Berkeley Lab

Game of Divisions

For the National Postdoc Appreciation Week, we are organizing the Game of divisions, where each division is represented by a postdoc, who will represent his house for the control of the Iron Stool.

The talks will be 3min long, and the jury will be led by lab director Mike Witherell, and Peter Fiske.

If you’re a Berkeley lab postdoc, you can register here to enter the competition

Quantum computing with Rigetti

The main auditorium of Berkeley Lab was almost full to hear about Quantum Computing from Shane Caldwell, Quantum Engineer at Rigetti, a Berkeley-based Quantum Computing start-up. The company has attracted a lot of interest recently (The Quantum Computer Factory That’s Taking on Google and IBM – Wired) with its quantum computing API, Forest, its Quantum Computing language, QUIL, and the python front-end made available to the world, pyquil.

The audience learned about the quantum logic gates, what they do, and have they are implemented (spoiler: it’s very difficult!) Here’s the video of of the event:

Here’s more about the speaker:

Shane obtained his PhD in nuclear physics from the University of Chicago in 2015. His dissertation was on a novel technique for beta-delayed neutron spectroscopy using trapped radioactive ions. Within days of defending his thesis he joined Rigetti Computing as a “postdoc,” and he is probably the only person who ever held that job title at the company. During his first month at Rigetti he spent his days in a very roomy closet in the back of an office suite on Telegraph Avenue, in which he became acquainted with a pile of microwave signal generators and analyzers. Six weeks after joining Rigetti he was performing his first qubit measurements in the company’s new lab on Heinz Avenue. These days he is working on proving a new superconducting qubit architecture for scaling Rigetti’s quantum chips beyond 8 qubits.

Pictures of the event are available here.

Postdoc Avocadro party

With high rents in the bay area, sure postdocs can buy no house, but at least they can get avocado and have a good time!

Postdocsat Berkeley LAb always love to talk about how they handle the infinitely large and the infinitely small, and fear no pun.


SF Marathon fundraiser

Leen Alawieh, Protonu Basu, Jarrod McClean, and Jana Voříšková were among the finishers of the San Francisco Marathon, which took place July 23. The runners used the race as a fundraiser for the Lab’s Postdoc Association, via the Berkeley Lab Foundation.

McClean is leaving the Lab to continue work on quantum computing for Google, in Venice Beach, CA.

Berkeley Lab postdocs after completing the San Francisco Marathon (leen, Jana, Jarod and Protonu)

Interview in industry (BLPA career seminar #6)

Postdocs at Berkeley Lab were thrilled to learn about how to best prepare for interviews, and get to know all the tricks they can use to attract the attention of companies by staffing agency.

The talk, part of BLPA Career Seminars series, was given by Nina Mazurova, a talent partner at Cypress HCM.
The presentation is available here (reserved to lab employees)

Nina Mazurova addressing Berkeley Lab postdocs

Series X with Alexis Madrigal

Usually, for Series X, we like to talk about things past and we invite renowned scientists to talk about their journey in science. But this time, we had a different kind of scientist  a journalist and it was our delight to welcome Alexis Madrigal.

He’s been editor at the Wired, The Atlantic and more recently at Fusion, where he led investigation at the border of technology and culture, but the broad definition of culture, trying to understand how communities (of gender, color) were affected. The most glaring illustration of this is the latest podcast series “Containers” (which we really encourage you to listen, where the impact of global trade is dissected looking at the port of Oakland.)

Thought the methods and means might be slightly different, scientist and journalist share a common goal: investigate a topic and reporting their finding (I once read from Alexis’ former colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates that he came to journalism, because it is a tool for seekers – and I guess it’s a similar sentiment that brought you to science.)

But sometimes, truth-seekers are under assault; techniques applied to climate-change whistleblower (just a theory, biased, and so on) are now applied to mainstream journals that are now called fake-news (in a strange reversal of the term, that is).

Fittingly, the event was held on Earth week, and Alexis was a visiting scholar at Berkeley, and wrote a book talking about the past history of renewable energies, “Powering the dream“, where we learn that changes in administration are not new, and there might be some lessons to learn from previous shifts. Alexis will help us to see the through recent events, and what we can learn from the past.

How to use social media to advance your research career

On April 3rd, 2017, we had Catharine Adams (@scienceismetal) from UC Berkeley presenting “How to use social media to advance your research career”, where she enjoined young researcher to engage a larger audience and share their research with non-scientist.

Cat Adams on social media

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NPA Annual Meeting 2017

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory was represented for the first time at the National Postdoc Association Annual Meeting that was held in San Francisco, on March 17-19th, 2017.

Four postdocs, members of the Berkeley Lab Postdoc (co-chairs Tetiana Shalapska, Antoine Wojdyla, Valentine Trotter, and treasurer Hang Deng) presented the results of one year of efforts to build a postdoc association from the ground up.

BLPA poster at the NPA Annual Meeting

All participants had a great time talking with their peers from other labs and university, learning best practices and building collaborations to enhance the experience of their fellow postdocs :

While it is a bit unsettling to find so many attendees with the feeling of uncertainty as post-docs, it is encouraging to see increasing amount of resources and efforts being dedicated to improving post-doc experiences by postdoc associations and/or postdoc offices in different institutions.

says Hang Deng, treasurer of the postdoc association and part of the EESA division.


forum@MSD – novel photonic structures

We were thrilled to host the second event of out forum@MSD series, were we talked about novel photonic structures (the first event was about topological insulators).

This event was introduced by Xiang Zhang (, who does a lot of work around very strange and cool interactions between matter and light — like parity-time symmetry breaking and anti-lasers –that got him many awards recently (A.C. Eringen Medal, Julius Springer Prize for Applied Physics)

The presenters were postdocs Chad Ropp and Nicolas Bachelard, who presented different aspects of their research in non-equilibrium/dissipative structures for adaptive photonic and acoustic bandgap devices.

They both engaged a really interesting conversation with the attendees, who learned new experimental tricks and were able to give them feedback and ideas to move forward.

Pictures of the event are available here.

Young researchers visit the inside of the ALS

The Advanced Light Source, Berkeley Lab’s synchrotron, is currently under scheduled maintenance, and the core of the facility is accessible, thanks to the absence of harmful radiations when not in operation.

Inside the ALS

A series of Berkeley lab postdocs and young researchers were allowed to tour the inside of the facility, learning about the physics behind the accelerator on the spot, with a close look at the electron gun, the booster ring and the storage ring.

A younger crowd

The careful and illuminating explanations where provided by Banda, ALS’ Operations Deputy, who acknowledged the difficulties and tremendous work of the technicians who are essential to keep the soft X-ray beam running, with an uptime over 98%

The synchrotron, explained by its director of operation Banda

The ALS is staged for a major upgrade, ALS-U which recently received CD-zero approval. This will propel it into the Generation IV category of light sources, dubbed Diffraction-Limited Storage Ring (DLSR), effectively reaching  the very limit of physical optics and enabling whole capabilities of research.

ALS-U will enable new science

Tours will soon be open to the staff at ALS.