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PARTICLE ACCELERATOR ENGINEER, IN-DEPTH: Field Trip Inspires Career Change

About this video 

Tom, a particle accelerator engineer, describes the challenges of his job, what he likes most, his key decisions, how difficult getting into the industry is, and work-life balance. Tom unexpectedly decided to change his career focus after a field trip for an elective course in college. The destination? The facility where he works today.

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

None

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
Office, Indoor
Personal qualities
Personal Qualities
Detail oriented, Problem solving skills, Creativity, Written communication skills, Verbal communication skills, Technical skills, Mathematical skills

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P3.instances[0].transcript.parse_transcript_data({"transcript":"<p><span m='700'>So</span> <span m='860'>here</span> <span m='1080'>at</span> <span m='1180'>the</span> <span m='1640'>particle</span> <span m='2009'>accelerator,</span> <span m='2970'>we</span> <span m='3930'>service</span> <span m='4580'>about</span> <span m='4970'>2,000</span> <span m='5090'>to</span> <span m='5180'>3,000</span> <span m='5710'>researchers</span> <span m='6065'>a</span> <span m='6420'>year.</span> <span m='7525'>And</span> <span m='7980'>the</span> <span m='8560'>scientific</span> <span m='9300'>research</span> <span m='9680'>that</span> <span m='9810'>goes</span> <span m='10050'>on</span> <span m='10325'>is</span> <span m='10600'>a</span> <span m='11190'>very</span> <span m='11460'>wide</span> <span m='11730'>spectrum</span> <span m='12010'>of</span> <span m='12290'>research.</span> <span m='12860'>What</span> <span m='13430'>I</span> <span m='13590'>really</span> <span m='13950'>like</span> <span m='14160'>about</span> <span m='14330'>my</span> <span m='14450'>job</span> <span m='14800'>is</span> <span m='15110'>enabling</span> <span m='15680'>all</span> <span m='15820'>that</span> <span m='15990'>research.</span> <span m='16470'>So</span> <span m='17430'>we</span> <span m='17740'>have</span> <span m='17940'>people</span> <span m='18190'>working</span> <span m='18590'>on</span> <span m='19030'>a</span> <span m='19560'>wide</span> <span m='19940'>array</span> <span m='20180'>of</span> <span m='20300'>topics.</span> <span m='20890'>A</span> <span m='21280'>lot</span> <span m='21510'>of</span> <span m='21610'>them</span> <span m='21740'>are</span> <span m='21830'>actually</span> <span m='22160'>very</span> <span m='22370'>practical.</span> </p><p><span m='23510'>Things</span> <span m='23740'>like</span> <span m='24240'>drug</span> <span m='24410'>design</span> <span m='24880'>for</span> <span m='25020'>fighting</span> <span m='25420'>diseases,</span> <span m='26290'>making</span> <span m='26610'>better</span> <span m='26890'>solar</span> <span m='27240'>cells,</span> <span m='28140'>making</span> <span m='28900'>magnetic</span> <span m='29360'>storage</span> <span m='29770'>work</span> <span m='29980'>better</span> <span m='30390'>so you can</span> <span m='30843'>have a smaller</span> <span m='31296'>cell phone.</span> <span m='32450'>All</span> <span m='32590'>that</span> <span m='32720'>kind</span> <span m='32900'>of</span> <span m='33340'>thing.</span> <span m='33800'>There's</span> <span m='34060'>also</span> <span m='34320'>basic</span> <span m='34750'>energy</span> <span m='35330'>research,</span> <span m='35760'>basic</span> <span m='36195'>science that</span> <span m='36630'>goes on,</span> <span m='37065'>which is</span> <span m='37500'>interesting</span> <span m='37935'>in it's own</span> <span m='38370'>right.