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Student perspectives students presented their research projects to me to practice speaking English in a relaxed setting. The eagerness of students to practice their English with a native speaker was a theme I encountered often during my time in Japan. It gave me a new perspective on the difficulties and challenges researchers face in a world where the language of science is English. Opportunities like spending the summer in Japan, living and working in Tokyo, and being exposed to worldclass research do not happen very often in life. The experience I gained by working with Japanese professors and graduate students will forever shape how I approach research. I look forward to my second visit. Jesse Angle recently graduated from the University of California at Irvine, with a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering. He has been active in ACerS for five years and is currently a PCSA delegate. Genchi genbutsu—Go and see for yourself By Dalton Devine No one really knows what they want to do with their life, at least initially. Students are told to follow their passion, but that is generic advice. Instead, students must answer one Devine question: How can you discover what you enjoy doing enough to make a career out of it? My advice is simple yet effective—go and see for yourself. If not planning on going to graduate school, materials science and engineering undergraduates have two large decisions upon graduation: • Do I want to work at a small company or a large company? • Do I want to be focused on R&D or processing? These answers lead to four potential work options: • Research within a large company; • Research within a small company; • Processing within a large company; and • Processing within a small company. Although this is a vast oversimplification, this list does represent the basic options. In the field of ceramic engineering, students are uniquely lucky to be a hot commodity. From my experience, it is common to go into a career fair and get more than 10 interviews that result in more than five offers for internships and co-ops. These offers are opportunities for students to explore industry jobs. My first experience working with ceramics was during a co-op at Ceralink (Troy, N.Y.) during my sophomore year. Ceralink is a small—fewer than 15 employees—R&D company specializing in advanced ceramics. This experience provided a decent understanding of the research side of ceramics, although it left me wondering what the processing side of ceramics entailed. During my junior year, I realized that I was in a unique position to work for a large processing company to try out the other side of the coin. This idea manifested itself in a summer internship at Alcoa Technical Center (Pittsburgh, Pa.), which houses 800–1,000 employees. Because there are pros and cons to every scenario, my views are entirely subjective. I loved working at both companies because they provided me opportunities to learn and think in different ways. I was able to work with and learn from some of the smartest people I have ever known. Small company vs. large company At Ceralink, the close proximity of labs and offices provided ample access to bosses. At Alcoa, however, I shared an office with just a couple of colleagues and had what I consider normal access to my boss. She was available for meetings, but overall there was far less direct oversight. Another aspect of working in a small company is that you coordinate with a few other people on a project. For me, trying a new idea or testing a new setup at Ceralink was as simple as offering a proposal with a specific rationale. However, even the best run companies introduce confusion as size increases. As an intern coordinating with several people at Alcoa, I noticed that everyone has similar but incongruent expectations as to how work should be done. These differences can lead to frustration between people because of how passionate they are about their work. Large companies also often have more resources than smaller companies. At Alcoa, I had access to a variety of characterization techniques on site. However, at Ceralink, most characterization was outsourced. R&D vs. processing At a research company, the scope of work is very different from a processing company. The questions asked address fundamental baseline problems: “Can we do it?” and “How do we do it?” Research also typically involves several smaller projects and, therefore, several different types of materials, which can be very exciting. Processing companies know they can create the product, so the question shifts from “How do we do it?” to “How do we go from making 50 of these to 10,000?” Processing inherently seeks optimization, so developing process controls are key. As my former boss would say, “We want to be able to pull a lever (i.e., change a process parameter) and know that ‘x’ is going to change in our final products.” Another difference is that processing companies generally make just one or two materials, so employees get to know those materials very closely. The decision about what direction to go should ultimately come down to how a person operates. Do you want direct contact with your boss or would you rather check-in daily? Do you like coordinating with several people or a few? Do you want to work with a variety of materials or get to understand one material very well? Finally, I urge you to test your assumptions—do you truly know what you like or do not like unless you have tried it? Dalton Devine is an undergraduate in ceramic engineering at the Kazuo Inamori School of Engineering at Alfred University. He was chair of the 2013 PCSA Finance Committee. n 32 www.ceramics.org | American Ceramic Society Bulletin, Vol. 93, No. 5


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