How I went from jobless materials scientist to world-changing data scientist

Four years of work for a job that didn’t exist

The beginning of my college career began with Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg saying, “We need more engineers!” I thought I could do any engineering field and be handed a job immediately upon graduation with no experience.

After graduating and filling ~20 applications, I thought maybe the job market wasn’t very good and decided to do graduate school since I had excellent grades.

Graduate school was not the job I wanted

During graduate school, I wrote essays to gain fellowships. I wrote about how I would develop new energy materials with my Ph.D. skills. In reality, every day my research progressed I felt more that it wouldn’t help the world. Looking ahead to the job market I also felt down, estimating that the Ph.D. materials scientist pay was nothing close to software job pay or any other 8 year degree doctor pay unless I would become a process engineer in the semiconductor industry.

So I tried to re-skill to become a data scientist while doing the materials science degree. I studied computer programming in Python and MATLAB, computer vision and machine learning. I applied what I could to make the data processing in my research more efficient and systematic.

Sprint to the job

As I approached graduation, I continually recalled a story my friend with an internship told me 3 years earlier at the beginning of graduate school while we were trading stories about job applications: “The response rate for these engineering jobs is around 1 or 2%. You need to apply for more.”

For three months before graduation, I applied to around 120 jobs all over the United States and some overseas. I received 6 call-backs and 3 on-site interviews.

The job — closer to data science and better than my dreams

Two of the jobs were semiconductor process engineering, which I heard was very difficult because it involved many sleepless nights on-call keeping machines running. One was a research scientist for algorithms, which sounded close to data science and would have better work life balance. I thought, “This is good. I’m not quite a data scientist or a materials scientist, but I’m close and I’m doing interesting work with low stress.”

After 3 years of working with some of the best scientists in the world and seeing some of the most advanced manufacturing operations around the world, I wanted to try something different to learn more.

The job – closer to data science and better than my dreams

Then an unexpected opportunity came. A data scientist position for SiC wafer processing. The SiC wafer processing is an extremely difficult task at the most fundamental levels of materials engineering. The SiC wafers will enable electric cars to charge almost as quickly as combustion cars fill and even help make solar power more efficient. Now, two of my deepest dreams along my career path have converged. I get to use both my data science skills, and my materials science knowledge to create foundational energy materials that will improve the world.

The new job – a convergence of the dreams I had along the way, even better than before

The path isn’t always what you expect but when you dream, keep an open mind and search for the opportunities, your dreams will come true.

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