Establishing our Goals for the PSA in 2024

Greetings, Postdocs! Since beginning our roles this year, we (the 2024 officers) have collaborated to establish a set of goals for the upcoming year. These were selected to further improve experiences for post-docs across the laboratory and follow up on our individual platforms. This year, we want to ensure that you are all given opportunities to interact with your fellow postdocs, develop professionally, and share any concerns you may have related to your postdoc position. Given those goals, we have developed the following list of priorities. If you’re interested in advancing these goals by serving on a PSA committee or want to get involved in another way, please reach out to Allen, our Engagement Officer. 

  1. Career Development: We will continue annual career development events like the Postdoctoral Research and Career Symposium and National Postdoc Appreciation Week, as well as coordinate with the Postdoctoral program office to introduce informal events for postdocs to connect, discuss, and practice career development skills. Please check the career development survey that was sent out on Monday, February 19th from the Postdoc Program Office.  
  2. Social: To continue building connections among Argonne postdocs, we plan to introduce additional social opportunities. In addition to the weekly fitness socials, we will introduce weekly social lunches, Members-at-Large hosted coffee events, and larger events (think pizza, bowling, etc!). Starting Friday, February 23rd, you can join one of the PSA officers every Friday for lunch from 12-1 pm in the cafeteria for casual conversation. To keep up-to-date with upcoming events, check our online calendar. 
  3. DEIA: Further improving diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) within the postdoc community at Argonne is crucial. We are actively seeking collaboration with other Employee Resource Groups and divisional DEIA groups to understand how PSA can become more engaged in DEIA efforts on campus. 
  4. Transportation: We know getting to, from, and around campus is a challenge for many postdocs. We aim to leverage the PSA’s reach to identify possible solutions to this challenge and engage with leadership to enact these solutions. 
  5. Engagement: To strengthen lines of communication between postdocs at the laboratory, we’ve appointed Members-at-Large for 11 divisions, who will serve as liaisons between the PSA board and their divisions. Members-at-Large will work to promote PSA events in their divisions and communicate any issues they hear from postdocs to the board. We will start featuring Members-at-Large in the weekly PSA newsletter so that the broader community can learn who their point person is.   
  6. Climate Survey: While we believe focusing on these priorities will benefit postdocs across the laboratory, each postdoc faces unique challenges these may not address. To help better understand postdocs’ needs, we will update and carry out a new Climate Survey. Our goal with this comprehensive survey is to get real data about what postdocs want, ultimately allowing officers to know what initiatives to prioritize. 

As the year progresses, we are sure additional topics will arise. To share your views, please feel free to join our monthly PSA board meetings which occur the third Monday of every month from 1-2 pm.  

Thanks again for your trust in us! 

Your 2024 PSA Officers (Cailin, Sixbert, Wilkie, Evelyna, and Allen) 

Post-Doc Book Club

Looking for a new read to discuss with other post-docs at the laboratory? Look no further than the inaugural meeting of the Book Club, hosted by Claire Wei-Ju! Claire provided the following to introduce the book club and its choice of novel for the first meeting:

As we prepare for our inaugural meeting, we invite you to join us in exploring the themes of societal challenges and ethical dilemmas within the first five chapters of Aldous Huxley’s timeless novel, “Brave New World.” Together, let’s embark on a journey of discovery and reflection, delving into the intricate layers of this dystopian masterpiece. Our discussions will be a safe space to share thoughts, feelings, and experiences surrounding these thought-provoking topics. Let’s come together to learn and brainstorm actionable ways to promote empathy and understanding in our communities. Your presence and participation are invaluable as we begin this literary exploration together.

Be sure to join the Book Club for its inaugural meeting on March 7th, at noon in Bldg. 201 room 2J09-T. The first meeting will discuss chapters 1-5.

