Materials Girl: Comparisons

Go to the profile of Neil Withers
Mar 27, 2019
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Posted on behalf of Materials Girl

Summer break highlights the differences between the working world and academia — notably at the undergraduate level and below. While the ‘lower’ students generally have three months of relaxation, professors, grad students, and others in the workforce must keep working (or catching up on it). In previous years, I imagined that being a perpetual student or teacher would leave summers utterly free for my own time. Hah. Hah.

During the past school year, my experience researching in a materials lab revealed the world of graduate studies and taught that school never ends – especially for the motivated grad student. Now, interning with an industrial research lab is conditioning me to the clockwork of getting up at the crack of dawn, working a 9–5 (or longer), then having to eat, socialize with neighbors, and run errands early in the evening before going to bed. Needless to say, it is quite a difference from the undergrad life of taking classes — ideally at 10am, spending just some time in lab, and staying up to the crack of dawn studying…

I have yet to determine which I prefer. The corporate lifestyle is somewhat automated, but not necessarily with the harassed, stressful, all-night pace of exams, research, and the general insanity associated with academia. In the end, as long as there is something to interest and drive the intellectual mind, it should all work out – but that could be the hardest part. I’ve got a few more years still to decide ‘what I want to be when I grow up’.


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