NPA Annual Meeting Supports Professional Development, Fosters Networking

Four Argonne Postdoctoral Researchers and Fellows attended the 2017 NPA Annual Conference, held in San Francisco, March 17-19. The NPA Annual Conference is the largest national conference and networking event dedicated to the postdoctoral community. Conference attendees – postdoctoral scholars, administrators, faculty, and representatives from disciplinary societies, industry, and corporations – are provided with the opportunity to gather and enhance their professional development and leadership skills.

Postdocs and Fellows interested in attending the 2018 NPA Annual Conference need to complete the Interest Survey by January 10th. Questions should be addressed to

What benefit do postdocs gain from attending the Annual Meeting? Read on! Attendees were asked why they wanted to attend the conference, what they gained from attending and what was their favorite part. (Some content edited for clarity and length).

Aaron Oaks (NE), Muge Acik (NST), Ying Li (LCF) and CK Kaligotla (GSS) at the 2017 NPA Annual Conference.

Aaron Oaks (NE, 2017 PSA Vice-President)

“I was originally interested in attending the NPA conference to meet postdocs from other institutions, learn what other postdoc societies were doing for their membership, and hear what the NPA leadership would recommend to attendees for career development. The highlights of the trip were probably the plenary talk on career navigation and the talk on exploring organizational culture. The talks themselves were good, but what was most interesting to me was what were essentially data dumps on the topics that I often just hear bits and pieces about. It was nice to have someone collect all the details and just make a digestible list of topics related to postdoc development like useful/transferable skills, personal qualities, and key points of organizational culture to consider when applying for permanent positions. Although it wasn’t really “presented” at the conference, learning that about the NPA Core Competencies list was definitely something I think all postdocs should know. That certainly helps me know which competencies I need to develop.”

Muge Acik (NST, Joseph Katz Named Fellow)

What were your reasons for wanting to go to the NPA conference? “I wanted to enhance my networking skills with a group of postdocs that were not from the same major. It is always easy to get connected with colleagues from the similar work environment, but networking with non-major colleagues may not be as easy as we think. The NPA meeting brought the opportunities to build connections with other women in science (STEM), to improve career connection skills particularly with non-scientists from industry, and to train personal skills for career development. The meeting also helped strengthen the communication skills that we mostly ignore to improve in our routine work life. One of the major focus was available onsite trainings for both academic and industry job applications in a diverse team environment. This meeting also provided networking with the resume builders, faculty members as well as industry affiliated scientists/engineers all over the world from both national and international institutions.”

What was the highlight of the trip for you? “Other than the postdoctoral fellowships at Argonne, there are various fellowship programs with mentorship and training opportunities focusing on specific career majors. For instance, for those who work in the areas of medical or biomedical for clinical research can apply fellowships supported by AACR (American Association for Cancer Research), which also encourage career development awards and grants for independent investigators. For biomedical professionals, the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) supported by the NIH offer grant writing programs, and mentorship with national workshops to engage postdocs into competent NIH grant success. The SciPhD certificate program makes academic scientists “business-ready” for professional positions, particularly in academia, government or industry. This program teaches leadership, networking, communication and negotiation skills, and project management for scientists as a part of their professional career development.”

What were the major take-aways that other postdocs should know about? “Building a CV or a resume can never be the [only] major goal for a postdoc to search for job opportunities. Networking is critical to get to know people who work in the area with better one-on-one interactions which is a key factor in order to understand the job opportunities out there. Interview skills can be developed by practicing in person activities which the postdocs need to spend time to reduce such skill gaps from their career plans. These skill gaps include improvement of effective communication skills by gaining experience from the career development events such as social activities in networking workshops. The postdocs need to spend extra time on their own personal development by saving some of their volunteer time for networking with professional societies at the local events. The postdocs need to improve their leadership skills by strengthening communication skills in order to facilitate a healthy career future, specifically for industry job environment, before getting out to start hunting jobs. Indeed, mentoring increases the faculty job opportunities for those postdocs who consider to pursue an academic career.”