Lessons from NPA 2023 – Career Event Recap

Rakesh Kamath

The Professional Development Committee (through event leads – Rakesh Kamath and Kumar Neeraj) hosted a hybrid event on November 13th to discuss the learnings from the NPA (National Postdoctoral Association) 2023 conference with Argonne postdocs. The event was kicked off by Yeni Li (Argonne Scholar, NSE), who gave us a blitz talk on time management. In her talk, she described the 4D (Do, Defer, Delegate, Delete) rubric of time management and provided a few valuable tips/tricks from her own personal experience which postdocs can apply to manage their time more effectively – as opposed to inadvertently lapsing their free time to being a “couch potato.” This blitz talk by Yeni inspired the Professional Development Committee to think about organizing gatherings for postdocs to talk about topics that aren’t discussed often but are nevertheless crucial to our postdoc community. (Do reach out to the Professional Development Officer/Committee, in case you have such a topic that you want to talk about with other postdocs!).

The blitz talk was followed by a panel discussion on the learnings from the NPA 2023 conference, led by a few among the postdoc community who attended the conference either in-person (Apr 2023) or online (May 2023). The panelists were Lily Robertson (Staff Scientist, CSE – former Postdoc and 2021 PSA President), Claire Chang (Postdoc, CSE – current PSA President), and Rakesh Kamath (Postdoc, AMD, current PSA Professional Development Officer). The panelists recounted their experiences from the conference and highlighted a few key learnings/outcomes to the postdocs at the event. All the panelists shared their learnings/outcomes from the (i) keynote lectures on non-linear career paths, (ii) talks that they liked the most, and (iii) interactions with postdocs from other institutions.

Specifically, Claire talked about her fruitful discussions with the officers of postdoc societies at other DOE National labs leading to the conception of the cross-lab events. She also added much to the discussions surrounding the topic of non-linear career paths through the lens of her own journey so far – a more detailed account of which has been provided in a previous blogpost. Lily recapped an eye-opening lecture on postdoc compensation in various institutions and how, more often than not, they are incommensurate with the experience that the postdocs bring to the table. She also spoke about the importance of science communication to non-scientist listeners and her own experiments with it. The audience engaged with this and echoed its importance – with a short anecdote by Sagar Bhatt (Postdoc, AMD). Rakesh briefly mentioned the idea of best practices in science communication mentoring that caught his eye during the conference – more resources on the same can be found here . He also mentioned how a sizeable fraction of the postdocs that he interacted with were at the conference looking to start postdoc societies in their own institutions and expressed his gratitude to have access to a well-established, resourceful Postdoc Office at Argonne.

The panelists emphasized that every Argonne postdoc can register to be a member of the NPA and has access to their professional development resources and leadership opportunities. (Activate your FREE Affiliate Membership with the National Postdoctoral Association to attend virtual career events, receive the POSTDOCket Newsletter and access resources on a variety of topics, including advice for international postdocs and directing your mentoring!). The postdocs present in-person participated in social time after the event with light refreshments – thanks to Sixbert Muhoza, the PSA’s Engagement Officer!

In-person attendees of the event having a fun social time

PSA 2024 Election Candidates

Cast your vote for the PSA officers by December 8th! Click here for the ballot. Know more about the candidates below:

 – Watch the candidate forum records for deeper insights.

Learning from the 2023 National Postdoctoral Association Conference

The largest national conference and networking event dedicated to postdoctoral communities in the United States – the National Postdoctoral Association Conference – took place in Philadelphia, PA on 21-22 April 2023.

Here is a report consisting of the collected learnings from the conference by two members of the Postdoc Society of Argonne, Claire Chang (2023 President) and Joshua Christopher (2022 Vice-President) who attended the event in person.


Embrace nonlinearity in your postdoc life and know how to acquire funding

by Claire Chang


NPA 2023 keynote speakers – Dr. Sudip Parikh and Dr. Dawn Bonnell, gave motivational remarks about navigating their careers as minority scientists with unconventional science careers.

