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Programming Science

Ask Slashdot: Scientific Research Positions For Programmers? 237

Posted by Soulskill
from the head-data-wrangler dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I recently (within the past couple years) graduated from college with a bachelor's degree in Computer Science and currently work as a programmer for a large software consulting firm. However, I've become gradually disillusioned with the financial-obsession of the business world and would like to work for the overall betterment of humanity instead. With that in mind, I'm looking to shift my career more toward the scientific research side of things. My interest in computer science always stemmed more from a desire to use it toward a fascinating end — such as modeling or analyzing scientific data — than from a love of business or programming itself. My background is mostly Java, with some experience in C++ and a little C. I have worked extensively with software analyzing big data for clients. My sole research experience comes from developing data analysis software for a geologic research project for a group of grad students; I was a volunteer but have co-authorship on their paper, which is pending publication. Is it realistic to be looking for a position as a programmer at a research institution with my current skills and experiences? Do such jobs even exist for non-graduate students? I'm willing to go to grad school (probably for geology) if necessary. Grad school aside, what specific technologies should I learn in order to gain an edge? Although if I went back to school I'd focus on geology, I'm otherwise open to working as a programmer for any researchers in the natural sciences who will take me."
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Ask Slashdot: Scientific Research Positions For Programmers?

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  • by vikingpower (768921) <exercitussolus@nospam.gmail.com> on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @06:47AM (#44306677) Homepage Journal

    I work for a national research organization ( small country, higher-income part of Europe ). It is different here:

    * Research staff and non-research staff, here, too ( non-research = secretaries, lawyers... )

    * All software engineers are research staff

    * You must not have a PhD, although it helps

    * Software engineers can lead in research, especially in our dept., which focuses on networks, security and some types and aspects of software / programming

    * Direct connections to the good of mankind are not so rare. One of the specializations of this institute is environment; another one is crisis and disaster management

    * Most projects are, indeed, rather small. 2 - max. 5 people for about 1 - 2 years is the standard

    * You will mostly produce demonstrators / alphas. You will never produce software above TRL 6, for sure.

    * I second the part about financial obsession

    * It is NOT the same as working with Google, IBM, et al.: it is more laid-back here, you can actually take time to think, and although mgmt. is generally as stupid and incompetent as elsewhere, there is not as high a pressure upon programmers as elsewhere.

  • by tylikcat (1578365) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @07:00AM (#44306725)

    How exactly do you mean direct access to academia?

    You won't be able to bypass the traditional academic route, but from some of these positions you will be able to publish, and you might be involved in the interesting parts of planning. At the very least, this all will be very helpful if you do at some point want to enter a graduate program. (Or, conversely, it might be very helpful in giving you enough familiarity with the territory that you know you really don't want to enter a graduate program, ever.)

  • by Princeofcups (150855) <john@princeofcups.com> on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @09:37AM (#44307687) Homepage

    I can tell you that with out a PhD, your are viewed as little more than a trained chimp. Masters in both CS and Applied Math seemed to mean nothing, the fact that these so called doctors were incapable of writing more than 4 lines of intelligible code was beside the point.

    It was fairly annoying, and none of my work is cited in their papers.

    I had the same experience at a major national lab. Because I didn't have a PhD, i.e. Post Doc, I felt like a dog's chew toy. They had a yearly "peer" review system, where the PhD's reviewed each other, and also the rest of the staff. Needless to say they were always at the top of the review, and we lesser folks were always at the bottom.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @10:55AM (#44308459)

    The OPs remarks resonated at about +110dB with me at the moment. I really wanted to be a radio astronomer when I was in high-school, but got a job with the local University as a programmer helping biology/zoology students automate their experiments, etc. I quickly got seduced by the "software side of the force", and have been in commercial software/tech-development for nearly 35 years.

    I've maintained my interest in science and scientific programming, and have made some small "splashes" in small-scale radio astronomy with my software over the years.

    I'm increasingly finding that I have a growing distaste for commercial tech development these days. It's largely about separating people from their money, for "features" they either don't need, or already have. Not like the early days, where it was very normal for the things you worked on to have a positive impact on humanity and at the same time make money for shareholders, etc. That type of position is increasingly hard to find.

    So, I recently applied for a project-management position for a large science project. Dunno where it will go.

    I guess my, rambling, point is, OP isn't the only one who feels this way, and good on 'em for only taking a couple of years to arrive at the epiphany :)j

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