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PARTICLE ACCELERATOR ENGINEER: Don't Be Afraid To Make A Change

About this video 

Tom is a particle accelerator engineer who didn't get into his field until after college. After graduating with a degree in material sciences, Tom began working at Synchrotron Light Source where his interests were diverted to particle accelerator engineering. He came in through the "back door" in his field by volunteering to work with accelerator physicists and essentially training himself on the job. Tom advises that if you see another path that is more interesting, don't be afraid to make a change.

Degree: Materials Sciences
Job Title: Particle Accelerator Engineer
Employer: Synchrotron Light Source

Job Summary: Mechanical Engineers

Job Description

Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering disciplines. Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical devices, including tools, engines, and machines.

On-the-Job Training

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Quick Facts

Average salary
Average salary
National Statistic Change Location
Confirm
$50,000 - $120,000
Projected job growth
Projected Job Growth
0 to 10 percent
Typical schedule
Typical schedule
Full-time
Typical workplace
Typical workplace
Indoor, Office
Personal qualities
Personal Qualities
Creativity, Mathematical skills, Problem solving skills, Detail oriented, Technical skills, Verbal communication skills, Written communication skills
P3.instances[0].transcript.parse_transcript_data({"transcript":"<p><span m='250'>Hi,</span> <span m='790'>my</span> <span m='900'>name</span> <span m='1050'>is</span> <span m='1130'>Tom.</span> <span m='2070'>I</span> <span m='2400'>work</span> <span m='2680'>at</span> <span m='2990'>a</span> <span m='3070'>particle</span> <span m='3530'>accelerator,</span> <span m='4290'>where</span> <span m='4500'>we</span> <span m='4630'>make</span> <span m='4860'>x-rays</span> <span m='5770'>to</span> <span m='5970'>be</span> <span m='6100'>used</span> <span m='6660'>in</span> <span m='6910'>all</span> <span m='7080'>kinds</span> <span m='7340'>of</span> <span m='7380'>scientific</span> <span m='7920'>research.</span> <span m='10440'>I</span> <span m='10560'>work</span> <span m='10770'>with</span> <span m='10900'>a</span> <span m='10950'>group</span> <span m='11160'>called</span> <span m='11340'>the</span> <span m='11420'>Accelerator</span> <span m='11960'>Physics</span> <span m='12330'>Group.</span> <span m='13220'>And</span> <span m='13510'>we</span> <span m='13640'>are the</span> <span m='13740'>people</span> <span m='14180'>that</span> <span m='14360'>actually</span> <span m='14690'>know</span> <span m='14920'>how</span> <span m='15030'>to</span> <span m='15110'>build</span> <span m='15720'>a</span> <span m='15880'>large</span> <span m='16140'>scale</span> <span m='16440'>accelerator</span> <span m='16950'>like</span> <span m='17170'>this,</span> <span m='17820'>if</span> <span m='18110'>you</span> <span m='18230'>give</span> <span m='18410'>us</span> <span m='18540'>a</span> <span m='18570'>couple hundred</span> <span m='18780'>million</span> <span m='19235'>dollars.</span> </p><p><span m='20430'>We</span> <span m='20640'>have</span> <span m='20740'>about</span> <span m='21420'>2,000</span> <span m='21890'>to</span> <span m='21990'>3,000</span> <span m='22550'>researchers</span> <span m='23350'>come</span> <span m='23530'>through</span> <span m='23790'>every</span> <span m='24080'>year,</span> <span m='24540'>and</span> <span m='24710'>do</span> <span m='24860'>all</span> <span m='25080'>kinds</span> <span m='25310'>of</span> <span m='25360'>material</span> <span m='25790'>science--</span> <span m='26770'>everything</span> <span m='27120'>from</span> <span m='27260'>studying</span> <span m='27660'>proteins</span> <span m='28380'>to</span> <span m='28630'>solar</span> <span m='29030'>cells</span> <span m='29590'>to</span> <span m='30350'>contaminated</span> <span m='30980'>soil,</span> <span m='31440'>anything</span> <span m='31830'>you can</span> <span m='32296'>think</span> <span m='32762'>of.