Lawrence Berkeley Lab
3.7 of 5 149 reviews
www.lbl.gov Berkeley, CA 1000 to 5000 Employees

Lawrence Berkeley Lab Reviews

Updated Jun 30, 2014
All Employees Current Employees Only

3.7 149 reviews

                             

84% Approve of the CEO

Lawrence Berkeley Lab Lab Director Paul Alivisatos

Paul Alivisatos

(62 ratings)

77% of employees recommend this company to a friend
149 Employee Reviews
Relevance Date Rating
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Review Highlights

Pros:
  • "work-life balance, benefits, stimulating research environment, location, relaxed and friendly culture"
    in 8 reviews
  • "good work life balance, smart people(depends on the team)"
    in 11 reviews
Cons:
  • "Most scientists apply for extramural funding, DOE takes a high overhead for support staff"
    in 20 reviews
  • "Extreme cost of living, and government bureaucracy"
    in 3 reviews
  • Show more review highlights

Reviews

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    • Disapproves of CEO

     

    Serious Cuts are Happening Here

    (Current Employee)
    Emeryville, CA

    ProsIf you are a cutting edge scientist or your job is indispensable, you are set. Some departments are wonderful to work for, but others are toxic. Benefits are fine for now, but they are seriously declining due to budget restraints.

    ConsDepending on the department you work for and your job responsibilities, this can be the greatest place to work or the worst. OCFO (Office of the Chief Financial Officer), in particular, has a very bad reputation. Do not apply for a job in this office if you find an opening! They have a habit of firing people before their 6 month probation period so they don't have to pay severance or COBRA and then they will repost the position to squeeze 6 months work out of the next person before they get fired. This practice has been going on for years. Upper management has been bringing in their own people under sketchy business practices, something well-known within the LBL community. The problem is new people have no idea what's going on. People change their lives to get jobs here and management has no problems forcing them out early leaving them with no salary or insurance. Everyone in this company is very nervous about losing their jobs right now.

    Advice to Senior ManagementCreating a fear-based culture is not the way. Think about how your business practices are affecting people's lives. Being up-front and honest about the financial situation would gain you far more respect from your employees than sneaking around behind their backs to make cuts.

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    Used to be a great place; has been on a constant decline recently

    Research Scientist (Former Employee)
    Berkeley, CA

    Pros-Still home to some top people
    -great location
    -close to uc Berkeley

    Cons-constantly declining doe funding forced many great people to early retirement and young and promising had to look for jobs elsewhere (luckily the silicon valley is next door and needs smart people)
    -had many lay offs recently: the prestige is compromised
    - extremely bureaucratic
    - overhead is almost 2x of salary; it is harder and harder to compete against universities
    - managers do not know how to act in the new environment. In fact they do nothing as the result many programs have been shrinking and even closing
    - no more pension ( salaries are lower than in the valley but the pension was making it more even on a long run), making benefits below average across the tech industry
    - the future is bleak, unit will probably will end up like bell labs

    Advice to Senior ManagementGet real and adopt to new reality

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    1 person found this helpful  

    LBNL hosts Cutting Edge Scientific Research and Most Intelligent People!

    Postdoctoral Fellow (Current Employee)
    Berkeley, CA

    ProsPersonal development guaranteed in any scientific, computing, research areas of interest.

    ConsNo permanent positions, pay is low; No attrition due to that very little upward career moves for ambitious and capable young researchers.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend

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    Very supportive and stimulating environment

    Postdoctoral Researcher (Current Employee)
    Berkeley, CA

    ProsSurrounded by experts to collaborate with and seek assistance from

    ConsHigh-pressure. Everyone is constantly scrambling for funding.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend

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    Great place to begin a career.

    Anonymous Employee (Current Employee)

    ProsGreat, helpful people to work with. The department you work in can make all the difference. Definitely a great place for a postdoc or student.

