Berkeley Lab

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.

BLPA Series X : Saul Perlmutter

We had the honor to introduce Saul Perlmutter today, respected colleague and Nobel Prize laureate.

He gave a us a series of advice and sincere feelings about science nowadays. A few of his thoughts :

To learn science is like to learn how to sail a boat

On science setbacks :

Perhaps it takes some self-delusion…

Saul Perlmutter talking to Berkeley Lab postdocs

Saul Perlmutter talking to Berkeley Lab postdocs

As a postdoc, it’s not easy to find the right balance between good mentorship and creative autonomy

Some of the most interesting science is at the boundaries of disciplines

Biggest philosophical questions :

1./what was there before bigbang 2./what does it take for humans to work together ?

We still don’t know how to use the Internet. Who knows, maybe the first persons who invented the wheel just kept rolling off the cliff

The picture of the event are available here.

BLPA Career series #1 : interviewing in the industry

We were delighted to welcome Michel Foure, former division director at the lab and interview coach. The auditorium was full of young scientists ready to make their next step !

Michel Foure giving a talk to Berkeley Lab postdocs

Michel Foure giving a talk to Berkeley Lab postdocs

The pictures of the event are here.

Bowling night

First Bowling night among LBNL postdocs at the Albany Bowl. The postdoc got a chance to show their mastery of the conservation of momentum laws.

The competitors

The contenders

The contenders were heavily defeated by Jana, with the quite remarkable score of 179. Well done !

Bowling night winner

Jana, bowling night winner

WD&E Fall 16 cohort for undergraduate research interns

We are looking for a few post-docs who might like to present about their career and/or research efforts to the Fall 2016 cohort of Workforce Development & Education undergraduate research interns at Berkeley Lab.

The interns are either community college or 4-year university students, and some are recent university graduates who have not started graduate school yet (if that’s their plan). These are national programs, so the interns are primarily from out-of-state, but there are always some Bay Area interns. They are majoring in a variety of STEM fields, and our program places them in all Divisions across Berkeley Lab (both on-site and off-site). We have 18 interns this term, and the most common majors represented for Fall 2016 are: chemistry, environmental sciences, and physics.

We try to bring in guest speakers who will give them something different than what they will get from a data-driven research seminar. We want to expose them to a variety of projects and careers across the Lab. It works best if a guest speaker spends some time talking about what they do here at the Lab, what their career path has been, and what they are interested in or passionate about. We encourage you to show photographs and/or images whenever possible, about your research or your life/career. Hard data is usually not well-received. Discussions about work-life balance are well-received. You may bring items to pass around, if applicable to your work.

The time is flexible, but you can have between 30-40 minutes to present. Using slides is optional, but of course you may show slides if you like! In general I am trying to get speakers to show fewer slides, and spend more time interacting with the interns.This has proven to be the way to make the most impact for this audience.

The dates we are looking for guest speakers are the following: September 29 @ 3pm; September 29 @ 4pm; October 13 @ 4pm; October 27 @ 4pm; November 10 @ 4pm. Contact Laleh at if you’re interested.

Tilden hike – August 2016

On August 14th, 2016, it was field trip for postdocs at Berkeley Lab, climbing up an extra mile to reach Tilden Park. They started at the Little Farm, for biology, then headed up to Wildcat Peak, for astronomical observations. Then they walked to inspiration point, to solve a few theoretical problems, and finally went down to lake Anza, to devise new computational approaches to Navier-Stokes equations based on simplified wave equations.

Tilden hike with the Berkeley Lab Postdoc Association

Tilden hike with the Berkeley Lab Postdoc Association

The proceedings of the reunion are available here.


Berkeley Lab postdocs at the SF Marathon

Lydia Terborg (EETD), Mauro Del Ben (CRD) and Sanshiro Mizuno (Nuclear Sciences) successfully completed the San Francisco Marathon held on July 31st.

The fundraiser helped collect over $500 that will be donated to the Berkeley Lab Foundation to help the Berkeley Lab Postdoc Association.

Lydia Terborg (EETD), Mauro Del Ben (CRD) and Sanshiro Mizuno (Nuclear Sciences)

Lydia Terborg (EETD), Mauro Del Ben (CRD) and Sanshiro Mizuno (Nuclear Sciences)

Online donations to the association (they are tax exempt !) are accepted through the Berkeley Lab Foundation website. These donations help us to organize events for postdocs and increase our outreach efforts (the funding we receive from the lab does not allow this.)

SF Marathon fundraiser

The San Francisco marathon will be up on Sunday, July 31, for the 39th time. A lot of people participate, many of which use the opportunity to run for a good cause. Just like Lydia Terborg who is a postdoc with the ESDR at the in running gear

Lydia will go for the half-marathon distance. And, she has started a fundraiser to collect money for postdocs at the Lab. We will use the funds via the Berkeley Lab Foundation to provide food and beverages during social events such as picnics and Pub Nights.

Donate by going here, then click on “Donate to a Fundraiser”, and select “Berkeley Lab Postdoc Association”. Also, encourage others to do so, too. Especially your PIs!

Are you going to run the marathon, too?  And, do you like to help raising money? Then, just join the BLPA team.

Have fun!