I know that national laboratories prioritize research work over teaching experience. Of course, I have some research papers published in my name, but I also have over 4 years of professional (full time) mathematics teaching experience at the university level, which includes teaching a senior level and graduate level mathematics course.

Is my teaching experience of no importance/value to the national laboratories? Is there a way I can sell my teaching experience as an asset to a research position in a national laboratory?

1 Answer 1


Preface: I worked at a US national laboratory for five years.

Under most circumstances, I don't see teaching experience being very useful in a national laboratory career. You won't lose anything by having it, but you're not likely to be able to spin it as a true "positive" in an interview. The only exceptions to this would be:

  • If you're going to be in a "customer service"-type position, where you are going to be working with people who are using the services or tools your team is providing.
  • You're in a position co-sponsored by a university, in which case you may have to do some teaching anyways.

Also, if you're invited in for a technical interview, you're almost certainly going to be interviewed by multiple technical staff members, so don't try to spin the teaching into something it's not; it won't win you any points with most of the staff members. (All of the staff members I had the fortune to work with had excellent BS detectors.)

  • Under most circumstances, I don't see teaching experience being very useful in a national laboratory career I tend to disagree. I am currently employed at a government laboratory (DoD). My PI was a mathematics professor before entering the national lab network (I believe our laboratory is his second government lab to work for). His ability to explain our research area was a magnificent boon to my onboarding process. Oct 11, 2014 at 3:03
  • @JonathanLandrum: Okay, I suppose if you employ grad students or postdocs, that could be another class. But again, it's a small one—a typical DOE lab with 4,000 technical staff might only have 100 postdocs.
    – aeismail
    Oct 11, 2014 at 6:59

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