Postdocs Focus on Careers in Return to In-Person Postdoctoral Research and Career Symposium

The Postdoctoral Society of Argonne (PSA) held the Annual Postdoctoral Research and Career Symposium on October 26th, 2022.  This in-person event had a great turnout where 173 postdoctoral researchers registered to attend the event.  Additionally, 62 postdoctoral researchers from 12 divisions presented their research via poster presentations.

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 Chair David Lenz opened the event, and the welcome remarks were given by Laboratory Director Paul K. Kearns. Kearns relayed to the postdoctoral participants how important they are to the Argonne community and our ability to make pivotal discoveries, pursue pioneering leadership and advance science at scale. He emphasized to the postdocs that their success is our success and encouraged them to focus on their careers and all the ways they can apply their skills.

The Keynote Speaker this year was             Dr. Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, the Director of the Office of Science in the U.S. Department of Energy. Dr. Berhe provided an overview of the DOE Office of Science research priorities and facilities before discussing her career journey. She shared her “recipe for success in the scientific workforce and beyond” in the form of two equations: Success = GRIT, where GRIT = Passion + Persistence, before refining it to Success = (GRIT)*Luck. Dr. Berhe emphasized the importance of building a mentor network, including both experienced and peer mentors. The talk ended with advice for early career researchers before a lively question and answer period covering topics in creating an inclusive environment in STEM, communication as technical experts, and career opportunities in public service.

Postdocs had the chance to interact and network during a working lunch with 14 different companies and national labs: Allstate, Aramco Services Company, Argonne National Lab, ASM, Braskem Americas, Chain Reaction Innovations, Corning Inc., Exponent, International Atomic Energy Agency, Nalco Water, NanoGraf Corporation, NuMat Technologies, Pivot Bio, and Volexion.

A hybrid career panel featured some Argonne alumni working in DOE/National Labs, “traditional” academia/industry R&D, and “nontraditional” PhD level science careers. Career panelists were:

  • Lucy Zhang, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and National Science Foundation
  • Caroline Chick Jarrold, Indiana University
  • Hrant Hratchian, University of California, Merced
  • Shalaka Shinde, Pivot Bio
  • Nigel Becknell, Nanograf

The panel focused on diverse career paths and how to navigate through challenges and instability as postdoctoral researchers. The panelists shared their experience in developing life and career strategies, 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 panelists discussed the importance of a high-quality professional network and how their network helped shaped their career paths, whether for asking for reference or hearing about job positions via word-of-mouth. One of the key takeaway messages during this diverse career panel was to “understand your passion and talent while developing strategies to work toward your desire career path.” In addition to career development strategies, several panelists emphasized that it is necessary to speak up and stand up during difficult situations to build a diverse and inclusive work environment.

Poster presentations at the symposium gave participants the opportunity to showcase their research to a broad 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, seven individuals were selected to receive awards for outstanding presentations. The works also demonstrate the wide diversity of research conducted by Argonne postdocs and visiting postdocs/graduate students:

  • Frederick Agyapong-Fordjour, MSD Materials Science Division, Substitutional Vanadium Sulfide Nanodispersed in MoS2 Film for Pt-scalable Catalyst
  • Colin Banyon, CSE Chemical Sciences and Engineering, Temperature Measurements in Heavily-Sooting Ethylene/Air Flames Using Synchrotron X-ray Fluorescence of Krypton
  • Cailin Buchanan, MSD Materials Science Division, Unveiling the Cerium(III)/(IV) Structures and Charge Transfer Mechanism in Sulfuric Acid
  • Sungjoon Kim, HEP High Energy Physics, Thin Film Particle Detectors for High Energy Physics Applications
  • Akash Jain, MSD Materials Science Division, Design of Naturally Occurring Organic redox-active Materials for Nonaqueous Redox Flow Batteries from Active Learning
  • Joshua Paul, NST Nanoscience & Technology, Ingrained: Automated Tool for Merging Atomic-Scale Theory and Experiment
  • Derrick Poe, CSE Chemical Sciences and Engineering, Modeling Deep Eutectic Solvents: Linking Macroscopic Behavior and Molecular Level Features

With this being the first in-person symposium since 2019, with some activities offered in hybrid format, we encouraged participation through special raffle drawings. Postdocs were encouraged to network with several companies and poster presenters through a Networking Bingo, sign up for the Company Networking Lunch, and join hybrid events online. Prizes went to:

  • Davis Unruh, NST Nanoscience & Technology
  • Joshua Christopher, TPS Multi-Physics Computations
  • Xinxin Li, NST Nanoscience & Technology
  • Diego Bestel, TPS Multi-Physics Computations
  • Chiara Bissolotti, HEP High Energy Physics

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 2022 committee included: The Speakers and Panels lead Clair Chang and her team Progna Banerjee, Anirban Chandra, Hassan Harb, and Kaushik Velusamy. The Technical Program lead Barnali Chowdhury and his team Pawan Chaugule, Mark Du, Hassan Harb, Jessica Jones, Niklas Thompson, and Xiaodong Yu. The Marketing lead Leslie Rogers and her team Adam Fouda, John Klein, and Shiba Adhikari. The Company Networking lead Katie McCullough and her team Andrew Erwin and Jiayi Xu. The Community Engagement lead Tyra Douglas and her team Chiara Bissolotti, Seung Eun Lee, and Farhad Masum.

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.



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.
This entry was posted in Events and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.