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Presented By: Life After Grad School Seminars

LAGS Seminar | Lessons Learned in a National Laboratory Career

Bill Priedhorsky (Los Alamos National Laboratory)

By sharing my personal journey through a successful career at Los Alamos National Laboratory, I would like to convey the lessons learned along the way – national laboratories as a career path, career strategy, overcoming adversity, and some of the soft skills that they don’t teach you in graduate skill. National laboratories offer a career path rather different from academia, de-emphasizing teaching and emphasizing national service of several kinds. Success in my case came from flexibility and being able to find challenge in both fundamental and applied research. Careers are not guaranteed to go smoothly, and mine certainly did not, but drawing on one’s values and one’s colleagues is a great help in difficult times. The technical skills taught in graduate school are a necessary but not sufficient condition for career success. Also important are communication to a wide range of audiences, particularly in proposal writing, and project management for projects of all sizes. In the end, it all worked out, along a path that took me from high-energy astrophysics to laser fusion and back again, to projects including Los Alamos’s first small satellite, and finishing the full-time phase of my career with the best job at the Laboratory, overseeing advanced R&D across the breadth of the 15,000-employee organization. I hope that what I learned can, in some small way, guide and inspire the next generations of scientific leaders.

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