Leading PhD Students to the Path of Industry

Leading PhD Students to the Path of Industry

By Washington State University OSA Student Chapter


According to a study by The Royal Society, less than 1% of current PhD graduates will become tenured professors. Moreover, approximately 30% of PhD graduates will be unemployed upon graduation. To combat a more competitive job market and fewer academic jobs, Washington State University’s OSA/SPIE student chapter focuses on professional development. Through OSA’s Traveling Lecturer Program, WSU OSA/SPIE hosted Phillip J. Wyatt, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Wyatt Technology Corporation. As an industry professional, Dr. Wyatt spoke to transferable skills, job hunting in industry, and what a career in industry really entails.

First, a networking lunch allowed PhD students from various fields to casually meet with Dr. Wyatt and discuss various industry related topics, such as transitioning from academia to industry. Nate Turner, a student member, said, “He stressed practical skills, like being able to work with analog circuits. I went home and pulled out my textbook from my circuits class after he said that. He also mentioned that there is a preconceived notion that physicists are the smartest people in the room; sometimes it is best to pretend it is true and not correct the person thinking it.”

Next, a round-table conversation discussed career paths leading to industry. Dr. Wyatt advised on gaining funding for start-ups, encouraging participants to contact their government representatives about reinstating an NSF funding opportunity for promising scientific start-ups.

After meeting with students, Dr. Wyatt reconnected with Dr. Philip Marston; the two had collaborated early in their careers on an optics project. Dr. Marston appreciated the opportunity to share his current research with an old friend.

The culminating event was Dr. Wyatt’s talk, titled “Measuring Small Particles by Light Scattering…with a brief Historical Perspective”. He highlighted various experiments using light scattering to deduce material properties, summarized the Rayleigh-Gans approximation, then discussed applications of said approximation to determine a sample’s constitutive particle size.



After the talk, five students accompanied Dr. Wyatt to a casual dinner. A short political debate ensued, as Dr. Wyatt was very interested in the New York caucusing outcome. His interest in politics and scientific policy was an enjoyable discussion and he recommended various ways for young career professionals to remain active in politics. At the end of the night, he encouraged several students to apply to his company when they graduate.

Overall, Dr. Wyatt’s traveling lecture visit achieved one of the many professional development goals WSU’s OSA/SPIE chapter set for the 2015-2016 academic year: assist members in developing a network of industry professionals. To increase the likelihood of landing a job offer, PhD graduates need a personal referral. By developing a professional network now, WSU’s OSA/SPIE members are less likely to be one of the unemployed graduates. The student club facilitates professional networking through OSA’s Traveling Lecturer Program.

Posted: 13 May 2016 by Washington State University OSA Student Chapter | with 0 comments