Coffee with BLPA board members

Fadji Maina

In this special coffee with postdocs, our board members share with us their motivations to join our association, their major takeaways, and advice for LBNL postdocs. Get your coffee, have a seat, and learn more about these scientists working hard every day to build an amazing postdoc community here at LBNL.

Maria Zurek, Co-chair, Nuclear Science Division

Why did you join BLPA?

I joined BLPA because I love interacting with people. I also love organizing events, creating new ideas for projects, and seeing how they come to life through teamwork. The Association helps to build a strong postdoc community, and a supportive community is extremely important in my life!

What do you like the most about BLPA? What did you learn?

I learned so much while being a BLPA co-chair! I’ve learned how to be an effective leader, how to manage projects, how to communicate better, how to give and reflect on feedback, and how to manage my time better. I’ve learned how to step out of my comfort zone to get things done and it helped me evolve a lot. Thanks to BLPA, I’ve met so many interesting people: scientists, leaders, educators, creators, and activists, and it’s absolutely the highlight of my activity in the association.

Anything else you would like to add?

I wanted to thank all the volunteers and board members for creating this amazing team and helping each other to grow while supporting our postdocs at the Lab!

Oisin Creaner, Co-chair, Computational Research Division

Why did you join BLPA?

I joined BLPA because I wanted to be part of a community that welcomes postdocs from around the world.  Coming to America for the first time for more than a vacation was quite daunting and BLPA really helped make me feel welcome.  I took the opportunity to join the BLPA board when it came available because it was good to be able to contribute to that community.

What do you like the most about BLPA? What did you learn?

I’ve learned a lot about the diverse cultures and people at the lab.  In particular, I’ve found that the way the community has responded to the CoViD-19 crisis has been very encouraging.  Continuing to maintain the community spirit in challenging times has been very rewarding.

Anything else you would like to add?

I would encourage all postdocs to join BLPA: to get to know us and participate in our events. 

Gozde Barim, Committee Leader Lab-Industry Networking Connection (LINC), Energy Storage & Distributed Resources Division

Why did you join BLPA?

I joined BLPA to make social connections both personally and professionally, build a community, as well as serve the postdoc community.

What do you like the most about BLPA? What did you learn?

I really like diversity in BLPA, learning more about different cultures and backgrounds as well as attending fun social activities with fellow postdocs. By helping to organize events, I enhance my skills in time management, project management, networking, and team building.

Anything else you would like to add?

I recommend all postdocs to check out and join our events and activities. I also encourage them to join our meetings and volunteer to help organize events. LINC committee is particularly helpful because postdocs can make professional connections while organizing networking events, site visits, and info sessions.

Fadji Maina, Committee Leader Communication, Energy Geosciences Division

Why did you join BLPA?

As a new postdoc at the Lab, I was looking for a community of young scientists to support each other and better navigate my new environment and its challenges. I found BLPA!

What do you like the most about BLPA? What did you learn?

 I first joined BLPA as a volunteer, then board member, and I am now leading the communication committee. My BLPA journey has been remarkable, memorable, and truly amazing. I’ve got to know and work with so many folks across areas and departments at the Lab. I’ve improved my communication and leadership skills.

Anything else you would like to add?

New postdocs, as you embark on a new and exciting journey at the Lab, consider joining our association to improve your experience here at the Lab, and serve your community. Words can’t describe the rewards of working and interacting with so many talented scientists eager to build a postdoc community.

Louise Frenck, Committee Leader Outdoor, Material Science Division

Why did you join BLPA?

I joined BLPA after meeting different board members during hikes and meet and greet and other events organized by BLPA. I found that the people I met were super fun and creative. Also, it was a great opportunity to learn more about leadership and how to organize events.

What do you like the most about BLPA? What did you learn?

What I like the most about BLPA is the people’s enthusiasm and the diversity that members are bringing to the association. I have met lovely folks thanks to BLPA! Also, the events organized by BLPA are bringing postdocs from all divisions together, which is a great way to meet new postdocs from other backgrounds, learn more about their fields, and even foster new collaboration. During my time as a volunteer first, then as an outdoor committee leader, I learned a lot about planning events (hikes, meet and greet, and now online events), and improved my communication skills.