    ConsInternal mobility can be difficult without additional schooling. Pay is not too competitive. Depending on your job, work can become monotonous at times.

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    Good people, nice campus (up on the hill)

    Research Associate (Former Employee)
    Berkeley, CA

    ProsGood food, good policies, good pay (for right out of college). Hires from within reasonably well.

    ConsBureaucratic, sometimes slow to get things done, communication can be slow.

    Advice to Senior ManagementSome PI's: be careful about micromanaging, other PI's: be careful about meeting with your underlings more often!

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend

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    Research associate

    Anonymous Employee (Former Employee)

    ProsAble to work part time, enthusiastic colleagues, a supervisor with high level of integrity, and an opportunity to work with colleagues in other departments on interesting projects are all pros that I experienced. Beautiful views of the Bay didn't hurt either.

    ConsHard to find funding, and during the slow times work can be boring. Work at my level came in waves. Also, part-time workers are discouraged against (a manager once told me that management likes to see people in their chairs or at their lab bench every day). Not to mention the fact that it takes forever to get funding and complete projects (too many internal hurdles related to management approving particulars of the research, as well as internal departments such as budget office etc). Oh yes, and VERY HIGH overhead, making it impossible to get adequate funding to fund a multi-year study with 3-4 people working more than 50% time on the study. A lot of my colleagues took "leave without pay" days just to finish a study. Seems that LBNL ultimately wants "star scientists" to lead multidisciplinary teams with groundwork carried out by Graduate Students. So, if you are somewhere in the middle, your work environment may not be that stellar and you may not have a chance to move upward. Lastly, some laboratory equipment outside the ALS and Physical Biosciences Division is very out of date, definately not "state of the art".

    Advice to Senior ManagementProvide training to junior scientists as to how to navigate the funding and provide skills training for staff to learn new tools (lab techniques and computer software/programming wise).

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    Great place for research, but academic administration lacks focus and no long term investment for scientists.

    Anonymous Employee (Current Employee)

    ProsEquipment is top-notch and available, salaries are above industry average.

    ConsSoft money institution run by academics. Most scientists apply for extramural funding, DOE takes a high overhead for support staff. I have not yet met a single employee employed by the DOE. Most positions are contingent on available grant funding (usually awarded a maximum of 3-5 years).

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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    LBNL's response to broader structural problems within government research currently disadvantages young scientists.

    Anonymous Employee (Former Employee)
    Berkeley, CA

    ProsIf set on getting a faculty job, one pro is that LBNL incentivizes academic behavior; i.e., publish basic science research. While postdocs cannot access career services at UC Berkeley, and career support services at LBNL were just cut, you can creatively leverage UCB to advance your career (e.g., recruiting events, networking with students). Senior management is trying to boost non-federal funding.

    ConsIt is very important to understand how your prospective division and research group is funded, which may make the following generalizations more or less accurate. Consolidation of funds into large projects creates rigid hierarchies; pace is slow, like academia, diminishing the ability of young scientists to produce tangible results in a reasonable amount of time; because senior scientists have to pitch bigger and more ambitious ideas to DOE, projects increasingly focus on higher-risk, more complicated, and therefore less tangible work; you must be very careful that you have the right skill sets, given that imbalances between computer modeling and experimentation and physical technology development, and that the focus of funded projects can radically change within just 1 year. Much is made about LBNL being a meritocratic, soft-funded organization; in fact, most career/career-track scientists are effectively tenured, in that they migrate, sometimes outside their expertise, from completed or de-funded projects to funded projects. While these staff struggle, there is less support for younger staff.

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    • Culture & Values
           
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    A beautiful place to work, but contains an unhealthy amount of bureaucracy.

    Research Assistant (Current Employee)
    Berkeley, CA

    ProsFantastic work environment. Great, leading edge science being done.

    ConsExtreme cost of living, and government bureaucracy.

    Advice to Senior ManagementCut down on the bureaucracy.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend

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