A Career at Argonne National Laboratory

We are hiring! Adam, Nicki and Myself are looking to hire two new folks to fill a variety of roles. And I imagine most people who are looking at the job postings are “So what kind of jobs are these?”. I’ll be blunt, America (the USA) has a terrible hang up about describing what a job is and what it pays. We post a job saying “RD2” with no indication as to the renumeration etc… And yes, Americans are very funny about money. So I can’t post salaries or even discuss them here but I am happy to discuss.

Argonne, a lab in a forest!

So, what is a career at Argonne like? First, Argonne is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center or FFRDC. For those of you in the atmospheric sciences NCAR is a FFRDC. Unlike NCAR, Argonne’s prime contract is to the US Department of Energy (NCAR’s is to the National Science Foundation). So as an Argonne employee you are an employee of UChicago-Argonne LLC. This has a slew of advantages and disadvantages compared to being a Fed. Biggest advantage is we can hire foreign nationals a disadvantage is we don’t have the same retirement benefits and security that federal service offers. But we do have a very generous benefits package.

Argonne has a dual classification system. You have a classification for your “working role” and “leadership role”. For example as an Atmospheric Scientist and Department Head I am RD4 + LD2. On the 4th rung of the Research and Development track and 2nd rung in terms of leadership. Most employees are effectively LD-Zero. Within the work role there are a variety of different classifications but the two we are hiring are “Professional Technical” or PR and “Research and Development” or RD. Most of the time, and this is one of those times we onboard at RD/PT level 2.

For the RD role RD2 is somewhat equivalent to hiring at the Assistant Professor level. The lab has a requirement that those who are hired at RD2 get promoted to RD3 in five years. There are two reasons I say “Somewhat”: The process is far less onerous than gaining tenure. And there is no such thing as tenure at Argonne. For example my RD3 promotion case was built around Py-ART. I published one very nice first author paper in 5 years, one two author paper I was second author on and a large number of nth author papers.

The other position is at the PT2 level, although we may hire two RD2s if we get a candidate who is suitable. The main difference between PT and RD is the lack of the aforementioned promotion requirement and the PT path, while highly valued by the lab is in support of R&D.

The other question I get asked is “What is the funding situation like? Will I need to find my own funding?”. To a degree this depends on how you are being hired. Say, for example you are what we call a “Strategic hire”. Here you would be given a year or two of funding to find your legs and build your own program. These are not strategic hires we (Adam and Myself) have more work than people to do it. My philosophy is a RD2 should be focus on building their reputation and science in service of the DOE mission (science for the nation!) and around the time we are looking at RD2->3 be actively involved, with guidance from a mentor, in program development. It is very rare for PT classified staff to be involved in proposal writing.

ARM’s deployable C-Band radar in Argentina. You will be working with data from this amazing radar!

When I started at Argonne I was funded only by the ARM program. Over my 11 years here I have diversified the funding I am supported by (and my team). This both opens opportunities and comes with headaches. A successful scientist or professional at a national lab must be flexible.

Here are some other questions and answers for these positions:

Can folks in other countries apply?: Yes! Suitably qualified candidates are encouraged to apply. Argonne has a great office that supports foreign nationals in getting visas etc. We will have to prove that you can do the job better than applicants from within the USA. When we are looking for the best scientists in the world, often it ends up being a foreigner (like me!). You will also be subject to a background check.

Do I need a PhD?: For the PT role, no. But it does not hurt! For the RD role, also no, but it really helps.

Can I work remotely (ie interstate)?: For the PT role (instrument role) no as it requires working on instruments on the Argonne site. For the RD role, “Maybe”. We want to be competitive with other institutions offering remote work however we know the value of being part of a team in person. Many opportunities come from internal to Argonne over a coffee or beer. If you want to work remotely you will have to a) make regular trips to Argonne and; b) convince us that you have a great network already you are bringing to Argonne such that difficulties networking with Argonne staff will not be an issue.

Can I telework (have some work from home days interspersed with office time)?: Absolutely. In fact we are all mainly remote at the moment.

Why would I want to work at Argonne?: World class computing facilities. You will have amazing access to computation resources. Access to a 36,800 core cluster with a simple application. Great benefits including 401K match, health care etc… Real mission orientated science. A great campus that is in easy distance to Chicago and all it has to offer BUT in the suburbs with a lower cost of living. Argonne is in the middle of a forest preserve with great running, cycling etc… Oh and, once the whole COVID-19 thing is done we have O’Hare which can get you to just about anywhere you would want to go…. And, finally, you get to work with us!

Here are the positions:
PT: https://argonne.wd1.myworkdayjobs.com/Argonne_Careers/job/Argonne-National-Laboratory/Atmospheric-Instrument-Specialist_411342-1
RD: https://argonne.wd1.myworkdayjobs.com/Argonne_Careers/job/Argonne-National-Laboratory/Atmospheric-Science-Software-Specialist_411343

We want to hire ASAP. If you want to be judged in the first round of applicants please apply by mid September.

2 thoughts on “A Career at Argonne National Laboratory

  1. William

    Is the Atmospheric Instrumentation Specialist position considered more of an entry-level job? For example, someone with a meteorology degree who doesn’t have direct previous job experience deploying and maintaining weather instruments, but is very tech-savvy with high attention to detail and a passion/willingness to learn. Or is this more of a higher-level position? Thank you!


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