Amy (Ying) Li (LCF)

“The main reason for me of wanting to go to the NPA meeting is to get more connection with the postdoctoral society outside of Argonne. I have been at UCLA for three months as a postdoctoral researcher in the year of 2016, where the postdoctoral community is a bit of different from a national lab setting. For example, as in a university, there might be activities/mixture with graduate students more than in a lab. For me, I feel it is important to acquire that information to help better navigate the research and life for postdocs from a higher perspective. I got to know Muge, Aaron, and CK from Argonne. I am happy to know them better, because we are often caught up with our busy life as a postdoctoral researcher. It is a good chance to have known colleges outside our division who does entirely irrelevant research of our own.

“The major takeaways vary for different postdocs. As a female and foreign named postdoc from Argonne, I have many viewpoints from which to reflect on the NPA. I learned that Argonne postdocs have more benefits, including health insurance, sick leave, holiday breaks, etc. compared to other places, which makes me appreciate the experience as a postdoc here more. As a postdoctoral researcher in a National Lab, we are often surrounded by intelligent people similar to us. However, this does not reflect overall society. We have to be mindful of differences in experience when communicating with family members, neighbors, or to any people encountered in daily life.

Postdocs are transitioning from a student to an independent researcher. The postdoc period can be very good, as you are funded to do what you are good at and not worrying about funding, resources. However, we need to let ourselves learn from mistakes and be proud of our accomplishments, regardless of our future career decisions.

CK Kaligotla (GSS, 2017 PSA Liaison Officer)

What were your reasons for wanting to go to the NPA conference? “To meet with postdoc association officers from other labs and universities, learn about their activities and experiences.
To learn about the most critical challenges faced by Postdocs in general, and actions being taken to mitigate them. Learn best practices or ideas of what we can do differently at the PSA.”

What was the highlight of the trip for you?”The Keynote speech by Peter Fiske– it was pretty eye opening. Dinners with  other postdocs / postdoc officers. A chance to learn more about their experiences and connect.”

What were the major take-aways that other postdocs should know about?
Most Postdocs share the same fears , challenges and also deal with it in very similar ways.
Postdocs need to network, a lot, to figure out available options and opportunities, especially outside of academia. Avoid being shut into you bubble.Learn to communicate your research and your skills effectively to a very general audience.

If there is one thing you learned that you’d like to see happen here, what would it be? “Increase interaction between postdocs and scientists at Argonne, across divisions and years, including alumni. A joint strategy and more regular touchpoints on options after the post-doc at Argonne – maybe not  a complete placement office, but a collection of best practices for CVs, interviews and companies Argonne Postdocs have placed in.”

Anything else you’d like to share? “It seems postdocs everywhere like to stay in their bubbles and don’t socialize outside of their regular lab groups.  Increasing regular interactions with new people will help improve networking skills, and we need to think of ways to do this at Argonne.”


The Next PSA Leader Could Be You!

Do you have what it takes to be a leader? See ten tips at


Do you know what December is best known for at Argonne?!? Holiday parties, the Lab shutdown, and… the Postdoc Society elections!

The Postdoctoral Society of Argonne is seeking candidates for office for 2018. If you’re thinking of running for a position, we ask that you give us a bio and candidate statement describing your intended plans for your position (nothing crazy long, just 2-4 sentences) by Noon on December 14 (candidate statements may be sent to Noah Van Dam at with “Candidate Statement” in the subject). The submitted statements will be made available to all postdocs with the official ballot on the 14th.

3:00 PM December 14, 2017. Building 203 Auditorium. There will be democracy and food available. Hope to see everyone there!

The final voting will be online and closed ballot. The link to vote will be emailed to all postdocs after the election meeting and official candidate announcements on December 14.

Position Descriptions:

President: The President shall preside over and set agendas for the monthly Board and quarterly General Assembly meetings. The President shall serve as the point of contact for Laboratory Management and organizations outside the Lab, and shall authorize Society activities. In addition, the President shall serve as the Policy Committee Chair, and shall recruit additional Committee members from the ranks of the Board and General Members as needed.

Vice President: The Vice President shall support all of the duties of the President and assume those duties, or those of the Secretary, in their temporary absence. The Vice President will summarize the activities and plans of the Society in a report to the General Assembly during the GA meetings. The report shall include completed business, ongoing business, and plans for the subsequent three months, with addenda as needed. In addition, the Vice President shall serve as the Career Committee Chair, and shall recruit additional Committee members from the ranks of the Board and General Members as needed.