</span> <span m='38810'>So</span> <span m='38940'>I</span> <span m='39040'>just</span> <span m='39230'>like</span> <span m='39410'>being</span> <span m='39660'>able</span> <span m='39880'>to</span> <span m='40260'>contribute</span> <span m='41100'>and</span> <span m='41460'>enable</span> <span m='42420'>that</span> <span m='42890'>vast</span> <span m='43260'>array</span> <span m='43500'>of</span> <span m='43650'>research</span> <span m='44150'>in my</span> <span m='44605'>job.</span> </p><p><span m='45970'>There are</span> <span m='46150'>challenging</span> <span m='46610'>things</span> <span m='46880'>about</span> <span m='47080'>my</span> <span m='47210'>job.</span> <span m='48350'>We</span> <span m='48620'>are a</span> <span m='48830'>24/7</span> <span m='49850'>operation,</span> <span m='50510'>so</span> <span m='50830'>we</span> <span m='51010'>run</span> <span m='51330'>basically</span> <span m='52050'>all</span> <span m='52240'>the</span> <span m='52340'>time,</span> <span m='52630'>except for</span> <span m='52880'>Christmas</span> <span m='53317'>and Thanksgiving.</span> <span m='54630'>And</span> <span m='55280'>we</span> <span m='55490'>are</span> <span m='55700'>all</span> <span m='56020'>basically</span> <span m='56520'>on call</span> <span m='56730'>all</span> <span m='57150'>the</span> <span m='57240'>time</span> <span m='57540'>as well.</span> <span m='57950'>So if</span> <span m='58380'>we</span> <span m='58870'>have</span> <span m='59090'>a</span> <span m='59140'>problem</span> <span m='59720'>at</span> <span m='59930'>3:00 AM,</span> <span m='61010'>we</span> <span m='61210'>can</span> <span m='61350'>get</span> <span m='61500'>a</span> <span m='61550'>phone</span> <span m='61800'>call</span> <span m='62160'>and</span> <span m='62250'>be</span> <span m='62410'>expected</span> <span m='62670'>to try</span> <span m='62930'>and</span> <span m='63388'>troubleshoot</span> <span m='63846'>the problem.</span> </p><p><span m='64762'>Since</span> <span m='65680'>a</span> <span m='66020'>lot</span> <span m='66190'>of</span> <span m='66240'>my</span> <span m='66380'>stuff</span> <span m='66650'>takes</span> <span m='66930'>place</span> <span m='67180'>on</span> <span m='67270'>the</span> <span m='67360'>computer,</span> <span m='68070'>oftentimes</span> <span m='68340'>I</span> <span m='68610'>can</span> <span m='68850'>remotely</span> <span m='69250'>access</span> <span m='69700'>the lab</span> <span m='70155'>and</span> <span m='70610'>try and</span> <span m='71065'>solve</span> <span m='71520'>problems</span> <span m='71975'>from</span> <span m='72430'>my house,</span> <span m='73340'>but</span> <span m='73800'>believe</span> <span m='74080'>me,</span> <span m='74190'>it's hard</span> <span m='74540'>at 3 in the</span> <span m='74810'>morning.</span> <span m='75095'>And</span> <span m='75380'>there</span> <span m='75867'>are times</span> <span m='76354'>where we have to</span> <span m='76841'>come in.</span> <span m='77330'>So</span> <span m='77900'>the</span> <span m='78000'>same</span> <span m='78220'>thing</span> <span m='78360'>that</span> <span m='78480'>makes</span> <span m='78720'>it</span> <span m='78810'>interesting</span> <span m='79260'>and</span> <span m='79330'>vibrant,</span> <span m='79780'>the</span> <span m='80460'>always-on</span> <span m='80880'>operation</span> <span m='81300'>and</span> <span m='81720'>all the</span> <span m='82140'>researchers</span> <span m='83110'>demanding</span> <span m='83550'>good,</span> <span m='83790'>quality</span> <span m='84250'>research</span> <span m='84692'>time,</span> <span m='85576'>makes it</span> <span m='86018'>challenging</span> <span m='86460'>as well.</span> <span m='86902'>But</span> <span m='87344'>it's a</span> <span m='87790'>challenge</span> <span m='88135'>we like</span> <span m='88480'>to</span> <span m='89100'>succeed</span> <span m='89585'>at.