Machine Shop Manager at UC Santa Barbara
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    Default Machine Shop Manager at UC Santa Barbara

    Anyone interested in running a research machine shop in paradise?

    Machine Shop Manager, Physics Department, University of California at Santa Barbara
    Department of Physics - UC Santa Barbara

    The Machine Shop Manager is responsible for providing professional management and leadership of the Physics Machine Shop, ensuring a high level of quality work and customer service. Excellent management and supervisory ability required. Provides engineering services to a large number of diverse research organizations and projects, including prototype development of unique and complex scientific apparatus in support of research programs from a number of scientific disciplines. Requires expertise with challenging machining, design and fabrication projects, and coordinates the major development phases of projects. Proficient with CAD/CAM related software and produce programs for 4-axis CNC Mills, CNC Lathe, Wire EDM, and Waterjet using imported solid models. Administers the shop’s annual budget and associated recharge operations. Supervises, trains and manages the daily operations of four or more machinists and research & development engineers. Actively manages and ensures compliance with safety regulations and develops internal safety protocol. View full job description at: Loading Content. Hiring Range: $75,000-$100,000.

    The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer, and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.

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    Greetings all,,

    One thing to be aware of when looking at this job, is that the cost of living in Santa Barbara is insane. 75-100K is....middling low. You probably won't be able to afford a house, for example.
    I lived there for 12 years, and have been in that shop a couple of times. (Nice shop, good people, and SB really is paradise.)
    The killer is the cost of living. I don't know what the average house is down there these days, I left about 10 years ago, but 10 years ago, the median house price in the area was over 1 million. For not much. At the bottom of the crash, a 900 sqft 1bd/1bath on a postage stamp went for $875K. So god knows where it's gotten to now, but trust me, it hasn't gone down. You're looking at $1500/month for an efficiency apartment, and rental vacancy rates run to about .5 percent. The first affordable housing is up in Lompoc or Santa Maria, about an hour away, one way. And that's only "affordable" by SoCal standards. From anywhere else in the country, it's still insane.

    So yeah, it's a great shop, with good people, doing interesting stuff in paradise. The problem is figuring out how to live there. Just make sure you take that into account before you jump.

    Regards,
    Brian

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    another thing to be aware of. I used to do a lot of prototype work for physicists. Some of the most bizarre off the wall people you could ever hope to meet. They will drive you insane.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Dickman View Post
    another thing to be aware of. I used to do a lot of prototype work for physicists. Some of the most bizarre off the wall people you could ever hope to meet. They will drive you insane.
    Hey I resemble that remark!

    Cost of living is high here - price of having a great machine shop 100 yards from the beach. You can get a decent 3 bedroom, 1200-1500 sq ft track house for about $800k in Goleta, but housing is definitely a problem with 1 income.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bmazin View Post
    Hey I resemble that remark!

    Cost of living is high here - price of having a great machine shop 100 yards from the beach. You can get a decent 3 bedroom, 1200-1500 sq ft track house for about $800k in Goleta, but housing is definitely a problem with 1 income.

    Haha! Man I thought moving to FL the cost of housing was high compared to where I was "up north"!!

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    Ha!
    I spent 16 years at the Physics department of UCSB starting in 1968. The Physics machine shop was of tremendous and life long importance and value to me. The machinists, for some reason, took a shine to me and over the years taught me vast amounts about metal working, craftsmanship, design, materials, and people. My entire career success was enabled by them. The lessons I learned in that shop, and the diverse and unique people who worked there are some of my best memories.

