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Thread: How do I become a research assistant at 27 years old and an M.Sc. in Science?

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    Default How do I become a research assistant at 27 years old and an M.Sc. in Science?

    I have two problems: I want to become a physicist. By that I mean, I want to be able to:

    1. Look at raw data/reality
    2. Notice categories and types of phenomenon
    3. Create metrics for them
    4. Create models that reproduce those metrics

    My second problem is that I need to become some kind of research assistant, because if I'm going to pursue my goal, I might as well pay for expenses while I do it. Now I have an M.Sc. in Mathematics, but it seems that every research program wants someone who's been going from olympiad to olympiad from middle school to graduate. That kind of competitiveness is simply unfair.
    Socionics is not behaviorist!

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    Don’t focus on the unfairness of your situation. Life is not fair. Instead, try applying to both schools and businesses which need analysts. In your situation, finding gainful employment in your chosen field is a numbers game.

    It sounds to me like you’d be happier in a university. Most LII’s are. So I’d start applying there. You might not be accepted by Cal Tech or MIT, but if you are decent at your work, some university will offer you a position.

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    Realistcally speaking, there's not much you can do at this point.

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    You have got to beef up your CV somehow. Adam’s advice is tha way.

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    Apply to smaller universities, perhaps abroad. I got a job as a research assistant at 26. Eventually after 2 years I decided I wasn't made for that job, but really - just apply and try to make a great impression during the interview.
    It's not easy but it's definitely doable. You are going to be rejected by some before you get accepted. Many smaller universities have a hard time finding phd candidates becuse they don't pay that well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SocietyOTLittleFlower View Post
    My second problem is that I need to become some kind of research assistant, because if I'm going to pursue my goal, I might as well pay for expenses while I do it. Now I have an M.Sc. in Mathematics, but it seems that every research program wants someone who's been going from olympiad to olympiad from middle school to graduate. That kind of competitiveness is simply unfair.
    Keep applying for jobs, meanwhile work on your resume and presentation skills. What they write in job descriptions isn't always what they are looking for and not always who they are getting. Consider that there are lot more job openings out there than olympiad winners, especially for assistant positions, so don't let those descriptions deter you. Also if you're fine with moving, try looking into jobs abroad. I've seen a number people who landed into their dream jobs and graduate programs when they applied to positions in other countries, so widening your search criteria to include other locations and jobs that are not quite but still related to what you want to accomplish certainly helps.

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    Do not underestimate the competitiveness in physics. There are not that many jobs out there and there will always be someone more desperate yet more qualified than you.
    Landing a research assistantship might not be as hard of a task but you also have to think about your career after that.

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    There's competitiveness in any field. If you open a pizza restaurant, there's already someone out there who is already making amazing pizzas and who is a lot more established in the field, so you'll be trailing behind them. But if you continue on with this kind of attitude towards this whole process:

    Quote Originally Posted by enmity View Post
    Realistcally speaking, there's not much you can do at this point.
    You're going to end up at ground zero.

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    A very stupid analogy. Pizza restaurants have many different niches you can fill. You can open one if there isn't a good one for that location. You wouldn't open another pizza store right next to 5 others but if you open one where the next closest one is far enough away then you can fill that niche even if your pizza making is subpar. Someone has a high-end pizza restaurant? You can make a low-quality but cheap pizza place. Traditional pizza game dominated? Open some sports bar modern pizza hybrid joint.

    What about physics, are there various niches there? A way to make it even if you aren't the absolute best? Not really. Sure certain subfields may have more funding and space for people but as a whole, physics is over-capacity. Even if you break into the field at that age, you will break your back trying to move from postdoc to postdoc until you eventually exit physics altogether. Know what you are getting yourself into.

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    Yes, there are various niches to the work in physics, as there are niches to any field, and even "a way to make it even if you aren't the absolute best".

