Charlotte Haley | Postdoctoral Appointee
Argonne National Laboratory
Department: Mathematics and Computer Science Division
Education: B.S. Mathematics, 2008, Dalhousie University, Canada; M.S. Statistics, 2009, Queen’s University, Canada; Ph.D. Statistics, 2014, Queen’s University, Canada
Career stage: Early–9 years post Bachelor’s
What She Does
On a typical workday, Charlotte carries out analyses of time series and spatial datasets, writing programs to process and visualize these datasets, and synthesizing her results into technical presentations and academic papers. The most rewarding part of my job is the satisfaction I get from the creative process of searching the literature, investigating various avenues of interest, forming hypotheses, carrying out simulations, gathering and analyzing the data, and synthesizing the results in a document for peer review and publication. She also acts as a mentor to junior members of the technical staff. Her research is in an area nestled between statistics and electrical engineering, in the processing and analysis of digital signals by means of spectrum analysis. Her current research focuses on quantifying emergent statistical properties of three dimensional fluid dynamics simulations, as well as detecting and estimating oscillatory artifacts in power grid measurements.
Necessary Job Skills
A doctoral degree in applied mathematics or statistics is required along with advanced knowledge of digital signal processing techniques, spatiotemporal statistics, statistical/machine learning. A broader knowledge of applied mathematics, optimization, numerical methods of solution for systems of partial differential equations, advanced scientific computing, and uncertainty quantification is also required.
Pros and Cons of Her Job
The best part of her job is the flexibility and possibility of creative expression in research. Charlotte’s least favorite aspect is the location in a Chicago suburb sufficiently far from public transportation.
The lab provides a friendly work environment, with on-site gym, plenty of social clubs, clean and modern facilities, and is in the middle of a beautiful nature preserve. Occasionally senior staff will have to work with tight deadlines on grant proposals, and all postdocs and staff tend to publish at an ambitious rate.
Charlotte’s current job was her first job after she finished her Ph.D. at Queen’s. She learned about Argonne National Lab from an email sent throughout the math department advertising a postdoctoral research position. She was attracted to the position because it allows her to concentrate all her creative efforts on research and academic writing. She had assumed that she would migrate to industry after her doctoral work but was pleasantly surprised at the gamut of opportunities that presented themselves after graduation.
Career Expectations and Advice
“Research is a creative activity.”
Sometimes it’s hard to make the shift from taking classes, where the assignments ask questions like “Show xyz,” to doing research where the creative process tends to be incremental. It comes more from asking questions like: “Can we do better?” or “What would be the natural/useful extension to this?” or “Can we combine these two techniques in two different fields?” By asking yourself questions like these, you can go from having relatively few research questions to having more ideas than you can use.
Postdocs may earn between $75 and $95k. Staff positions are even better remunerated.
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