Berkeley Lab

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

 The corresponding material is available here, and you can watch a recording of the talk here.

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.


BLPA career seminar: Insight Data Science

Great crowd at Berkeley Lab to hear former postdocs talk about their transition to data science through the the Insight Data Science Fellows Program:

  • Kathy Copic is the VP of Growth at Insight Data Science, where she works on expanding Insight to new locations. Before that, she worked in Experimental Particle Physics at labs including CERN, Fermilab, SLAC, Lawrence Berkeley, and Brookhaven. She earned her Ph.D. in Physics at the University of Michigan, was a post-doc in the same field at Columbia, and worked as a Staff Scientist at Berkeley National Lab before starting at Insight.
  • Jeffrey Silverman is a Data Scientist at Samba TV where he uses big data to figure exactly how many people are really watching Westworld. He is a graduate of the Insight Data Science Program (class of 16C). Before that, Jeff was an astrophysics postdoc at the University of Texas at Austin where he studied exploding stars. He earned his PhD at UC Berkeley working exploding stars and dark energy with the Filippenko group on campus and the Nugent group at LBNL.
  • Joel Swenson is a Program Director at Insight Data Science, where he leads the Health Data Science Program in San Francisco. Previously he studied nuclear organization and epigenomics. He earned his Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley and was a post-doc at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab before joining Insight.
  • Matt George leads the data science team at Airware, a commercial drone startup in San Francisco. Previously he worked at Square in data science and software engineering roles, and completed a fellowship at Insight Data Science. He earned a Ph.D. in astrophysics at UC Berkeley, working with the cosmology group at LBL.

Joel Swenson, Jeffrey Silverman, Matt George and Kathy Copic presenting Insight Data fellowship program at Berkeley Lab

Photos are available here.

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.

Collecting gifts for UCSF Benioff’s Children’s Hospital

We are collecting gifts for UCSF Benioff Children’s hospital. Please deposit your contribution near the holiday tree at the entrance of LBNL cafeteria !

Those kids are in dire need of comfort, and they don’t get very much– anything helps !

Postdocs are ice-skating for children !

Postdocs are ice-skating for children !

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Open Access – additional resources

This a follow-up of the Open Access event we had at the lab (the pictures of the event are here.), and a continuation of our previous article : Open Access publishing at Berkeley Lab.

Laurence Bianchini, from MyScienceWork

Laurence Bianchini, from MyScienceWork

Here is the supporting material (from the speakers at the event):
Open Access impact on scientific career.
LBNL publication requirements.

In a nutshell :

When submitting a paper, make sure the acknowledgement reflects

This work was supported by the Director, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, of the U.S. Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231.

It is the same contract — and acknowledgements– for everyone at the lab. You can mention “partially supported by” or equivalent when needed. The statement might vary based on which specific office funded the research, but the contract number should always be acknowledged.

Please also make available the accepted manuscript on (the actual paper submission link is here.)

You can check the copyright status of your publications on SHERPA/RoMEO. It is good practice to make sure that all your publications can be found on the internet (either through Google scholar, PubMED and others.) You can also use your own website to make your publications available (the worst things that can happen is a take-down notice, if the copyright situation is tricky.)

Regarding intellectual property – please submit a record of invention to the Berkeley Lab Innovation and Partnerships Office ( for new processes, devices, or compositions of matter described in a paper when you have completed a draft of the paper. The record of invention form can be found here. You can find more information here.

Series X : Paul Alivisatos

For the lastest BLPA seminar : Series X, We were pleased to host Paul Alivisatos, Vice-Chancellor for research at University of California, Berkeley, and former director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory !

Paul Alivisatos speaking to postdocs at Berkeley Lab

Paul Alivisatos speaking to postdocs at Berkeley Lab

Here are the pictures of the events, and some of units of wisdom :

“I have learned to create a new unit of failure through abject failures !”

“Every time I start a new project, I hope this the the thing I wanted to do my whole life”

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