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    I know you want that to be true silke, but it simply isn't the case. There is a huge difference between idealism and reality. The reality is that you will not become a physicist.
    The only way you have even the slightest of chances is to be an experimental physicist, which I assume from your mathematics degree is not your interest.
    Also easier if you pick a subfield that basically isn't physics but a kind of engineering - e.g. biophysics, medical physics, etc.
    There simply aren't enough academic positions, and if you plan on going to industry afterwards anyways then save yourself the hassle and prepare for industry now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SocietyOTLittleFlower View Post
    I have two problems: I want to become a physicist. By that I mean, I want to be able to:

    1. Look at raw data/reality
    2. Notice categories and types of phenomenon
    3. Create metrics for them
    4. Create models that reproduce those metrics
    You can do this without being a physicist, a path that I highly discourage. This is actually closer to statistics or applied math more than physics. Physics is very specific.

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    Quote Originally Posted by enmity View Post
    I know you want that to be true silke, but it simply isn't the case. There is a huge difference between idealism and reality. The reality is that you will not become a physicist.
    I'm not really sure why you're discouraging anyone from wanting to become physicists. It's not even up to idealism vs realism. Some people are fully geared toward that, and it's rather awful how you're discouraging them from accomplishing something that is meaningful in their lives.

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    Quote Originally Posted by silke View Post
    I'm not really sure why you're discouraging anyone from wanting to become physicists. It's not even up to idealism vs realism. Some people are fully geared toward that, and it's rather awful how you're discouraging them from accomplishing something that is meaningful in their lives.
    Yes, some people are geared towards that. The same with thousands of other people competing for the same handful of positions. THERE ARE NO PHYSICS JOBS.
    Besides, it doesn't even seem like physics is actually what he wants from what he wrote. Why would he do a mathematics master's? I'm here to suggest smart decisions not just crush someone's spirits.

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    Quote Originally Posted by enmity View Post
    ... The same with thousands of other people competing for the same handful of positions. THERE ARE NO PHYSICS JOBS.
    That's not really the case.

    Quote Originally Posted by enmity View Post
    besides, it doesn't even seem like physics is actually what he wants from what he wrote. Why would he do a mathematics master's? I'm here to suggest smart decisions not just crush someone's spirits.
    Had a similar impression. That career might not be what he's is seeking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SocietyOTLittleFlower View Post
    .......going from olympiad to olympiad from middle school to graduate. That kind of competitiveness is simply unfair.
    Academic institutions seem to like to see a certain amount of nerdy obsessiveness, which you may not have demonstrated; it's hard to get around this preconception. Perhaps you can get attached to (a job with) a government agency or private company that'll allow you to work toward your goal. It may take you longer but you can get there. The difficulty with remaining in the academic tent is that usually there are few (no?) windows onto the real world and so many more opportunities.......

    a.k.a. I/O

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    I worked with a guy on a night shift in a manufacturing plant that had a physics and mathematics degree. He couldn't find a job and I felt kind of bad for him because he had loans to pay off, but he wasn't making that much. I think the education system needs some kind of overhaul. These universities will just pump students out, regardless if there are jobs waiting or not. And the price keeps going up. It kind of seems like a bubble.
    previously Megadoodoo

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    Quote Originally Posted by silke View Post
    That's not really the case.
    It absolutely is the case, you simply do not grasp how difficult the academic job market is for math and physics. Stop speaking as if you do.

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    maybe you want to focus on what we could call metaresearch (basically research on research). What kind of institutions have you been contacting? Finding those who are more on the critical side in their mission statement might help.

    I came across this guy today. Pretty awesome.
    Last edited by Kalinoche the Child; 03-14-2020 at 12:06 PM.
    honest labor needs no master

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalinoche the Child View Post
    Finding those who are more on the critical side in their mission statement might help.
    I don't know what you mean by this sentence. Could you please elaborate?
    Socionics is not behaviorist!

    "This is the bizarre thing about being a superhero — you've even got to save the bad guys." -- Captain Planet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SocietyOTLittleFlower View Post
    I don't know what you mean by this sentence. Could you please elaborate?
    It relates to the niches that Silke mentioned. Do you want to work for a specific kind of university/institution? Do you check how they conduct/evaluate research and what kind of incentives they use? If these aspects are not relevant to you right now, I don't see a reason for you to spend time thinking about them.

    Could working as an analyst/developer/project manager somehow substantiate your profile towards what you want?
    honest labor needs no master

    Nothing good is a miracle, nothing lovely is a dream.

    Επί πάντων μέμνησο τα έσχατά σου, και ου μη αμαρτήσης

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