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Academic vs. Industrial Research Jobs

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Presentation on theme: "Academic vs. Industrial Research Jobs"— Presentation transcript:

1 Academic vs. Industrial Research Jobs
Jennifer Rexford

2 My Story Princeton EE undergrad, UMichgan EECS grad school
PhD on hardware support for communication in parallel machines Four summers working at AT&T in the research lab Two before grad school, and two during grad school Grant from AT&T Research during graduate school Job search at end of grad school Interviewed for a mixture of academic and industry jobs Ultimately, decided I preferred an industrial research job Nine years at AT&T Research Same department where I had been a summer intern Enjoyed having real data, doing tech transfer, working with peers Ten months at Princeton, and counting Making the transition to academic life

3 Choosing Industry Over Academia
Strategic aspects Wanted to switch research areas, to data networking Thought industrial experience would enhance research and teaching Personal taste and experience Enjoyed tech transfer and working on real-world problems Wanted to focus exclusively on research work for a few years Knew I really liked AT&T from my summer job experiences Balancing trade-offs But, I also wanted to do research, stay professionally active, mentor students, teach, and everything else academics do Found I could do these in industry, in different proportions and ways … though, with extra effort (and negotiation) to make room for it This balance is arguably harder to strike in industry labs today

4 Choosing Academia Over Industry
Personal growth Ready to take on a new set of professional challenges Felt ready to (try to) juggle a wider range of responsibilities Feeling a little too “comfortable” in the technical work I was doing Shift in research direction Wanted to step back to do more “clean slate” research, building on the operational perspective from AT&T Wanted ultimately to branch into some other research topics, and make connections across disciplines Interaction with students Found I was happiest in the summers, when students were around Wanted more of an opportunity for teaching Balancing trade-offs Striving to keep my research grounded in reality, with extra effort

5 What Does Industry Look For?
Hard question to answer Differs across research groups, and non-research industry jobs Some common elements Subject-matter expertise Knowledge of an important technology or problem area (e.g., a particular protocol) Problem focus rather than technique focus Emphasis on formulating and solving problems, moreso than applying a particular technique (“the nail, not the hammer”) … though having your own special hammer is good, too! Willingness to jump right in Talk to practitioners, write code, collaborate with others, be a “hub node,” share your expertise, …

6 Advice for Deciding What You Want
Getting to know your own personal taste What kinds of problems you like to solve? What part of solving a problem most excites you? Working alone? Managing a group? Working with peers? Focusing on one thing vs. juggling many things? Keeping your options open Selecting an interesting and important research problem Worrying about whether you are working on the right problem Acquiring domain knowledge, skills, and practical perspective Interacting with industry, through collaboration and internships Resist ranking either type of job over the other Ultimately, the specifics of the place matter a lot Some industry job may be better for you than some academic job … and vice versa… no need to form a total ordering in advance

7 Internships at Industrial Labs
Working with new people on new problems Valuable complement to your PhD research Figuring out what you like Gives you a sense of whether you like industrial work … and whether you like that particular company Gives you an “in” for a full-time job later Try before you buy, for you and the company Enhances your thesis research Access to interesting problems, domain knowledge, and real data Opportunity to see your ideas applied in practice Building your resume Work experience and domain knowledge Publications with other researchers

8 Job Questions: Research Area
What government agencies would you target for funding your research? What companies would use your research? Any small companies? In what conferences/journals would you publish your work? How do these conferences/journals differ in the type of papers they publish? Who are your "competitors" at other schools? Is it possible for academic researchers to make significant contributions to your field, or are industrial technology and resources necessary?

9 Job Questions: The Department
What would you consider as the weaknesses in our department? Who here would you consider as potential collaborators? Who would you consider as potential mentors in the department? Which of our courses are you qualified to teach? Which of our courses are you most interested in teaching?

10 Job Questions: Teaching
Given that existing technologies and tools will be obsolete in a few years, what should we teach our students? How would you approach developing a curriculum from scratch? What is your teaching philosophy? What do you think about having undergraduates serve as TAs? If an undergraduate wanted to work with you, what type of project would you give them?

11 Job Questions: Research Plan
What start-up funds/facilities would you need to establish your research? How would you organize/manage your research group? How many graduate students would you like to have in your group? Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years? What would be possible titles for the first three PhD thesis projects in your research group? What new courses would you create on your research area?

12 Job Questions: Philosophical
How did you decide what school to attend for your PhD? How did you choose your thesis topic? What would you consider as your biggest weakness in starting a faculty position? If you start having difficulty juggling the combination of research, teaching, advising, and proposal-writing, what would you do to fix the problem? Do you have entrepreneurial aspirations? Who would you most like to emulate? What are your non-technical interests? What factors will determine which academic/research position is most attractive to you?

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