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

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