Secretary: The Secretary shall communicate meeting notices (see Article IX), activity announcements, and meeting agendas via e-mail, and keep records of monthly Board and quarterly GA meetings. If the Secretary is absent from a meeting, an alternate must be identified. The Secretary shall distribute monthly newsletters outlining Society news and events. In addition, the Secretary shall serve as the Communication Committee Chair, and shall recruit additional Committee members from the ranks of the Board and General Members as needed.

Liaison: The Liaison shall serve as the point of contact for Lab Divisions and Units other than Lab Management, e.g., the Argonne Club. The Liaison shall also maintain the waiting list for Board seats (see Article IV, Section 1). In addition, the Liaison shall serve as the Social Committee Chair, and shall recruit additional Committee members from the ranks of the Board and General Members as needed.

*Postdoc Symposium Chairperson: The Symposium Chairperson shall organize and plan the annual PSA symposium and head the planning committee. The Chairperson shall decide, and have final say, over the guest list and theme of the event. Updates of the event planning shall be given to the board at all general meetings. The Chairperson is the main point of contact for related parties such as invited guests and caterers.

*Note that this is an unratified position but it was a great success this year and the Chairperson was able to pull off an amazing symposium by giving it her main focus and not balancing the role with other PSA duties.

Publishing Ethics and Integrity Workshop

Elsevier Publishing Campus Presents Publishing Ethics & Integrity

Sharing your research through publishing is essential to advancing your career. As an author you will have to make decisions about where, how and when to publish. Authors also have the responsibility to understand ethical boundaries and maintaining integrity in reporting your research findings.

This workshop will address several topics related to publishing ethics and integrity such as conflicts of interest, plagiarism, ownership of content, responding to and serving as peer reviewers and making decisions about where and when to publish your work.

Course Objectives: This course is a partnership with Elsevier Publishing Campus. Participants will gain an understanding of basic ethical standards and receive guidance on how to make sound decisions when faced with common challenges in sharing research findings.

Registration Information:

Date: November 28th
Time: 2:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Location: Building 446 Auditorium
Refreshments will be served.

Please register at

Guest Speakers:

Dr. Harold H. Kung is Walter P. Murphy Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Northwestern University.  He received his B.S. from the University of Wisconsin and Ph.D. from Northwestern University. His research interest focuses on heterogeneous catalysis, but includes energy materials, synthesis of nanostructured materials, global energy supply and consumption, and sustainability.  He is the author of “Transition Metal Oxides: Surface Chemistry and Catalysis,” (1989, Elsevier Science Publ.), co-inventor of 6 patents, an editor of 5 monographs, and has published over 270 journal articles in catalysis and energy storage.  A Fellow of AIChE and AAAS, his other recognition include the W.H. Wilhelm Award in Chemical Reaction Engineering (AIChE), Gabor A. Somorjai Award in Creative Research on Heterogeneous Catalysis (ACS), Ernest Thiele Award (AIChE Chicago section), Robert Burwell Lectureship and Paul H. Emmett Award of the North American Catalysis Society.  Presently, he is Editor-in-Chief of Applied Catalysis A: General.

Dr. Robert Weber is a Senior Scientist and the Sector Manager for Commercial Business in the Physical and Computational Science Directorate at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. His activities include research on heterogeneous catalysis for fuels and chemicals. Previously he was CTO of Sunrise Ridge Algae, a startup company that attempted to commercialize the production of fuel precursors from aquatic biomass. Before that, he was the director of the chemical engineering practice of TIAX, the successor to the technology and product development division of Arthur D. Little and a member of the chemical engineering faculties of the University of Delaware and of Yale University. At Yale he served for two years as an associate dean of the graduate school. Currently he serves as an associate editor of Energy & Fuels, as a member of the Advisory Committee of the Tianjin Engineering Center for Biomass Gas/Oil Technology and on the boards of directors of Conservation through Poverty Alleviation, International and Palo Verde Ridge Scholarship Fund. He holds a BA from Cornell University and a PhD from Stanford University, both in physical chemistry.