</span> <span m='34160'>My</span> <span m='34360'>day</span> <span m='34560'>to</span> <span m='34650'>day</span> <span m='34850'>job</span> <span m='35370'>involves</span> <span m='35920'>monitoring</span> <span m='36390'>the</span> <span m='36470'>quality</span> <span m='36890'>of</span> <span m='36980'>operations</span> <span m='37650'>of</span> <span m='37720'>the</span> <span m='37840'>accelerator.</span> <span m='39140'>And</span> <span m='39540'>the</span> <span m='39760'>accelerator</span> <span m='40380'>is</span> <span m='40490'>what</span> <span m='40720'>makes</span> <span m='40990'>the</span> <span m='41100'>x-rays</span> <span m='41360'>that</span> <span m='41620'>people</span> <span m='42025'>use to</span> <span m='42430'>do the</span> <span m='42835'>research.</span> <span m='43240'>So</span> <span m='43840'>it's</span> <span m='43920'>very</span> <span m='44120'>important</span> <span m='44470'>that</span> <span m='44700'>run</span> <span m='44960'>stably</span> <span m='45425'>and</span> <span m='45890'>continually</span> <span m='46390'>as much</span> <span m='46860'>as possible.</span> </p><p><span m='48740'>The</span> <span m='49140'>other</span> <span m='49270'>part</span> <span m='49460'>of</span> <span m='49500'>my</span> <span m='49620'>job</span> <span m='49920'>involves</span> <span m='50290'>a</span> <span m='50330'>lot</span> <span m='50500'>of</span> <span m='50690'>computer</span> <span m='50900'>programming.</span> <span m='51470'>So</span> <span m='52080'>I</span> <span m='52520'>write</span> <span m='52830'>programs.</span> <span m='54620'>Some</span> <span m='54810'>people would</span> <span m='55100'>call</span> <span m='55340'>it a</span> <span m='55440'>control</span> <span m='55790'>systems</span> <span m='56130'>engineer.</span> <span m='56550'>We</span> <span m='56710'>read</span> <span m='56920'>in</span> <span m='57370'>hundreds</span> <span m='57720'>of</span> <span m='57820'>sensors</span> <span m='58430'>from</span> <span m='58570'>around</span> <span m='58860'>the</span> <span m='58940'>facility,</span> <span m='59960'>and</span> <span m='60380'>feedback</span> <span m='60960'>on</span> <span m='61140'>various</span> <span m='61550'>magnetic</span> <span m='62010'>systems</span> <span m='62345'>to</span> <span m='62680'>keep</span> <span m='63080'>the</span> <span m='63910'>accelerator</span> <span m='64459'>beam,</span> <span m='64840'>and</span> <span m='64930'>therefore</span> <span m='65220'>the</span> <span m='65360'>x-rays</span> <span m='65870'>working</span> <span m='66460'>as</span> <span m='66630'>well</span> <span m='67020'>as they</span> <span m='68020'>can,</span> <span m='68520'>so that</span> <span m='69020'>the</span> <span m='69150'>researchers</span> <span m='69500'>can</span> <span m='69850'>get</span> <span m='70580'>the</span> <span m='70770'>best</span> <span m='71050'>quality</span> <span m='71470'>data,</span> <span m='71870'>and</span> <span m='71950'>the</span> <span m='72020'>best</span> <span m='72270'>quality</span> <span m='72570'>research</span> <span m='72830'>that they</span> <span m='73090'>can.</span> </p><p><span m='74110'>I</span> <span m='74200'>went</span> <span m='74340'>to</span> <span m='74420'>UC</span> <span m='74790'>Berkeley</span> <span m='75430'>and</span> <span m='75780'>studied</span> <span m='76100'>engineering.</span> <span m='76930'>And</span> <span m='77370'>I</span> <span m='77450'>have</span> <span m='77790'>a</span> <span m='78710'>undergraduate</span> <span m='79280'>degree.