Berkeley Lab

Series X : Mina Bissell

We had the great honor to welcome Mina Bissell for the Series X seminar (the pictures are available here.)

Mina Bissell talking to Berkeley Lab postdocs

Mina Bissell talking to Berkeley Lab postdocs

She fought all her life to get her research accepted, but also smashing gender barriers. She’s always been a great advocate of the postdocs.

Trust yourself, you only have one life !

She gave a TED talk a few years ago (Experiments that point to a new understanding of cancer)

Mina Bissell with Berkeley Lab postdocs

Mina Bissell with Berkeley Lab postdocs

Here’s a few resources she shared with us :

Thinking in three dimensions
 – Heeding a mentor’s advice: A lesson in persistence
Context is everything


Postdoc Orientation : November 2nd, 2016

We are now offering orientation to postdocs on a monthly basis, in collaboration with the human resources at the lab. We essentially give an overview of the science at the lab and the life in  Berkeley.

Berkeley Lab postdoc Orientation

Berkeley Lab postdoc Orientation

The presentation is available here.

Open Access publishing at Berkeley Lab

open_access_flag_bw_croppedIt’s Open Access Week.  And, postdocs are at the forefront to promote Open Access (OA) as an important scientific and societal movement.  To further raise awareness we devote this blog post to OA by mentioning and briefly discussing the two main options for us—for researchers at Berkeley Lab—to publish OA.  As we will explain below in more detail, the first option is optional, whereas the second one is actually a stipulation that we have to meet.

To get started the most instructive way to dive into this topic is maybe a quote:

All scientific and technical research funded by the U.S. Government or undertaken at facilities funded by the government must be made available for access by the public.

This quote, which is taken from the Lab’s Scientific Publications FAQs, is pretty self-explanatory. Every person at the Lab who publishes papers that report on Lab-funded research has to make the papers publicly available.  Period.

The first option to achieve open access is: pay the publisher to make it available on the publisher’s website.  Open access fees are however easily >$1,000, even if circumstances are favorable.  For example, the Lab is an All ACS Publications-subscribing institution with the American Chemical Society (ACS), which significantly reduces OA costs with this specific publisher. And, if you’re a member with the ACS, this further reduces OA costs (click here for an overview).  So, there can be cost-reducing factors: yes.  But it is typically still financially difficult for a young researcher such as a postdoc or PhD candidate who does not have proper own funding to go for OA all by her/his own.  In those cases, you’re critically dependent on the graciousness (and funding) of your PI or mentor.

The second OA option is very specific to people like us at the Lab; that is, people at US government institutions.  Because the US government retains a non-exclusive right to publish and reproduce manuscripts, it has provided us with a cheap route to open access.  There are some important things to consider, which we highlight below.

The underlying policy affects much more than only journal articles.  It pertains equally to following scientific and technical documents: conference submissions, proceedings, books and book chapters, theses/dissertations, and formal programmatic progress and completion reports.  All of these documents have to be sent to Department of Energy’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI).  So, this open access route is in fact a requirement.  Keep that in mind.

The first step in pursuing this OA option is talking to your PI, mentor, group leader, and/or division administration people.  The reason is that you have to find out whether or not there are division-specific policies and procedures in place.  Should there not be any such special procedures, the next step toward OA happens after submission and acceptance of your manuscript.  At that point, you have to include following copyright statement to the copyright agreement with your (commercial) publisher:

This manuscript has been authored by an author at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231 with the U.S. Department of Energy. The U.S. Government retains, and the publisher, by accepting the article for publication, acknowledges, that the U.S. Government retains a non-exclusive, paid-up, irrevocable, world-wide license to publish or reproduce the published form of this manuscript, or allow others to do so, for U.S. Government purposes.

If you wish to publish with Elsevier, you have to take into account that the publisher requires an amended publication agreement.  For this reason, authors should contact Elsevier at

Commercial publishers typically demand that you may not use the proof-read and formatted pdf that the publisher provides.  Instead, you should use a generic version of your manuscript.  This is typically the revised paper that you re-submit as a response to reviewers’ comments and suggestions. Apart from standard information that has to be included in the generic manuscript version, the corresponding RPM tells you to insert a legal disclaimer:

“This document was prepared as an account of work sponsored by the United States Government. While this document is believed to contain correct information, neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor the Regents of the University of California, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by its trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof, or the Regents of the University of California. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof or the Regents of the University of California.”

Finally, some publishers require a so-called exclusivity period.  That is, the publisher has the exclusive right for a defined period of time (e.g., for half a year after formal publication of your paper on their website) to provide access in any form to any version of your manuscript.  So, you’re not even allowed to have the generic version of your paper on any document server during that time period.  Check the author guidelines and other resources found on your publisher’s websites to ensure you comply with all relevant policies.

We hope that the blog helps postdocs and other people to be more aware of open access options and requirements at Berkeley Lab.  We wish everybody happy (open access) publishing.

Uncharted 2016

Berkeley Lab got a chance to bring some science to Uncharted, with Ruimin Qiao talking about how her research shines a light on batteries, and Sinead Griffin (@sineatrix) on how size doesn’t matter in science. The event was held October 14-15th in Berkeley, bringing together renown columnists and social activists.