</span> </p><p><span m='91040'>So</span> <span m='91430'>if</span> <span m='91550'>there</span> <span m='91790'>was</span> <span m='92080'>a</span> <span m='92210'>turning</span> <span m='92550'>point</span> <span m='92830'>that</span> <span m='93350'>sent</span> <span m='93580'>me</span> <span m='93740'>on</span> <span m='94010'>to</span> <span m='94280'>this</span> <span m='94510'>career</span> <span m='94920'>versus</span> <span m='95320'>another</span> <span m='95620'>career</span> <span m='95925'>I might</span> <span m='96230'>have had,</span> <span m='96980'>it</span> <span m='97050'>was</span> <span m='97200'>actually</span> <span m='98420'>when</span> <span m='98570'>I</span> <span m='98780'>decided</span> <span m='99240'>to</span> <span m='99320'>take</span> <span m='99750'>an</span> <span m='99890'>elective</span> <span m='100460'>my</span> <span m='100580'>last</span> <span m='100900'>year</span> <span m='101270'>of</span> <span m='101390'>college.</span> <span m='102390'>I thought</span> <span m='102630'>that</span> <span m='102750'>taking</span> <span m='103700'>upper</span> <span m='104070'>division</span> <span m='104920'>x-ray</span> <span m='105290'>physics</span> <span m='105730'>class</span> <span m='106330'>might</span> <span m='106530'>be</span> <span m='106640'>fun.</span> <span m='107430'>And</span> <span m='107810'>while</span> <span m='107990'>the</span> <span m='108060'>class</span> <span m='109130'>had it's</span> <span m='109590'>moments,</span> <span m='110050'>it was</span> <span m='110140'>not</span> <span m='110620'>incredibly</span> <span m='111080'>fun.</span> <span m='111340'>It was</span> <span m='111595'>actually</span> <span m='111850'>really</span> <span m='112090'>challenging.</span> </p><p><span m='113350'>One</span> <span m='113540'>of</span> <span m='113700'>the</span> <span m='114940'>features</span> <span m='115290'>of</span> <span m='115440'>class was that</span> <span m='115850'>we went on</span> <span m='116343'>field trips</span> <span m='116836'>to some</span> <span m='117330'>large</span> <span m='117610'>scale</span> <span m='117970'>scientific</span> <span m='118382'>facilities.</span> <span m='119620'>One</span> <span m='119810'>of</span> <span m='119880'>the</span> <span m='119960'>field trips</span> <span m='120620'>was</span> <span m='120750'>actually</span> <span m='121140'>to</span> <span m='121690'>the</span> <span m='121770'>place</span> <span m='122050'>where</span> <span m='122180'>I</span> <span m='122220'>work,</span> <span m='122520'>the</span> <span m='122820'>particle</span> <span m='123315'>accelerator</span> <span m='123810'>synchrotron.</span> <span m='124800'>And</span> <span m='125210'>that</span> <span m='125460'>is</span> <span m='125610'>probably</span> <span m='126150'>the</span> <span m='126240'>moment</span> <span m='126500'>where</span> <span m='127530'>I</span> <span m='127930'>realized</span> <span m='128234'>that</span> <span m='128539'>this</span> <span m='129050'>type of</span> <span m='129491'>place</span> <span m='129932'>existed</span> <span m='130373'>and</span> <span m='130814'>that</span> <span m='131700'>someone</span> <span m='131960'>like me</span> <span m='132200'>could</span> <span m='132460'>actually</span> <span m='132770'>work</span> <span m='133010'>there.</span> <span m='133620'>So</span> <span m='133800'>when</span> <span m='133950'>I</span> <span m='134020'>found</span> <span m='134270'>a</span> <span m='134350'>job</span> <span m='134610'>opportunity</span> <span m='134910'>a</span> <span m='135210'>little bit</span> <span m='135410'>later on,</span> <span m='135892'>I</span> <span m='136374'>jumped</span> <span m='136856'>At the chance.</span> <span m='137338'>And</span> <span m='138302'>the rest</span> <span m='138784'>is history.</span> </p><p><span m='140720'>So</span> <span m='141260'>as</span> <span m='141430'>I</span> <span m='141500'>was</span> <span m='141600'>talking</span> <span m='141840'>about</span> <span m='142020'>before,</span> <span m='143360'>I</span> <span m='143490'>came</span> <span m='143760'>in</span> <span m='143900'>a</span> <span m='143970'>nontraditional</span> <span m='144720'>path</span> <span m='145195'>to</span> <span m='145670'>working</span> <span m='146145'>at a</span> <span m='146620'>scientific</span> <span m='147095'>research</span> <span m='147570'>facility</span> <span m='148045'>like this.