</span> <span m='80400'>I</span> <span m='80600'>elected</span> <span m='80910'>not to</span> <span m='81190'>go</span> <span m='81310'>to</span> <span m='81380'>graduate</span> <span m='81870'>school,</span> <span m='82210'>because</span> <span m='82520'>I</span> <span m='82570'>got</span> <span m='82750'>a</span> <span m='82830'>job</span> <span m='83210'>as</span> <span m='83490'>an</span> <span m='83590'>accelerator</span> <span m='84160'>operator</span> <span m='84710'>here</span> <span m='85045'>at</span> <span m='85380'>the</span> <span m='86450'>synchrotron.</span> <span m='87860'>When</span> <span m='88000'>I</span> <span m='88050'>first</span> <span m='88280'>started,</span> <span m='89130'>it</span> <span m='89220'>was</span> <span m='89330'>a</span> <span m='89390'>lot</span> <span m='89620'>of</span> <span m='90680'>sitting,</span> <span m='91110'>watching the</span> <span m='91500'>machine,</span> <span m='91910'>waiting</span> <span m='92160'>for</span> <span m='92280'>something</span> <span m='92600'>to</span> <span m='92640'>go</span> <span m='92810'>wrong.</span> </p><p><span m='94120'>And</span> <span m='94580'>eventually</span> <span m='95660'>I</span> <span m='95780'>started</span> <span m='96200'>getting</span> <span m='96410'>more</span> <span m='96610'>involved</span> <span m='96970'>with</span> <span m='97070'>the</span> <span m='97140'>accelerator</span> <span m='97670'>physicists,</span> <span m='98350'>who</span> <span m='98470'>were</span> <span m='99070'>upgrading,</span> <span m='99720'>tuning</span> <span m='100170'>up,</span> <span m='100360'>and</span> <span m='100830'>making the</span> <span m='101130'>machine</span> <span m='101520'>working</span> <span m='101780'>dependably.</span> <span m='102900'>And</span> <span m='103210'>got</span> <span m='103370'>very</span> <span m='103600'>interested</span> <span m='103980'>in</span> <span m='104030'>what</span> <span m='104180'>they</span> <span m='104300'>were</span> <span m='104420'>doing.</span> <span m='105010'>It</span> <span m='105350'>turns</span> <span m='105600'>out</span> <span m='105830'>making</span> <span m='106160'>particles</span> <span m='106690'>travel</span> <span m='106990'>around</span> <span m='107350'>at the</span> <span m='107490'>speed</span> <span m='107790'>of</span> <span m='107880'>light</span> <span m='108170'>is a</span> <span m='108460'>pretty</span> <span m='108870'>interesting</span> <span m='109690'>academic</span> <span m='109960'>field</span> <span m='110410'>in and</span> <span m='110520'>of</span> <span m='110630'>itself.</span> </p><p><span m='111970'>When</span> <span m='112220'>I</span> <span m='112280'>was</span> <span m='112400'>at</span> <span m='112480'>Berkeley,</span> <span m='112830'>I</span> <span m='112870'>studied</span> <span m='113200'>material</span> <span m='113600'>science.</span> <span m='114330'>So</span> <span m='115000'>I</span> <span m='115360'>thought</span> <span m='115600'>eventually</span> <span m='116040'>I</span> <span m='116080'>would</span> <span m='116250'>probably</span> <span m='116530'>go</span> <span m='116730'>into</span> <span m='116960'>something</span> <span m='117230'>like</span> <span m='117400'>fracture</span> <span m='117750'>mechanics,</span> <span m='118976'>or</span> <span m='119472'>maybe</span> <span m='119970'>integrated</span> <span m='120420'>circuits.</span> <span m='121310'>And</span> <span m='121670'>in</span> <span m='121770'>fact,</span> <span m='122040'>when</span> <span m='122150'>I</span> <span m='122210'>came</span> <span m='122450'>here</span> <span m='122570'>to</span> <span m='122650'>work</span> <span m='122800'>at the</span> <span m='123140'>synchrotron,</span> <span m='123630'>I</span> <span m='123770'>thought</span> <span m='124010'>I</span> <span m='124060'>would</span> <span m='124220'>probably</span> <span m='124710'>end</span> <span m='124880'>up</span> <span m='125000'>working</span> <span m='125290'>on one</span> <span m='125410'>of</span> <span m='125610'>the</span> <span m='125680'>research</span> <span m='126120'>beamlines,</span> <span m='126620'>where</span> <span m='126800'>they</span> <span m='126920'>do</span> <span m='127270'>material</span> <span m='127620'>science.