Target Audience: This course is intended for Postdoctoral Researchers, Students, Early Career Staff, Postdoc and Staff Mentors and Principal Investigators. Anyone interested in the publishing ethics and publishing with integrity is welcome to attend.





Mental Health Awareness Month Is a Good Time to Check In With Yourself

In today’s fast-paced, action-packed world, it can be hard to keep up with awareness days, weeks, or months. It seems there is a day, week or month for just about everything. While this can seem overwhelming, these designated times of awareness are good opportunities to reflect on the theme du jour and how it might apply to us.

May is Mental Health Month and as such, it is a perfect time to take a moment and reflect on ourselves and each other. Naturejobs Blog contributor Jack Leemy captured tips from psychologist Karra Harrington in a recent post. While the target audience is graduate students, the piece provides advice applicable to all. I encourage you to give it a quick read.

In particular, Ms. Harrington advises investing in a support network, seeking out peer and mentor relationships and finding out what resources are available to you and how to find them. These are all good points.

Look around. Who counts as your support network?  With whom have you developed relationships? Who are your trusted friends and mentors? Are you a part of someone else’s support network? Who are your peers, who might be able to speak to your experiences?

One way to expand your network is to get involved in one of the many  employee resource groups (ERG) at Argonne. You can find links to Women in Science and Technology Program (WIST), the Argonne African American (AAA) ERG, Spectrum, Chinese Association at Argonne and the Hispanic-Latino Club at the Leadership Institute’s Diversity and Inclusion page. Also, there is a new group for early career employees that is just getting up and running. As the Postdoctoral Program Lead, I am also here as a resource for postdocs, mentors and supervisors who might need some guidance on where to find resources.

Remember, too, that the lab provides the Employee Assistance Program as a benefit to all employees. The program is provided by Perspectives, Ltd., and provides a host of resources, self-directed learning opportunities, in addition to help connecting with a professional. The wellness app, Virgin Pulse, is another avenue to explore maintaining a healthy mindset and learn strategies for managing stress and being resilient.

Ms. Harrington ends her post by advising readers to ask for help and ask early. Connect with a colleague, forge a mentoring relationship, talk to a peer. Remember, we are all in this together.




Workshop focuses on effective negotiation

As part of its Postdoctoral Development Series, the Leadership Institute will present “The Art of Effective Negotiation” from 9 a.m. to noon, on Friday, May 19, in the Building 446 Auditorium (behind the APS).

Light refreshments will be served. Register at

Because of the interactive nature of this workshop, space is limited. Seats will be filled in order of registration.

Negotiations occur every day in the scientific laboratory and workplace and often involve issues that are key to research success and career advancement. This workshop teaches the fundamentals of negotiation relevant to a variety of one-on-one conversations and group settings.

Adapted from the workshop “The Art of Effective Negotiation” by the Committee on the Advancement of Women Chemists (COACh), topics covered include: the importance of negotiation to advance research and career objectives; identification of negotiables including start-up packages, space, authorship, supplies, etc.; necessary elements of a successful negotiation; the importance of developing alternatives to an agreement; understanding your negotiation style; the importance of listening and appreciating different viewpoints and identification of short and long-term negotiation goals.

This workshop is intended to be interactive, with a combination of lecture, large and small group discussion and small group activities. Participants will practice the concepts covered and will be provided the opportunity to “coach” each other.

Workshop Facilitators are Lydia Finney, Ph.D., University Partnerships Program Manager, Argonne Leadership Institute and Program Initiator with the Argonne Women in Science and Technology Program. Finney is a physicist with more than 10 years of experience in scientific research at Argonne. Her areas of technical expertise include chemical biology, bio-inorganic chemistry, X-ray fluorescence microscopy and metals.

Tina Henne, Ph.D., is the Postdoctoral Program Lead with the Argonne Leadership Institute. Henne came to Argonne in 2009 as a Postdoctoral Appointee in the Biosciences Division and then became the Postdoctoral Program Lead in 2011. Her technical expertise includes microbiology, molecular genetics and protein expression profiling.

Finney and Henne are part of the COACh-the-COAChes program with COACh and have participated in the COACh Art of Effective Negotiations Workshop prior to becoming workshop facilitators.

This workshop is aligned with the National Postdoctoral Association recommended Core Competency III, Communication Skills.