</span> <span m='150430'>Most</span> <span m='150760'>of</span> <span m='150820'>the</span> <span m='150880'>people</span> <span m='151160'>I</span> <span m='151250'>work</span> <span m='151530'>with</span> <span m='151780'>have</span> <span m='151910'>gone</span> <span m='152120'>through</span> <span m='152350'>a long</span> <span m='152716'>and</span> <span m='153082'>I</span> <span m='153450'>would</span> <span m='153810'>qualify it</span> <span m='154170'>as</span> <span m='154530'>an</span> <span m='154800'>arduous</span> <span m='155290'>path</span> <span m='155640'>of</span> <span m='156604'>school,</span> <span m='157568'>getting their</span> <span m='158050'>Master's,</span> <span m='158532'>their</span> <span m='159014'>physics</span> <span m='159496'>degree,</span> <span m='159978'>doing</span> <span m='160460'>a</span> <span m='160942'>post-doc,</span> <span m='161424'>which is a few</span> <span m='161906'>years of</span> <span m='162388'>really hard work,</span> <span m='162870'>and then</span> <span m='163352'>finally</span> <span m='163834'>getting</span> <span m='164316'>a</span> <span m='164798'>staff</span> <span m='165280'>scientist</span> <span m='165762'>position.</span> <span m='166750'>It's</span> <span m='167010'>highly</span> <span m='167330'>competitive.</span> </p><p><span m='167600'>This is</span> <span m='167870'>one of the</span> <span m='168240'>world-leading</span> <span m='169210'>facilities in</span> <span m='169695'>this type of</span> <span m='170180'>research.</span> <span m='171150'>And</span> <span m='171970'>so</span> <span m='172120'>going</span> <span m='172610'>the</span> <span m='172800'>traditional</span> <span m='173280'>route</span> <span m='173600'>is</span> <span m='174000'>not</span> <span m='174180'>easy.</span> <span m='174410'>It</span> <span m='174850'>requires</span> <span m='175180'>a</span> <span m='175290'>lot</span> <span m='175500'>of</span> <span m='175580'>work.</span> <span m='176926'>But</span> <span m='177360'>it's</span> <span m='177630'>worth</span> <span m='177910'>keeping</span> <span m='178130'>in</span> <span m='178300'>mind</span> <span m='178580'>that</span> <span m='179080'>there's</span> <span m='179580'>nontraditional</span> <span m='180080'>routes,</span> <span m='180580'>and</span> <span m='182080'>just</span> <span m='182340'>because</span> <span m='182720'>you're</span> <span m='182870'>not</span> <span m='183180'>on</span> <span m='183220'>the</span> <span m='183330'>traditional route</span> <span m='183770'>doesn't mean</span> <span m='184221'>you can't</span> <span m='184672'>get</span> <span m='185123'>where you want</span> <span m='185574'>to go.</span> <span m='186025'>So</span> <span m='186927'>look</span> <span m='187380'>around,</span> <span m='187860'>be</span> <span m='188040'>creative,</span> <span m='189340'>talk</span> <span m='189560'>to</span> <span m='189640'>the</span> <span m='189730'>right</span> <span m='189950'>people,</span> <span m='190285'>make</span> <span m='190620'>some friends</span> <span m='191105'>in high</span> <span m='191590'>places.</span> </p><p><span m='193530'>Balancing</span> <span m='194030'>work</span> <span m='194260'>and</span> <span m='194350'>life</span> <span m='194630'>is</span> <span m='194910'>challenging</span> <span m='195450'>at</span> <span m='195570'>times.</span> <span m='196030'>I actually</span> <span m='196430'>just</span> <span m='196660'>a</span> <span m='196870'>baby</span> <span m='197260'>five months</span> <span m='197731'>ago, so</span> <span m='198202'>it's extra</span> <span m='198673'>challenging</span> <span m='199144'>these days.