical physics and engineering are very employable. The challenge for newly minted graduates is HOW to translate these skills into language understood by the general public.
My goal is to illuminate these skills and to encourage us to examine our own research strengths. Some areas to consider include: problem solving, leadership, teaching, mentoring, communication, and, of course, our technical skills (experiments, theory, and modeling).
Through this lens, we discussed several example fields our colleagues have entered and excelled in ranging from astronauts to politics to entrepreneurs.
It was a real treat to have a broad audience that included PhDs, postdocs, undergraduates, and professors. It’s always fun to have off the cuff commentary and professors are certainly not shy!
Some questions posed to audience were:
What are your colleagues doing? Have you considered what first steps you’d like to pursue after your Ph.D.?
Do you have a one-page summary of your research (and other) professional experiences?
Visit to ICFO
In this first stop on the Ambassador speaker tour is the ‘Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO)’ in Barcelona. OSA chapter president Jordi Morales acted as host and taught me about his research using optical methods to probe biological processes such as blood flow. Another scientific highlight was seeing data from Jens Biegert’s attosecond team showing bond breaking (bond imaging) and x-ray spectroscopy of molecules.
After lunch, the OSA chapter board and I met to discuss current and future local OSA events they are planning, especially in light of the OSA Centennial. I was impressed by the number of pilot programs incubated in the OSA chapter that have been adopted as ICFO main stream events. Keep up the good work team!
I’m looking to visiting with more OSA members at the upcoming IONS conference at Universit√© Laval in Quebec City (May 20th-22nd). If you have questions or specific sub-topics you’d like to discuss, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Image for keeping the session alive