This is a question to all scientific programmers out there that have experience in academia, industry, ideally both. Consider two figures:

  • Alice has earned a PhD in applied mathematics at a top 10 university, she has two publications in rather good journals, and had to write a certain number of python programs to prototype her findings. She has limited industrial experience acquired through a 7 months internship at the end of her master's, where she saw some basics of Fortran/C++ and parallel computing. Her area of expertise is computational mechanics and finite elements - she has developed some new algorithmic approaches there - but not how to write high performant and efficient low level code
  • Bob has earned an industrial PhD from a university ranked 300/400 in the world, working full time for a well-known scientific computing company. He has two small conference papers where he mainly applied existing methods to his case and compared their performance. He constantly worked with Fortran/C++, parallel computing and low level code. The area of expertise is computational electromagnetism with finite elements, but the focus was implementing mathematical algorithms into a commercial software, and make them fast and robust

Unfortunately, there is no position available for Bob at his company, and he finds himself competing with Alice for an opening at another well known scientific computing company, offering a position as a scientific software developer in C++/Fortran, in industry.

Who has higher chances of being offered the position?

The application area of the job offer might be computational mechanics, electromagnetism, or fluid dynamics. I am curious to see how the answer might change.

I expect that there is no definite answer, as the situation might depend on the recruiters, the specific position etc... But maybe I have overlooked one aspect or the other and perhaps, Alice is much more appealing than Bob, or viceversa.

Any comment or answer, even if partial, is welcome. Of course I am trying to decide whether to be Alice or Bob :)

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Honestly, both Alice and Bob are so well off that their focus should be on which subject/path is more fun and fulfilling to them:-) (Don't think of your value as how appealing you will be to an employer. Academia is full of titles and perceived status and staying in that bubble can do that to you.) Maybee consider crossposting to the academia stack. $\endgroup$
    – MPIchael
    Jul 4, 2023 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ I am not so interested in Academia, and I have some constraints that prevent me to do something purely out of fun @MPIchael. Indeed, I think that for me it is best to go to industry, but maybe being Alice is not ideal. Do you have a lead as for my specific question? Thank you for the help in any case $\endgroup$
    – Lilla
    Jul 4, 2023 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ * In the long run, I am not so interested in academia $\endgroup$
    – Lilla
    Jul 4, 2023 at 17:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Here is an answer by ChatGPT (short version): "Based on the information provided, Bob has a higher chance of being offered the position as a scientific software developer in C++/Fortran in industry. ..." You may try it yourself to see the long version :) $\endgroup$
    – ConvexHull
    Jul 4, 2023 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ @ConvexHull Interestingly, gpt4 is giving a balanced answer, gpt3 prefers Bob $\endgroup$
    – Lilla
    Jul 4, 2023 at 23:03

1 Answer 1


Why not both? In practice there are people lying in the spectrum between a research-centric career and "programming-centric" career. In the past decade this has been recognized and these people are called research software engineers.

You can read various stories of how such people forged their path here.


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