Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Who am I anyway?

If I were a normal, sane person I would have started with this. Anywho, it's been a while, and it's somewhat likely that whoever's managed to find this blog (that I haven't told anyone about, for some reason) doesn't actually know what I do any more. I'm assuming anyone still on the RSS remembers vaguely who I am.

Surprisingly, instead of a Stanford student I'm an alumnus. I graduated in 2009 with a degree in Physics. I halfheartedly applied to grad schools, thinking that that's what Physics students DO, but I didn't really want to go. (At some point Bob Laughlin asked me if I intended to go to grad school, and told me that I clearly didn't want to. It was weird, I didn't realize that yet, and he didn't really seem like he'd be that perceptive. I guess after some number of years doing this a person will pick up the types that won't do well...)

Well I didn't get in anywhere, probably because I spent about 0 effort on essays, studying for GREs, or any of it. I wasn't actually all that disappointed, because thinking about doing grad school, about being poor forever, and about having to leave the bay area made me realize it was stupid.

The thing was, this was April 2009. Employment prospects, even in the bay area, were not that great. I signed up to counsel for a summer camp I had done before, figuring it would give me time to find a job (plus it was lots of fun). I spent a lot of time scouring job sites, but the only positions for physicists were as quants, an area which had, shall we say, contracted somewhat.

The funny thing was, the answer was in front of me the whole time. I had been working with a new alpha counting instrument, the UltraLo-1800, made by a company called XIA. It was a new product for them, we were beta testers, and so they'd need more hands for testing/production. The fit was basically perfect, so they hired me. I started a few weeks after the camp ended.

So since then I've worked at XIA. My official title is "Junior Staff Scientist" (although I'm sanguine that will be changing somewhat soon). I call myself a nuclear physicist to be somewhat humorous, radioactive decay instrumentation is nuclear physics, but not really what people expect by that. We're close to actually producing the counters for general sale, going on 3 years later (siiiiigh). I also do lots of other things, like mechanical design (somehow I walked in as the most experienced mechanical engineer there, what with the 2 semesters of CAD I took in high school). I've gotten much more proficient at scripting, mostly in Ruby. I'm still terrible, but a lot less terrible than before. Also various other things, you learn a lot about general "dealing with shit" when you have a full-time job as a scientist/engineer.

I can go into the actual physics of the UltraLo if anyone cares, maybe I'll do that at some point.


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