Recently I left my postdoc job and became a software developer. In this post I will share my experience and some thoughts.


I received PhD in physics in 2011 and remained in postdoc positions until 2016. As time progresses, industry appears more appealing to me, for two reasons

  • lack of vision in research
  • lack of financial freedom

After the many years in school, I didn’t have a long term research plan. In my opinion, this is fatal to academic career. After all, destination (professorship) is hard to reach by random walk.

In term of daily life, the postdoc experience is pleasant: flexible hours, helpful coworkers and supervisors, etc. I am particularly lucky that all my supervisors since college are quite hands-off and allow me to pick my own pace and (side) projects. Unfortunately postdoc is not a real job in terms of compensation and stability, and New York city is really expensive (one room in a shared two-bedroom apartment $1200/month, bjj $250/month, yoga $239/month, climbing $150/month, karate $130/month, etc).

For these reasons, I decided to quit postdoc and try industry.

industry options

For a physics PhD (probably other STEM PhD too), there are essentially three options in industry

  1. software development
  2. data science
  3. finance

Their required skills overlap but in general the difficulty level increases by the ordering. It doesn’t hurt to prepare for two or even all three of them. Basically, there are three sets of skills

  • coding
    • algorithms
    • database
    • languages
  • math
    • statistics, probability theory, stochastic processes
    • machine learning
  • domain-specific stuff

Honestly I am not well prepared in any of them at the time of my application. But from talking to friends in industry and going through interviews, I got some idea of how to prepare and to what degree to prepare. This topic will be covered in a future post (or maybe posts). If you have questions, please feel free to email me.

mental preparations

In my experience, committing to a change is much easier than initializing the change. For good biological reasons the mind seeks for consistency and fears for change. In my case, making up the mind to quit postdoc is painful whereas looking for jobs is actually quite fun.

If you are debating between options, it may help to reflect on the question of “who am I”. It’s not fun to copy someone else’s life and a lot of fun to find your own answer. Meanwhile it may help to complete some physical challenges to gain extra mental strength. For example, run a marathon or finish a P90X session.

my timeline

  • Left postdoc job in May 2016
  • Started application in July
  • Went on interviews in August
  • Accepted offer in September
  • Started working in October

my job applications

Below I list all the companies I applied.

  • The highlighted ones gave me interview
  • The crossed-out ones gave me rejection
  • The rest gave no response
  1. insight data science program
    • NYC May 2016
    • NYC Sep 2016
    • Boston healthcare Sep 2016
  2. data science intern 7.8
  3. Gallup data scientist - Predictive Analytics 7.18
  4. Spreemo data scientist/statistician 7.20
  5. IBM Watson
    • IBM Social Good Fellow 7.22
    • Postdoctoral Researcher - Healthcare Informatics 7.22
    • Research Staff Member - Cognitive Computing 7.22
  6. Mount Sinai School of Medicine:
    • Image Data Scientist 7.22
    • Senior Data Analyst 8.31
  7. Interactions LLC Machine Learning Scientists & Engineers 7.22
  8. Siemens
    • Research Scientist, Medical Imaging and Analysis 7.22
    • Research Scientist in Image-Guided Interventions Technologies 7.22
    • Scientist, Staff 7.22
    • Senior MR Scientist 7.22
  9. GE Medical Image Analysis Scientist 7.22
  10. Schroedinger
    • Scientific Software Developer 7.22
    • Senior Scientific Software Developer 7.22
  11. Google
    • DeepMind 7.25
    • data analyst, google app for work 8.10 (referral)
    • Data Scientist / Quantitative Analyst, Engineering 8.10 (referral)
  12. Weill Cornell Medicine Engineers & Scientists in Dalio 7.31
  13. Penguin Random House Junior Data Scientist 8.6
  14. DataKind data scientist 8.16
  15. NYU Langone medical center
    • Associate Research Scientist – Division of Learning Analytics 8.31
    • Senior Research Scientist 8.31