</span> <span m='128280'>But</span> <span m='128690'>like</span> <span m='128900'>I</span> <span m='128960'>said,</span> <span m='129560'>my</span> <span m='129699'>interests</span> <span m='130130'>got</span> <span m='130320'>diverted.</span> <span m='131220'>And I</span> <span m='131660'>ultimately</span> <span m='132760'>ended</span> <span m='133040'>up</span> <span m='133160'>working</span> <span m='133470'>with</span> <span m='133610'>the</span> <span m='133670'>accelerator</span> <span m='133965'>physicists.</span> </p><p><span m='135310'>That</span> <span m='135500'>was</span> <span m='135710'>a</span> <span m='135790'>long</span> <span m='136080'>process.</span> <span m='136820'>I</span> <span m='137850'>volunteered</span> <span m='138370'>to</span> <span m='138430'>do</span> <span m='138570'>shifts</span> <span m='138910'>with</span> <span m='139080'>them,</span> <span m='140220'>spend</span> <span m='140570'>time</span> <span m='140960'>helping</span> <span m='141290'>them</span> <span m='141430'>do</span> <span m='141570'>simple</span> <span m='141910'>tasks,</span> <span m='142480'>and</span> <span m='142850'>eventually</span> <span m='143280'>built</span> <span m='143540'>up</span> <span m='143650'>my</span> <span m='143780'>knowledge</span> <span m='144200'>and</span> <span m='144270'>expertise</span> <span m='144545'>to the</span> <span m='144820'>point</span> <span m='145253'>where I</span> <span m='145686'>could be a</span> <span m='146119'>member of their</span> <span m='146552'>group.</span> <span m='147420'>I</span> <span m='147550'>am</span> <span m='147820'>a</span> <span m='148420'>engineer,</span> <span m='148695'>as</span> <span m='148970'>I</span> <span m='149120'>said.</span> <span m='149950'>And</span> <span m='150330'>I</span> <span m='150410'>work</span> <span m='150710'>with</span> <span m='151050'>about</span> <span m='151980'>11</span> <span m='152580'>other</span> <span m='153500'>physicists</span> <span m='154340'>who</span> <span m='154660'>have</span> <span m='154870'>all</span> <span m='155080'>done</span> <span m='156180'>masters</span> <span m='156620'>degree,</span> <span m='156960'>doctoral</span> <span m='157420'>degree,</span> <span m='157750'>and</span> <span m='157890'>post-doc</span> <span m='158340'>physics</span> <span m='158676'>studies.</span> </p><p><span m='159350'>So</span> <span m='159930'>you</span> <span m='160040'>can</span> <span m='160140'>definitely</span> <span m='160510'>say</span> <span m='160720'>I</span> <span m='160790'>came</span> <span m='161050'>in</span> <span m='161110'>the</span> <span m='161180'>back</span> <span m='161480'>door</span> <span m='162010'>of</span> <span m='162190'>my</span> <span m='162380'>field.</span> <span m='163300'>But</span> <span m='163470'>that's</span> <span m='163730'>actually</span> <span m='164300'>a</span> <span m='164687'>tradition</span> <span m='165461'>in</span> <span m='165850'>my</span> <span m='165960'>field.</span> <span m='166380'>There's a</span> <span m='166430'>lot</span> <span m='166620'>of</span> <span m='166720'>engineers</span> <span m='167570'>that</span> <span m='167980'>got</span> <span m='168390'>interested</span> <span m='168790'>in</span> <span m='168870'>the</span> <span m='168950'>field,</span> <span m='169440'>and trained</span> <span m='169690'>themselves</span> <span m='170170'>on the</span> <span m='170600'>job,</span> <span m='171030'>so to speak.</span> </p><p><span m='171890'>So</span> <span m='172380'>all</span> <span m='172790'>growing</span> <span m='173110'>up,</span> <span m='173510'>I</span> <span m='173910'>was</span> <span m='174070'>always</span> <span m='174360'>interested</span> <span m='174890'>in</span> <span m='174960'>math</span> <span m='175470'>and</span> <span m='176090'>engineering.