Anything else you would like to add?

BLPA is a very creative and welcoming association, feel free to reach out if you want to be part of it and come to our fun events.

Lisa Claus, Committee Leader Community Building, Computational Research Division

Why did you join BLPA?

I joined the lab right before the shelter-in-place started and noticed that BLPA is a great opportunity to meet new people virtually.

What do you like the most about BLPA? What did you learn?

Planning activities to support other postdocs together with all the other motivated and creative volunteers has been a lot of fun. Joining BLPA helped me to broaden and improve my communication skills, creativity, and team player attitude.

Anything else you would like to add?

I encourage everyone to join BLPA and attend events. It is a great opportunity to network with other postdocs and become part of the community.

Kang Yao, Secretary, Energy Storage & Distributed Resources Division

Why did you join BLPA?

I attended and enjoyed BLPA hikes when I first joined the Lab and was somehow “recruited” afterwards. I like to “give back” and organize hikes for other postdocs (pre-COVID for sure) and it’s fun to meet a diverse background of researchers from different cultures in different fields.

What do you like the most about BLPA? What did you learn?

People of course! I learned stories from other postdocs about many places that sometimes I have not even heard of before through the cultural lunches and oftentimes just casual conversations. Our community is so diverse and full of talented people 🙂

Anything else you would like to add?

Being a foreigner new to CA, my life would be lonelier without BLPA. I also had to push myself out of my comfort zone to join the Board. BLPA is a great way for one to know people from outside their field of work (if you like that). Please join our activities and consider becoming volunteers and even board members, too!

Venkitesh Ayyar, Board Member, Computational Research Division

Why did you join BLPA?

As a new postdoc at the Lab, I attended many of the events organized by the BLPA. In addition to getting the opportunity to visit cool places in the bay area during the BLPA hiking trips, I got to interact with many postdocs in the Lab and around the Bay area. Having gained so much from the BLPA, I became a board member to help incoming postdocs acclimatize to the Lab environment.

What do you like the most about BLPA? What did you learn?

While working for the BLPA, I learned how to organize activities from small local events to career fairs at the Lab. I enjoyed meeting and interacting with postdocs and learning about their research and having intelligent conversations.

Anything else you would like to add?

Working with BLPA, I have made many friends and formed many connections. Attending BLPA events is a fun way to engage with the postdoc community and network. I would encourage all postdocs to attend BLPA events and interact with the extended postdoc community.

Leticia Arnedo-Sanchez, Board Member, Chemical Sciences Division

Why did you join BLPA?

For me joining BLPA was a very organic process. I participated in BLPA social and outdoor events as a newbie and somehow never left. Starting as a volunteer made me realize how much I enjoy being in contact with the community and organizing events, so I decided to take one step further and join the board.  

What do you like the most about BLPA? What did you learn?

My favorite part is definitely to see the success of our events and help to enrich the postdoc experience. In addition, BLPA also allowed me to meet incredible scientists and friends as well as improve my communication, team-building, and project management skills.

Anything else you would like to add?

BLPA was a game-changer for me and I would encourage everyone to give it a try, either by attending our events or even organizing them!

Ryan Kingsbury, Board Member, Energy Storage & Distributed Resources Division

Why did you join BLPA?

I didn’t know anyone when I first moved to Berkeley, so I thought attending some BLPA activities would be a good way to meet new friends. I started by participating in a group bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, which was incredibly fun, and then decided to join BLPA so I could help plan great activities like that one.

What do you like the most about BLPA? What did you learn?

BLPA is a great way to connect with other postdocs that you might not otherwise meet — maybe they work in a different building or on a different subject, or for whatever reason your professional paths don’t cross. We have an incredibly diverse group of postdocs at LBNL, and it’s a lot of fun to get to know people from so many different places and backgrounds.

Anything else you would like to add?

I think the fact that BLPA organizes so many fun social activities like game nights, hikes, and pub nights is a great service to the postdoc community. Social connections are so important (personally and professionally), but between not knowing many people in the area and being busy with work, I find it difficult to initiate and organize those activities on my own. BLPA takes some of the pressure off and makes it easy for postdocs to just show up and have fun.