Dr. Sudip Parikh, the CEO of the AAAS and executive publisher of the Science family of journals works with specialists from diverse, particularly nonscientific, backgrounds.  As an active part of the government’s scientific advocacy group, he shared his experience communicating with both scientists and non-scientists about research, policy, and business. He emphasized that there are no alternative careers because we need all of the PhD graduates in basic research, applied research, clinical research, policy, industry, philanthropy, finance, academia, politics, diplomacy, and teaching.

Dr. Dawn Bonnell is a professor of engineering and applied science and, the senior Vice Provost for Research at the University of Pennsylvania. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2013. She discussed her nonlinear career path as a single mother which began with a later-than-conventional start in college and a rather “adventurous” research stint in Germany with her children. She advised postdocs to follow their interests and identify current scientific trends to zero in on the niche they can pursue in their professional paths.

Dr. Lisa Nielsen’s “How to Strategize your Future Grant Funding” course was one of the most valuable seminars for me because it discussed the necessity and techniques of grant writing. She recommended postdoctoral researchers focus on specific projects that are both beneficial and realistic to complete within the grant schedule.  She also provided a list with a reasonable schedule and underlined the importance of timing. She recommends the writers to think like a critic/grant reviewer and encourages writers to use the – “say it, then write it” technique, to improve the clarity of the grant.

In addition to these valuable insights from experienced experts, I got in touch with postdocs in other national laboratories who are enthusiastic about collaboration events. We are currently planning several multi-national lab events. The first national lab postdoc society collaboration was conducted in September with ORNL and LANL (Read about the event in our blog). The second collaboration event is currently in the works with LBNL. Stay tuned for the information in PSA newsletter and blog post!

Keynote Lecture by Dr. Dawn Bonnell

Lessons learnt for Postdoc Society of Argonne and how to leverage the postdoc experience in an industry job

by Joshua Christopher


Many of the sessions I attended were centered around creating strong, diverse, and adaptable postdoctoral associations (PDA). In one such session, Dr. Mariana Cains and Dr. Soudeh Kamali discussed developing PDA programming specific to the needs of the postdocs at your organization. Specifically, the focus was on how easy it is for a PDA to be run by a few highly motivated people, and how the PDA gets shaped to their needs and interests. However, the PDA’s activities are not necessarily matched to the needs and interests of the broader postdoc community at the organization. To combat this effect, the speakers advocated for continuous thoughtful evaluation of and outreach to the entire PDA’s constituency. Applying these considerations to the Postdoctoral Society of Argonne’s (PSA) current practices, I see several things we do well, and some areas of improvement. Perhaps one of the greatest assets of the PSA is our ongoing “Forum” series where we host discussions on the difficulties our postdoc community is facing, which help us identify action items. For example, our Forum on Immigration led to engagement with the Argonne administration on the challenges postdocs face with visas and working in the United States. One potential improvement area for the PSA is the lack of engagement we have with postdocs from a few divisions. Understanding why postdocs from those divisions engage less with the PSA, and what we can do to better represent them and fulfill their needs, is an ongoing project that we hope can be addressed by the new “Members-at-Large” program. This program will give better reach to the under-served postdoc populations at Argonne by placing PSA representatives in every division to encourage organic conversations (and feedback) about postdoc needs.

Another focus of the sessions I attended was on professional development. This included developing the tools to get an industry job after your postdoc. For getting an industry job, Dr. Randall Ribaudo and Mr. Larry Petcovic led a discussion on how to optimally convert an industry job advertisement into a cover letter and resume. They emphasized the importance of highlighting more than just the technical skills you have developed. Companies are looking for business skills, which postdocs at Argonne develop as manage their projects and meet their deadlines. Companies also highly value strong communication skills, which postdocs develop through networking, communicating their research with collaborators or at conferenc es, or participating in organizations such as the PSA. The workshop hosted by Dr. Ribaudo and Mr. Petcovic led the participants through a series of activities identifying the critical components of job postings and how to parlay the experiences gained as a postdoc to strengthen job applications.

A poster on the PSA Forum prepared by PSA Officers, Board and Forum Committee. It was presented in-person by Argonne Postdoc Lily Robertson (2021 PSA president) at the conference.