How do you spend a typical day?
One of the best things about my job is that I work in two very different areas: supporting system science in the maintenance and operation of the Omega Laser and researching polymer cholesteric liquid crystal (PCLC) flakes. Work on Omega takes priority, so any day I might be writing code to analyze data or helping design, build or implement improvements to our 60-beam laser. Being in the materials group, I also use various instrumentation such as spectrophotometers, birefringence mappers, refractometers, and interferometers. Due to time constraints, I don't spend much time in the lab experimenting with PCLC flakes, and instead I direct students who do this research. As necessary, I write reports and articles and prepare presentations.
What (if anything) would you change?
I would like to spend more time in labs and do experiments myself.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career?
Don't be shy. Get all the hands-on experience you can, as early as possible, and ask all the "dumb" questions you have. No book can substitute good experience.