</span> <span m='176375'>I</span> <span m='176660'>didn't</span> <span m='176880'>know it was</span> <span m='177220'>engineering</span> <span m='177505'>at the</span> <span m='177790'>time,</span> <span m='178270'>but</span> <span m='178735'>engineering-related</span> <span m='179200'>concepts.</span> <span m='182295'>If</span> <span m='182600'>I</span> <span m='182760'>had to</span> <span m='182840'>give</span> <span m='182990'>a</span> <span m='183040'>piece</span> <span m='183280'>of</span> <span m='183330'>advice</span> <span m='183740'>to</span> <span m='183830'>someone</span> <span m='184780'>either</span> <span m='185410'>starting</span> <span m='185720'>to</span> <span m='185780'>study</span> <span m='186070'>something</span> <span m='186370'>at</span> <span m='186450'>the</span> <span m='186750'>university,</span> <span m='187330'>or</span> <span m='187620'>entering</span> <span m='187900'>the</span> <span m='187980'>professional</span> <span m='188450'>world,</span> <span m='188810'>I</span> <span m='188860'>would</span> <span m='189050'>say</span> <span m='190240'>be</span> <span m='190380'>flexible.</span> <span m='190835'>If</span> <span m='191290'>you</span> <span m='191960'>are</span> <span m='192190'>on</span> <span m='192350'>a</span> <span m='192400'>certain</span> <span m='192680'>path,</span> <span m='192940'>and</span> <span m='193200'>you</span> <span m='193580'>see</span> <span m='193900'>another</span> <span m='194250'>path</span> <span m='194585'>that is</span> <span m='194920'>much</span> <span m='195378'>more</span> <span m='195836'>interesting,</span> <span m='196294'>much more</span> <span m='196752'>stimulating</span> <span m='197210'>to you,</span> <span m='198130'>don't</span> <span m='198370'>be</span> <span m='198510'>afraid</span> <span m='198920'>to</span> <span m='200020'>make a</span> <span m='200280'>change.</span> </p><p><span m='201240'>That</span> <span m='202280'>also</span> <span m='202600'>applies</span> <span m='203170'>to</span> <span m='203580'>when</span> <span m='203770'>you're</span> <span m='204000'>in</span> <span m='204070'>a</span> <span m='204120'>job.</span> <span m='205275'>If</span> <span m='205580'>you're</span> <span m='205820'>interested</span> <span m='206530'>in</span> <span m='207540'>a</span> <span m='207880'>different</span> <span m='208500'>vein</span> <span m='208730'>of</span> <span m='208810'>research,</span> <span m='209310'>or</span> <span m='209390'>working</span> <span m='209760'>on</span> <span m='209840'>a</span> <span m='209890'>different</span> <span m='210190'>project,</span> <span m='211050'>just</span> <span m='211310'>ask.</span> <span m='212030'>Most</span> <span m='212230'>the</span> <span m='212390'>time,</span> <span m='213210'>showing</span> <span m='213560'>initiative</span> <span m='214060'>and</span> <span m='214500'>trying</span> <span m='214940'>to</span> <span m='215820'>go</span> <span m='215980'>after</span> <span m='216240'>what</span> <span m='216410'>you</span> <span m='216530'>love</span> <span m='216810'>is</span> <span m='216950'>appreciated</span> <span m='217540'>by</span> <span m='217680'>people</span> <span m='218020'>that you</span> <span m='218180'>work</span> <span m='218440'>for.</span> <span m='219200'>And</span> <span m='219960'>they</span> <span m='220160'>see</span> <span m='220350'>it</span> <span m='220650'>often</span> <span m='220950'>as a</span> <span m='221250'>sign</span> <span m='221550'>of</span> <span m='222150'>initiative</span> <span m='223050'>and</span> <span m='224250'>trying</span> <span m='224550'>to</span> <span m='225150'>really</span> <span m='225450'>make a</span> <span m='225750'>contribution</span> <span m='226050'>in</span> <span m='226200'>something</span> <span m='226350'>that you</span> <span m='226650'>really</span> <span m='226950'>like.</span> </p>","file":{"id":255773,"video_id":"2701283159001","name":"69662166","duration":228543,"thumbnail_url":null}});