    A previous commenter mentioned the unusual experience of working with physicists. As both a physicist and someone who has spent 40 years working with and in machine shops, I would like to add a few things. Physicists are basically highly creative problem solvers. Most of them are not really trained as engineers, but often find themselves doing engineering, sometimes quite sophisticated engineering, in order to solve a problem. Equipment for research can be very crudely put into a few categories (this is a huge over simplification). In one category are parts for which tolerances are often superfluous: brackets, holders, stuff to support things or just to get the job of the moment done. Often a student will appear at the door to the shop with a half baked idea, a poor drawing lacking critical dimensions, and wide eyes at the strange and wonderful machines in the shop. The hallmark of a good university shop is flexibility and kindness. In my case, when I showed up as a freshman, clutching an aluminum bar, looking for a way to cut it roughly in two, the machinist assigned to the student shop started talking to me, and instead of 30 seconds on a band saw, it turned into several hours of tutorial on all things machine as he clearly and patiently explained ALL the methods for cutting the bar in two pieces, and demonstrated them, including welding a bandsaw blade, cutting something on a milling machine, and so forth. Although I was normally a very focused, impatient person, I somehow realized that this was an important moment in my life, and I put aside my anxiety to just hack the bar in half and listened to him. It was 2 hours that changed my life. So anyone contemplating working at a university machine shop should bear in mind that what they do may have a huge and long lasting effect on other people.
    University shops typically build small quantities of assorted stuff. Rarely (in my experience) do they do production quantities. Often the machinists have to act as engineers in order to figure out just what the heck the tolerances ought to be, as many of the people who appear with an idea more than an actual set of toleranced, well crafted drawings, are trying to solve a problem and are operating outside their comfort zone. These problems often delve deep into the innermost secrets of nature, and when a machinist gets involved as a partner in the design and fabrication of an apparatus, amazing things can happen.
    Finally, university shops sometimes get involved in R&D projects which are astounding in complexity, difficulty, and impact on the world. Although not much credited, research machine shops are heavy contributors to Nobel Prize winning research, the work done at particle accelerators, and investigations into the most subtle and important aspects of reality. A university shop is a poor place for someone who only likes to be handed an expertly done drawing and whose responsibility is to make the parts to spec. In a university shop the machinist is frequently in close contact with the customer, and having patience, being willing and able to tactfully educate someone with a PhD as to WHY you really cannot drill a hole in the part as drawn without assembling a miniature drill press inside the part, or why making all the parts to a tenth of a mil tolerance is unnecessary, etc, etc, etc, is all part of the job. Physicists can indeed be arrogant and seem to assume they can do anything and know everything. This is, in some respects, a requirement to probe nature on the finest level. Doing good research is VERY HARD, and it is so very easy to make terrible mistakes, publish erroneous data, or simply fail. Nature never makes it easy- you typically get your butt kicked every day. Without the confidence and arrogance to believe you will succeed, after a while you will just not get out of bed in the morning. SO regardless how it may look to an outsider, doing Physics at a high level is a really hard job. So is machining. In my experience, real experimental physicists have a deep respect, approaching reverence sometimes, for the machinists in the shop. My advisor did, I certainly do, and so do countless peers I have worked with over the years. Physicists, as noted, can be a REAL pain in the ass to work with, but partnerships with mutual respect can be formed with tact and being willing to persist in educating, and being willing to step outside the normal role of a machine operator to become a teacher and partner in solving problems can do the job.

    In short, doing a good job as a Physics machine shop boss is not your average machine shop gig. It is a very demanding job requiring tact, patience, deep and broad knowledge, people skills, creativity, a willingness to literally go where no one has gone before, and a deep and genuine love of solving the hardest, weirdest, most challenging problems you can imagine. In my experience with R&D shops, the machinists or modelmakers develop real friendships and relationships with deep mutual respect with the researchers they support. Being retired, I can truthfully say that the thing I miss most is being able to go down to the shop with some crude sketches and to sit down over coffee and to brainstorm ways to solve complex problems with a bunch of highly creative, skilled machinists.

    All the best,
    Michael

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    Michael,
    Thank you for posting. It has been an honor and pleasure for me to work with bright eyed students as you describe your younger self.

    Your description of the job requirements is precise - I could never work in production.

    The problem is not being appreciated by the individuals one works with.

    The problem is administrations that do not see the value in investing in quality facilities and salaries that retain people with immeasurable skill and talent that may not have a degree.

    Regards,
    Bernie

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    Bernie, you speak the truth about a long standing problem in society. There has been for a long time, perhaps forever, a tendency of people who control resources to have a poor understanding of how things are made with the resources. I am not an historian, but I can easily see how that sort of attitude might have developed in the days where a few controlled all the wealth, and the many worked very long hours for low wages in dirty, unsafe conditions to build the pieces upon which society depended. Although I believe that some scientists and wealthy patrons probably had relationships with artisans and craftsmen in which there was mutual respect, that respect was never carried over to the widespread acclaim that the scientific discoveries which were built on the apparatus built by those craftsmen received.

    In my career, I always tried to make a point of dragging machinists up to the lab to show them what had happened to their work, and to see it in a functioning apparatus. A down side, especially with the fantastic older German machinists I was blessed to work with, was their "Ah, shucks", humility and their unwillingness to see that their craftsmanship and understanding of their work was really not any different than mine. The fact that I had a fancy education and degree mattered to them, and in their eyes meant that I was somehow "better" than them. It always used to frustrate me that this was the case. My experience has been that machinists, as a whole, are extremely bright people. But they seem to learn in ways which do not receive much credit in society. Society rewards degrees and pieces of paper. It looks at people who have learned in a long and hard apprenticeship program like they are dumb, greasy, and beneath notice (speaking broadly). I think it is just how people learn best. Some learn in an organized, top-down, way from textbooks. Some learn by looking at actual things, taking them apart, working with them. At least in some schools the idea that a so-called learning disability such as dyslexia only means that the student needs a special learning process, and not that they are intellectually inferior is starting to become more common.

    Things are, I believe, changing a little for the better. As a retired person, I enjoy watching YouTube videos of blacksmiths, machinists, "makers", and craftspeople of all types. Looking at the huge audience base and the comments that many of these channels receive, I cannot but think that there is a sort of hidden ground swell of interest in the process of building things. Some of these YouTube craftspeople are held in great esteem by their audiences, many of which have no training in the crafts, but who are fascinated by seeing the process, and who respond emotionally to it.

