LARSS: Specific Advice

_shiny silver model of a space shuttle_

The problem with most advice is that it's too general. So I thought I'd share a few of the specific and fascinating words of wisdom I've picked up during my LARSS summer:

  • Don't fall in 2Gs. One of my labmates got to ride the vomit comet because of a science project he worked on, and not falling was one of the recommendations while aboard the plane. The rationale was this: If you fall, you'll fall too fast. You'll try to bring your arms up to catch yourself--it usually works, but here, your reflexes will be too slow. Your face will hit the ground and your nose will smash as your arms are still moving up to catch you.

  • Astronauts have to be a certain kind of person. My mentor, Garry D. Qualls, told me about a colleague of his who became an astronaut. Evidently, they take a certain type of person. Gregarious, outgoing. Dedicated. The kind of person who, upon receiving a task, will be content doing that task day in and day out to the very best of his/her ability--astronauts have to practice the tasks they'll be doing in space for a long time beforehand. The kind of person who can speak reasonably well to large groups and who enjoys meeting all kinds of people, since a huge part of the job is public relations.

  • Always double-check baud rates, port numbers, and IP addresses. Save before recompiling, have a common ground, make sure to use charged batteries, and give your program the right input arguments if it requires them. Installing the referenced libraries usually helps, too.

  • Stick with your federal/government job for at least three years. At the grad seminar, held in June with the goal of providing student interns with information about post-baccalaureate options, one of the speakers commented offhand that if you do become a fed, if you stick with it long enough, you'll get reinstatement rights. I did a little googling to see what kind of rights those are: Evidently, it means you can re-enter the fed workforce without competing for the job with the general public. It doesn't mean you automatically get a job offer. There are obviously some restrictions, but regardless, good to know! That page also mentions that if you don't work a government job for three years, you get reinstatement rights for only three years after you leave.

  • Ask about details when investigating grad schools. The grad seminar included a panel of three students (graduate or just finished) who each spoke a bit about how they had gotten to their current place in life. One of the students offered advice on good questions to ask the professors at schools you're considering: If you'd get to do research, what would the specifics be? Not just the topic, but how much time would be spent sitting in front of a computer? reading papers? attending conferences?

I'll continue sharing stories about what I've learned this summer, so be sure to check back soon!

Friday, August 6, 2010 - tags: advice grad-school larss life nasa


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