</span> <span m='201028'>But</span> <span m='201970'>we</span> <span m='203276'>run</span> <span m='203764'>a</span> <span m='204740'>very</span> <span m='205030'>kind</span> <span m='205220'>of</span> <span m='205330'>open,</span> <span m='205840'>and</span> <span m='206520'>we</span> <span m='206620'>depend</span> <span m='206950'>on</span> <span m='207050'>each</span> <span m='207200'>other</span> <span m='207410'>a</span> <span m='207450'>lot</span> <span m='207750'>here</span> <span m='207890'>where</span> <span m='208110'>I</span> <span m='208130'>work.</span> <span m='209270'>Everyone</span> <span m='209660'>has</span> <span m='209850'>various</span> <span m='210210'>areas</span> <span m='210490'>of</span> <span m='210700'>expertise,</span> <span m='211570'>so</span> <span m='211760'>everyone</span> <span m='212220'>tries</span> <span m='212320'>to</span> <span m='212440'>support</span> <span m='212760'>each</span> <span m='212950'>other</span> <span m='213400'>in</span> <span m='214080'>solving</span> <span m='214500'>problems.</span> </p><p><span m='216790'>That</span> <span m='217060'>means</span> <span m='217340'>that</span> <span m='217530'>if</span> <span m='217740'>we</span> <span m='217860'>do</span> <span m='218020'>have</span> <span m='218210'>to</span> <span m='218300'>come</span> <span m='218510'>in</span> <span m='218810'>and</span> <span m='219010'>work</span> <span m='219280'>for</span> <span m='219620'>12</span> <span m='219950'>or</span> <span m='220010'>24</span> <span m='220530'>hours</span> <span m='221750'>occasionally</span> <span m='222025'>to</span> <span m='222300'>fix</span> <span m='222650'>a</span> <span m='222730'>problem,</span> <span m='224220'>we</span> <span m='224410'>are</span> <span m='224700'>given</span> <span m='224930'>the</span> <span m='225050'>leeway</span> <span m='225430'>to</span> <span m='225800'>kind</span> <span m='225950'>of</span> <span m='226040'>make</span> <span m='226260'>up</span> <span m='226390'>for</span> <span m='226500'>that</span> <span m='227080'>with a</span> <span m='227380'>somewhat</span> <span m='227740'>flexible</span> <span m='228190'>schedule on the</span> <span m='228650'>other side</span> <span m='229132'>when things are</span> <span m='229614'>going</span> <span m='230096'>well.</span> <span m='230578'>So</span> <span m='231060'>that's one really good</span> <span m='231542'>advantage</span> <span m='232024'>of where</span> <span m='232506'>we work.</span> </p><p><span m='233470'>But</span> <span m='234440'>that</span> <span m='234810'>said,</span> <span m='235080'>people</span> <span m='235360'>go</span> <span m='235530'>above</span> <span m='235810'>and</span> <span m='235890'>beyond</span> <span m='236350'>to fix problems</span> <span m='236785'>when they show</span> <span m='237220'>up.</span> <span m='238090'>And</span> <span m='238560'>it can be</span> <span m='239600'>tiring</span> <span m='239900'>and</span> <span m='240200'>trying</span> <span m='240570'>at times,</span> <span m='240810'>where</span> <span m='241220'>everyone</span> <span m='241520'>around</span> <span m='241850'>you</span> <span m='242110'>is</span> <span m='242370'>working</span> <span m='243110'>full</span> <span m='243310'>speed</span> <span m='243570'>ahead</span> <span m='243860'>after</span> <span m='244283'>16</span> <span m='244706'>hours</span> <span m='245130'>and</span> <span m='245330'>you</span> <span m='245630'>just</span> <span m='245930'>want to</span> <span m='246230'>go home.</span> <span m='246530'>But</span> <span m='247430'>it's also</span> <span m='247730'>one of the</span> <span m='248030'>things</span> <span m='248330'>that makes</span> <span m='248630'>it</span> <span m='248930'>an</span> <span m='249230'>exciting</span> <span m='249530'>place</span> <span m='249830'>to</span> <span m='250130'>work.</span> </p>","file":{"id":255780,"video_id":"2701297270001","name":"69781916","duration":251433,"thumbnail_url":null}});