Postdocs Engage with Research Talks, Industry Networking, and Career Advice at the 2020 Virtual Postdoctoral Research and Career Symposium

The Postdoctoral Society of Argonne (PSA) held the Annual Postdoctoral Research and Career Symposium on November 4th – 5th, its first time as a virtual event. The annual symposium aims to highlight postdoctoral research and provide opportunities for participants to focus on career exploration and development.

This year’s symposium had record turnout, with 205 postdoctoral researchers from Argonne and universities across the nation registered. Seventy-three postdoctoral researchers presented their research via recorded presentations followed by live, virtual question and answer sessions. The symposium also allowed participants to network with representatives from industry, research institutions and academia, learn about different career paths and build professional relationships.

Symposium Co-Chair, Kevin Brown (LCF) opened the event and Laboratory Director Paul Kearns gave the welcome remarks. Kearns highlighted the importance of postdoctoral researchers for enabling world class science at Argonne and encouraged postdocs to build networks, explore careers and learn from the Argonne Alumni who participated in the symposium as company representatives and career panelists.

Professor Todd Allen (right) delivers the keynote address at the 2020 Postdoc Symposium with welcome remarks by Argonne Director Paul Kearns (left).

Todd Allen, Professor of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, University of Michigan, delivered the Keynote Address entitled “21st Century Nuclear Energy (And How I go here)”. Allen mentioned the different paths he had taken over the course of his career and provided invaluable advice to postdocs on career planning. He remarked that attendees should “Never assume that your current adventure will be your last. If you do well with things you will be offered a series of other exciting adventures from which to choose. As long as you are having fun and growing, the adventure goes on”. Using his personal experience, Professor Allen went further to caution against planning for next 20 year, and instead make full use of every opportunities in the present moment.

The symposium included three career panels featuring Argonne alumni working in academia, national labs, and industry.

Academic/national labs panel

  • Erin Iski (Associate Professor of Chemistry, University of Tulsa)
  • Leonardo Bautista-Gomez (Senior Researcher at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center)
  • Ilias Bilionis (Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University)
  • Julie Bessac ( Assistant Computational Statistician, Argonne National Laboratory)

Industry panel #1

  • Giovanni Ramirez (Sales Manager US-West and Mexico, and Applications Scientist, Bruker Nano Surfaces and Metrology Division)
  • Zina Jarrahi Cinker (Director General of Advanced Material Pandemic & Future Preparedness Taskforce)
  • Greg Halder (Business Development Executive, Technology Commercialization & Partnerships Division, ANL)
  • Steve Letourneau (Senior Process Engineer, ASM)

Industry panel #2

  • Chris Claxton (Principal, Volta Energy Technologies)
  • Fu Lin (Staff Research Engineer in Autonomous & Intelligent Systems, Raytheon Technologies Research Center)
  • Marvin Cummings (Program Manager at New York Academy of Sciences)
  • Youssef Nashed (Lead Computer Vision scientist at Stats Perform)

Research presentations at the symposium gave participants the opportunity to showcase their research to a wider audience and provided an opportunity to practice valuable communication skills. Presentations were judged for overall appearance and quality, topic organization, and clarity. Additionally, the question answer (Q&A) component of presentation was evaluated based on the presenter’s depth of knowledge and communication skills. This year, eight individuals were selected to receive awards for outstanding virtual presentations. These presentations also demonstrate the wide diversity of research conducted by Argonne postdocs and visiting postdocs/graduate students:

  • Amanda Carr (Chemical Sciences & Engineering Division), “Manipulation of Graphene-Polymer Interfaces for Improved Graphene Transfer”
  • Feng Gao (Advanced Materials for Energy Water Systems Division), “Maximizing Selectivity: An Analysis of Isoporous Membranes”
  • Ali Murat Gok (Mathematics & Computer Science Division), “Application-Specific Lossy Compression Algorithmsfor Scientific Data”
  • Manoj Jadhav (Physics Division), “Picosecond Timing Resolution Measurements of Low Gain Avalanche Detectors with a 120 GeV Proton Beam for the TOPSiDE Detector Concept”
  • Sayop Kim (Energy Systems Division), “Exploration of Combustion Dynamics in a Multi-Mode Combustion Engine”
  • Zachary Lebens-Higgins (Binghamton University), “Identifying the Delithiation Mechanisms for the Li-rich Li1.3Fe0.4Nb0.3O2 Disordered Rocksalt Cathode”
  • Aleena Rafique (High Energy Physics Division), “Search for Michel Electrons in ProtoDUNE”
  • Lei Wang (Chemical Sciences & Engineering Division), “New Chromophores for Photochemical Water Oxidation at Low pH”

The CrowdCompass app provided a landing point for Postdocs to interact with others’ virtual presentations and industry representatives.


Several presenters also submitted their abstracts to be featured on Argonne’s Instagram feed as part of a promotional effort for the symposium. The presenters include Aleena Rafique,Varun Kulkarni,Yana Karslyan, Partha Paul, Zhe Liu.



A mystery prize was advertised to encourage postdocs to register, and five randomly selected winners chose from among eight motivating books about career development. Symposium participants also tested their trivia skills at the first Symposium Virtual Trivia Night.

Dr. Stephen Streiffer, Deputy Laboratory Director for Science and Technology at Argonne, concluded the two-day event by emphasizing the role of the symposium in building professional networks and the contributions of postdocs in pivotal discoveries and scientific advances.

The Annual Postdoctoral Research and Career Symposium would not be possible without the support of our sponsors and participating companies. Symposium co-chairs, Kevin Brown and Srikanth Nayak expressed that “given the circumstances this year, we had to rethink the symposium format and the overall organization. It was a unique challenge, and it was very thrilling to see the event come together. Thanks to creative and dynamic work of our awesome team, we were able to host this impactful event without ever having a face-to-face committee meeting!”

The committee would like to thank Materials Development, Inc. for their continued and long-standing support for the symposium. Postdoc volunteers who served on the 2020 committee included Srikanth Nayak (CSE) and Kevin Brown (LCF), Symposium Co-chairs, Darren Driscoll (XSD), Amanda Lenzi (MCS), and Chris Otolski (CSE), Invited Speakers and Panels Co-Leads, Ritesh Uppuluri (CSE), Lily A. Robertson (CSE), and Adarsh Bafana (ES), Marketing and Publications Co-Leads, Zahmeeth Sayed Sakkaff (DSL), Dezhi Dai (NSE), and Brian Thomas Phelan (CSE), Technical Programs Co-Leads, Juan Diego Colmenares Fernandez (ES), and Thomas Gage (NST), Companies Outreach and Networking Co-Leads, Katherine Hepler (SSS) and Carla Mann (DSL), Community Engagement Co-Leads. The Postdoctoral Society of Argonne issues a call for volunteers in the months leading up to the symposium. All postdocs interested in planning next year’s event are encouraged to contact their PSA officers.


About Kristene Henne

Kristene “Tina” Henne is Argonne’s Postdoctoral Program Lead for the Argonne Leadership Institute. In this role, she facilitates the postdoc appointment process, postdoc career development, mentoring, advises the Postdoctoral Society of Argonne and serves as a navigator for postdoctoral issues.
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