Sunday, April 19, 2009

Roadtrip completed, and the result is:

A job.

Yes, a job. A real job. Not fake, but real. No imaginary jobs here. Just real. It apparently will give me compensation in the form of "money" in exchange for work on my part (is this common?). Occasionally, they will pay me to go on "vacation", and will also subsidize something called "health insurance", all completely new terms to me.

I'd love to tell you what I'll be working on, but the problem is, I don't really know since they wouldn't tell me. Its classified. You see, the job is at a little place called Los Alamos National Lab. You know, the one with all the nukes.

How did I get a job at LANL? I don't honestly know. I've applied to hundreds of jobs over the past two years, all of them I found advertised on various sites like monster and other career sites, occasionally on the site of the company itself like Boeing (curse you Boeing for the 20-30 jobs I applied to with you, and you never gave me the time of day!). This one just kind of appeared out of thin air. I emailed a former student of my undergraduate advisor and asked him if he knew of any postdoc positions open at the lab. He emailed back and said, why yes, I need to hire one right away, when's the soonest I can fly you down for an interview? I said, in about 10 minutes. A week later we were driving to Los Alamos, NM (a much longer drive than it looks on a map, by the way).

It still feels a little surreal, like he's going to call at any minute and say, Oh, sorry, the funding dried up. Or, oops, I just interviewed someone else and I think they'd be a better fit. Or maybe I find out that the guy is just some quack scientist who will be shut down or let go in a few months. But no, this guy is the real thing. He ran a huge research institute at the University of Louisiana for a few years, and has ran a big group at LANL for years now working on classified projects. He showed me his lab, and he has equipment laying around in the dust in the corner that any university physics lab would murder for. His last paper was on making brand new materials in nano-fiber form with a high power laser that no one has ever made before. Its real. He showed me the high power femtosecond laser, patted it and said, This will be your baby for a few years.

He even said that if I'm a good fit after 2 years, I'd be hired on as a full staff member, the equivalent of a tenured professor at a university.

I'm totally not making this up.

I still almost don't believe it, since the job is better than anything I'd dreamed of having- I thought only MIT or caltech grads who did stunning research with nobel laureates get to go to LANL. Not me. Especially now after two years of looking, I thought I was defective.

He wants us to come down within weeks. As soon as the paperwork goes through (which really is the only thing that could derail this, and he said that he's never been denied a postdoc by his higher-ups), we leave. Well, as soon as we can sell the house- if thats even possible to do in a few weeks.

Yes, its not Seattle, but I gave Seattle plenty of time to come up with a job for me. You lost, Seattle, the prize goes to Los Alamos. Even you, Washington, couldn't muster a job- you got beaten by New Mexico. You snooze, you lose, west coast- I gave you 18 months.

Anyway, we stayed in Los Alamos for a full day (a full, blizzardy day), and tried to get to know the area a bit. Its on top of a mesa, several mesas actually, such that each neighborhood is on a different mesa and there are bridges connecting them. It is surprisingly very green (zoom out on google maps and you'll see what I mean), and the weather is really nice for most of the year- only high 70's/low 80's in the summer, but cold (and sunny) in the winter. The schools are amazing, always ranked near the top of public schools nationally. There is no crime. Its hard to commit crimes when there are soldiers with machine guns in humvees making occasional patrols. And most of the 12,000 residents are scientists, who, as we know from many hero/villain movies, make really incompetent criminals.

My work is 12 miles down this deserted, canyon road that looks like it was straight out of a car or motorcycle commercial- weavy, up and down, stunning scenery. The landscape is amazing- red rock, green trees, rivers and streams- all right there mixed in with the neighborhoods and the lab. My building is out in the middle of nowhere, and looks like a storage shed on the outside. On the inside, it is a high tech world class physics lab, but they want to fool potential spies. In fact, the layout of the lab is such that the buildings are scattered on this huge 40 square mile chunk of land, with each many mile apart from the next. They did this originally for three purposes: first, since they were working on the atomic bomb, they didn't want one accidentally going off and wiping out all the scientists- if they're spread out not all of them die. Second, better security- if someone manages to get into one lab, that lab only has a small portion of sensitive material, and third, in the original Manhattan project they kept the nature of the work secret from nearly all the scientists who worked there by keeping them separated- only a few at the top knew what they were working on.

So anyway, still in shock, but I have a job. Or at least a 99% certainty of having a job within a few weeks.

(ps- Julie, don't tell your mom yet- we're going to tell her when she gets here in a day or two.)


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Jenny and her Conferences

Jenny organized, and presented at a conference held at BYU. Here is the news story.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Stay Tuned

We're off on a road trip tomorrow until Saturday. May post when we return.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Demetri Martin Revue

I recently saw Demetri Martin, a comedian who has a show on Comedy Central. He plays the piano and guitar during the show, and has a gigantic note pad with graphs and pictures as well. And yes, he uses a pointer on it. Not a laser pointer, but a real one. Here are some bits that I remember from the show; nothing is verbatim but it's all close to what he said.

My friend has coconut soap in his bathroom which is nice, unless your hands are dirty from coconuts. Then you don't know if the soap is working or not. "Do you have some soap that smells like hands?"

When I see a sign for a Talent Show I feel there should be a question mark at the end.

A tree house is so insensitive. That would be like if I killed your friend and made you hold him.

I wish I had cold cereal that was shaped like little boats. That way I could feel like a monster every morning.

If I had a baby I would start putting anti-aging cream on him right away. People would look at my baby and ask "How old is he? Is that a fetus?"

I heard a guy say the other day that he could go for some brownies. This got me thinking. If he is a chef, that's OK. If he's a scout leader, that's not OK. If he's a chef at a girl scout camp, I'm not sure.

I would like to fill a pinata with real animal guts.

I saw a guy eat his own burger the other day. It's not my thing, but I guess it works for him. It has its benefits - an endless supply of snacks. Before you go on a road trip you hope to get a cold so you can have snacks galore.

I like the sign for wet floor, because it has a picture. That clarifies the sign. It's not telling you what to do, it's showing you what will happen.

I always feel like my trip overseas was wasted when I go through customs. "Did you go on a farm?" "No." "Did you touch any livestock?" "No." "Do you have any firearms?" "No." Next time I go overseas I'm going to pet a cow than shot it.

I'm allergic to cats. This means I'm allergic to lions. That's a double whammy. Not only will I get mauled if I run into a lion, but I'll get a stuffy nose.

Without a doubt the best thing ever in existence is definitely exaggeration. No wait, it's qualifying statements. [There were a couple more things after that but I can't remember them.]

I don't watch sports as much as I used to. I think that's because I'd rather watch the mascots fight than the teams.

His show was well worth the price of admission, although not as good as Seinfeld, but who is? He spiced up the show well with the use of instruments so it felt longer than it actually was, a little shorter than ninety minutes. I definitely recommend seeing him if possible.