The Postdoctoral Society of Argonne (PSA) held the Annual Postdoctoral Research and Career Symposium on November 4th and 5th, 2021. This virtual event had a great turnout where 163 postdoctoral researchers from Argonne as well as from universities across the nation registered to attend the event. Additionally, 56 postdoctoral researchers from 14 divisions presented their research via recorded presentations followed by live Q&A sessions on Teams. The symposium highlighted research performed at Argonne as well as at partnering institutions. The symposium also allowed participants to network with representatives from industry and research institutions, giving them the opportunity to understand different career paths and engage in long-lasting professional relationships.
Symposium Co-Chair Prajay Patel (Chemical Sciences and Engineering) opened the event, and the welcome remarks were given by Laboratory Deputy Director Stephen Streiffer. Streiffer 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.
Our Keynote Speaker this year was Dr. Linda Horton, the Associate Director of Science for Basic Energy Sciences in the Department of Energy Office of Science. Dr. Horton spoke about her career path and current work as the Associate Director of Science and featured some of her important mentors. She noted the wide expanse of resources available to current postdocs ranging from digitally accessible research articles to virtual conference attendance to facilitated networking. Dr. Horton also highlighted the many funding opportunities for Basic Energy Sciences currently available, as well as career opportunities for current postdocs interested in Department of Energy leadership.
Postdocs had the chance to interact and network with 13 different companies and national labs: Aramco Americas, Bruker Nano Science, Cerebras Systems, Corning Inc., General Motors, Hewlett Packard Labs, Honeywell-UOP, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Idaho National Laboratory (INL), Lam Research Corporation, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Phillips 66, and Spectral Sciences Inc.There were three career panels featuring some Argonne alumni working in DOE/National Labs, “traditional” academia/industry R&D, and “nontraditional” PhD level science careers. The panels were:
DOE/National Lab Panel
- Giselle Sandi, Deputy Division Director, Chemical Sciences and Engineering, Argonne National Lab
- Ashley Head, Associate Scientist, Center for Functional Nanomaterials, Brookhaven National Lab
- Anibal Boscoboinik, Staff Scientist, Center for Functional Nanomaterials, Brookhaven National Lab
- Paulina Rychenkova, Business Development Executive, Argonne National Lab
- Paul Albertus, previous Program Director, Advanced Research Programs Agency – Energy, US Department of Energy
Academia/Industry R&D Panel
- Kiran Sasikumar, Researcher, Avant-garde Materials Simulation
- Matt Smylie, Assistant Professor of Physics, Hofstra University
- Sarah Phan-Budd, Associate Professor of Physics, Winona State University
- Santanu Chaudhuri, Professor of Materials Engineering, University of Illinois at Chicago
- Badri Narayanan, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Louisville
Nontraditional Career Panel
- Aaron Fluitt, Senior Manager, Initiative Development, Argonne National Lab
- Aeraj Haque, Senior Patent Agent/Patent Law Clerk, Foley & Lardner LLP
- Jenny Morber, Freelance Science Writer and Journalist
- Joseph Barforoush, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Avium LLC
- James Dolan, Science Communicator, King’s College, University of Cambridge
- David Nackashi, Chief Executive Officer, Protochips
These panels focused on the differences in between academia and national lab environments, development strategies for current Argonne postdocs, the hiring process for academic institutions with an emphasis on researching the institution for academic job applications, as well as the necessity for an open mindset and short-term goals while traversing and planning the career path. All the panels discussed developing a high-quality professional network and how their network helped shaped their career paths, whether for asking for reference and recommendation letters or hearing about job positions via word-of-mouth. One of the key takeaway messages as stated by Nackashi during the nontraditional career panel was that “picking a career where I could surround myself with mentors and colleagues who constantly challenged my understanding of things was very important.”
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 expressed knowledgeability and communication skills. This year, six individuals were selected to receive awards for outstanding virtual presentations. The works also demonstrate the wide diversity of research conducted by Argonne postdocs and visiting postdocs/graduate students:
- David Lenz (Mathematics and Computer Science Division) “Improving Scientific Data Analysis with Functional Approximations”
- Rakesh Krishnamoorthy Iyer (Energy Systems Division) “Vehicle-cycle and life-cycle analysis of Class 6 vocational trucks: Conventional, hybrid and electric”
- Ethan Kamphaus (Materials Science Division) “Site-Selective Atomic Layer Deposition On Rutile TiO2 Via Selective Hydration”
- Daniel Trainer (Nanoscience and Technology Division) “Manipulating topology in tailored artificial graphene nanoribbons”
Michael Ricketts (Environmental Science Division) “The Biofuel Crop Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) Genot
- ype x Environment Interactions and Soil Bacterial Community Associations”
- Lily Robertson (Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division) “Dimeric Redoxmersthat Self-Report Flow Battery State of Health”
The CrowdCompass app provided a landing point for Postdocs to interact with others’ virtual presentations and industry representatives.
After the closing remarks made by Symposium Co-Chair Pallavi Bobba (ES) and Deputy Director Stephen Streiffer, a trivia social hour took place where Carla Mann, Tony Montoya, and Lily Robertson received prizes for being the top scorers.
The Annual Postdoctoral Research and Career Symposium would not be possible without the support of our sponsors and participating companies. Postdoc volunteers who served on the 2021 committee included: Pallavi Bobba (Energy Systems Division) and Prajay Patel (Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division), Symposium Co-chairs; Amanda Carr (Chemical Sciences and Engineering Divsion) and Saurabh Saxena (Applied Materials Division), Invited Speakers and Panels Co-Leads; Pubudu Walamasiri (Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division), Marketing and Publications Lead; Ganesh Tiwari (Accelerator Systems Division), Natalia Zuniga (Energy Systems Division), and Ahsan Ali (Data Science and Learning Division), Technical Programs Co-Leads; Jessica Lamb (Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division), and Mark Meijerink (Nanoscience and Technology Division), Companies Outreach and Networking Co-Leads; Sami Khairy (Mathematics and Computer Science Division) and Shishir Kumar (Energy Systems Division), Community Engagement Co-Leads. The Postdoctoral Society of Argonne issues a call for volunteers in the months leading up to the symposium starting in March/April. All postdocs interested in planning next year’s event are encouraged to contact their PSA officers.