    Also, if one looks at big accelerator facilities such as CERN, it is quite impossible to ignore the absolutely jaw dropping engineering and machining which enables these amazing research tools to function. I think the internet is exposing people of all cultures and nationalities to aspects of the real world which have, until recently, existed outside their sight. I hope so, anyway.

    An interesting perspective on this might be obtained by getting Tom Lipton (Oxtoolco on YouTube) to comment. I believe that he spent a lot of his career as a research machinist, and he could have a unique insight as to how the work done in R&D shops is rewarded and recognized.

    I truly hope that things will equalize, in time.

    All the best,
    Michael

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    Michael and Bernie, spot on posts. As a experimental physicist I really appreciate the skill it takes to make the nutty one-offs we ask for. This job posting is for a machinist and manager type, but we also likely will have another posting for a machinist without management responsibilities, which might be a good opportunity for a younger person looking to challenge themselves and maybe surf before work... feel free to message me if the junior position sounds interesting.


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    Rudy Stuber was a good man. A talented manager of the UCSB physics dept machine shop.
    Tough shoes to fill.

    We did some fun stuff, Catching neutrinos, Atomic force microscopes, free electron lasers.......

    Sometimes I have dreams that I am there again.

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    Bmazin,
    If only I were a real machinist instead of someone who, although having a nice manual shop and spending over 40 years working professionally in R&D, I would jump at the opportunity. Sadly I am a geezer. Hahaha! I worked for David Cannell. I believe he is retired, but if either he or Gunther Ahlers wander by please say hello from Michael Jefferson. The years at UCSB were intense and very interesting, and I will never forget them. If you want an extra set of VERY knowledgeable eyeballs on resumes, David Cannell would be very helpful. He was a HUGE user and fan of the Physics machine shop.

    All the best!
    Michael Jefferson

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    CalG,
    Rudy Stuber was the head of the shop during the years i was there. He was a good friend and fabulous teacher. As often happens in grad school, I had my share of dark and difficult times. He was always encouraging, and his goodwill and support got me through when things were tough. I often think about him, and all the other wonderful people in the shop there. Thanks for bringing him up!
    Michael Jefferson

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    Quote Originally Posted by ferretlegger View Post
    Bmazin,
    If only I were a real machinist instead of someone who, although having a nice manual shop and spending over 40 years working professionally in R&D, I would jump at the opportunity. Sadly I am a geezer. Hahaha! I worked for David Cannell. I believe he is retired, but if either he or Gunther Ahlers wander by please say hello from Michael Jefferson. The years at UCSB were intense and very interesting, and I will never forget them. If you want an extra set of VERY knowledgeable eyeballs on resumes, David Cannell would be very helpful. He was a HUGE user and fan of the Physics machine shop.

    All the best!
    Michael Jefferson
    I know both Dave and Gunther - I’ll pass along your hello!


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    Quote Originally Posted by ferretlegger View Post
    I am not an historian, but I can easily see how that sort of attitude might have developed in the days where a few controlled all the wealth, and the many worked very long hours for low wages in dirty, unsafe conditions ...
    I think, in the US at least, that the Vietnam war really exacerbated that tendency. We weren't so much like the Europeans before - on the frontier, a guy who could make things work was more highly regarded than some back-East tenderfoot

    But during Vietnam, if you were going to school you got a deferment. If not, you got shot. Do that for a few years and you're going to change perceptions ...

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    Greetings,

    So was it Rudy who retired, or was there someone after Rudy who's now retiring? I was in-and-out of that shop in the late '90s, early 2000's. (Dating a PHD candidate) Had a couple of really nice chats with Rudy, but I would have thought he'd have retired about 10 years ago or so.

    Here's hoping you find somebody who can help keep the shop up to the level it's always been known for.
    Regards,
    Brian

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    "..so-called learning disability such as dyslexia"

    My junior high school career guidance councilor was very kind when I told him I wanted to be a machinist.
    I think you should look into something that is less math intensive was his reply.

    Dyscalculia I recently learned it is called, the struggle is real. I can nearly instantly manipulate complex three dimensional objects and assemblies in my my mind as if in CAD yet miss carrying the 2 when balancing my checkbook
    ..go figure.

    B

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alberic View Post
    Greetings,

    So was it Rudy who retired, or was there someone after Rudy who's now retiring? I was in-and-out of that shop in the late '90s, early 2000's. (Dating a PHD candidate) Had a couple of really nice chats with Rudy, but I would have thought he'd have retired about 10 years ago or so.

    Here's hoping you find somebody who can help keep the shop up to the level it's always been known for.
    Regards,
    Brian
    Stuber retired some years ago. The present opening must be for someone following him.

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    Rudy retired more than 10 years ago. The current manager who is retiring, Jeff, used to works at Haas before he replaced Rudy.


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    More open positions than there are workers to fill them.

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    Bmazin,
    If you are still in contact with Rudi, please pass along my warmest regards. He did, and does mean a lot to me.
    Michael


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