Ruimin was the winner of the ALS/Molecular Foundry Science Slam, and Sinead recently won the Bay Area Falling Walls competition.

Sinead and Ruimin

Sinead and Ruimin

The video of their performances can be found here : Ruimin and Sinead.

The organizers (Berkeleyside) kindly handed free admission to half a dozen of postdocs of the lab.

Read more about Ruimin :

Careers at College

Tom Donnelly, head of the department of physics at Harvey Mudd College came to Berkeley Lab to give a presentation about careers at college, and explained the difference between university and colleges to an audience of postdocs.

Tom Donnelly from Harvey Mudd College talking to Berkeley Lab postdocs

Tom Donnelly fro Harvey Mudd College talking to Berkeley Lab postdocs

He later on engaged with the participants around lunch, and visited the Advanced Light Source (“wow, very cool !” he said, approximately.)

The corresponding slides are here, and the recording of the event is here.

Postdoc orientation, October 2016


In the news

Thanks to ALS for the nice shoot out !

Shedding Light on Postdocs

National Postdoc Appreciation Week 2016

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab had its first National Postdoc Appreciation Week, and it has been widely embraced both by postdocs and senior scientists !

Over the week of Sept 19-23, many events across the lab and across divisions brought scientists together over coffee, science slams or dinner at sunset.


Initial draft for NPAW2016 at LBNL

Among the highlights were the ALS/Molecular Foundry slam (pictures here), where the postdocs from the Advanced Light Source and Molecular Foundry united forces to present their science in a condensed form. Ruimin Qiao from ALS won the contest.

alsmf12The Joint Genome Institute (JGI) kickstarted the event on Monday Sept 20th, with a pizza lunch. Computer Research Division (CRD) and the Biosciences division also organized their gathering, while Earth and Environmental Science Division (EESA) organized a Twitter challenge and PIs engaged the young scientists over coffee.


EESA celebrating postdocs

The lab-wide event on Thursday drew over 150 postdocs, and many eminent scientists (among them Wim Leemans and James Symons) shared drinks and a gorgeous fall sunset on the patio of the cafetria (pictures are here).


Seasoned scientists enjoying the lights of the sunset on San Francisco bay

Lab deputy director and BLPA executive sponsor Horst Simon gave an address to the postdocs, underlining the importance and the great promises of research as a young scientist, unencumbered with non-scientific aspect of running a team and a lab.


LBNL Deputy director Horst Simon experimenting with fermented barley

Postdocs at the lab were also thrilled to have their counterparts from MSRI, located just above the lab on the hill; spouses, partners and children were also welcome to the party (though their drink options were more limited.)


Making room for the new generation of scientists


Thanks to the lab management for support, and all the members of the Berkeley Lab Postdoc Association for organizing these events !


Berkeley Lab Postdoc Association team

The National Postdoc Appreciation is not over yet, with the Energy Technologies Area (ETA) having it event on October 20th.


ALS/Molecular Foundry SLAM #NPAW2016

On Tuesday, September 20, the first ever Science Slam took place as a joint event between the Berkeley Lab Postdoc Association, the Advanced Light Source and the Molecular Foundry. The Science Slam format requires speakers to explain their research to an audience of non-experts. The speakers are limited to 3 minutes with a 1 slide maximum to entertain, engage and educate the audience on their own research. alsmf12Participants on the day were postdocs from the Foundry and the ALS. The first slam was from Isvar Cordova who spoke about how resonant soft x-ray scattering uses nanoscale properties to understand macroscale phenomena in his talk “Resonant Bragg’ing in Operando: Spatio-Chemically Probing Nanostructures on a Macro Scale“. Following this another ALS postdoc, Antoine Wojdyla, spoke about how his instrument development at the ALS aims at “Making Small Microchips Smaller“.

Next a theorist from the Foundry, Jung-Hoon Lee discussed his “Computational Study of Nanoporous Materials” where supercomputers are used to understand and guide experiments in new material discovery. The last talk of the slam was from Ruimin Qiao, who told us about how device scaling is hampered by battery performance. Her talk “Shining Light on Battery Research” described how her work at the ALS targeted this problem.A deliberating audience, including ALS director Roger Falcone

A deliberating audience, including ALS director Roger Falcone

The audience voted ALS postdoc Ruimin Qiao as the overall winner with her talk on “Shining Light on Battery Research”. The Slam was followed by a reception to celebrate National Postdoc Appreciation Week for ALS and Foundry postdocs. Congratulations to all of those who participated! 
Ruimin, Winner of the ALS/MF slam

Ruimin, Winner of the ALS/MF slam

The winner of the slam will be invited to Uncharted, an event in Berkeley Oct 14-15th gathering a bunch of prestigious speakers, to perform her slam in front a a broad audience.

Advanced Postdoc Foundry science SLAM

All the ALS and Molecular Foundry postdocs are invited to celebrate the National Postdoc Appreciation Week on Tuesday, September 20th at 12pm in building 15-253. Food will be served, and postdocs across division will get a chance to meet each other.

apfThere will be a science slam, where selected postdocs will present their research in a 3-minute talk.

All PIs are welcome to the event and engage with the crowd of young scientists.