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2024 CSA Postdoc Symposium Showcases 26 Early Career Researchers

February 16, 2024

By Kathy Kincade

Post-doctoral scholars have long been a vital component of the research and development pipeline at Berkeley Lab. Toward this end, each year the Computing Sciences Area (CSA) welcomes dozens of early career researchers to the lab through postdoctoral positions, internships, and fellowships. These programs give participants the opportunity to conduct leading-edge research, publish and present their findings, collaborate with colleagues in academia and industry, and contribute to important research advancements. 

As part of this tradition, on Tuesday, Feb. 6 the CSA held its fifth annual Postdoc Symposium at Berkeley Lab, where postdoctoral researchers currently working at the Lab shared 10-minute slide presentations on their exciting projects with an audience of peers, mentors, and coworkers. In addition, in the weeks leading up to the event, CSA staff provided communications training and coaching to help them fine-tune their presentations and messaging. 

An audience seated at tables and in chairs observe a speaker at the front of the room standing at a podium in front of three large monitors.

During the symposium, postdoctoral researchers currently working at the Lab shared 10-minute slide presentations on their projects with an audience of peers, mentors, and coworkers, followed by interactive Q&As throughout the day. (Credit: Linda Vu)

This event was first held in 2020 and has become “a great tradition we’ve continued every year since,” said Jonathan Carter, Associate Lab Director for Computing Sciences, in his welcoming remarks. The number of participants is growing as well, he noted; from 2020-2023, there were a total of 75 speakers, while this year there were 26 speakers, with some returning from 2023.

“This is one of my favorite CSA events,” said Stefan Wild, Director of the Applied Mathematics & Computational Research (AMCR) Division. “It is awesome to see how much energy our senior staff put into the training events leading up the symposium and to watch the great progress that each presenter makes over the course of the program.” 

"It was great to see the work of CSA postdocs at the symposium,” added Ana Kupresanin, Director of the Scientific Data (SciData) Division. “The event reminded us of the value of sharing ideas and supporting each other."

5 postdoctoral speakers standing near a podium answer questions from a live audience in front of computer monitors.

Morning Session Group 1 speakers answer questions during the first morning break. (Credit: Linda Vu)

Several participants emphasized the positive impact the event and the weeks of coaching and preparation for it has had on their professional development.

“This was my first time participating in the Postdoc Symposium, and I am glad I signed up since it was a great experience!” said Luka Grbcic, who is in AMCR’s Applied Computing for Scientific Discovery Group. “The coaching sessions, run-throughs, and constructive feedback were incredibly valuable. These resources served not just as preparation for the symposium but also fundamentally enhanced my approach to presentations. My ability to articulate my work in a more accessible and universally understandable manner has significantly improved.”

A woman with long dark hair and a man with medium skin tone and glasses stand in front of a monitor while answering questions.

(L-R) Postdoc Siyuan Niu and moderator Ishan Srivastava during a Q&A break. (Credit: David Brown)

“[The coaching sessions] were what made this experience stand out among the many avenues we have for presenting our work,” added Mukul Dave, who is in the Application Performance Group at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Berkeley Lab. “We received feedback from senior scientists across different research areas and from communications professionals, benefitting from their years of experience.”

“This is a great opportunity for postdocs to examine their work, collect feedback, and disseminate research!” said Wei Zhang of SciData’’s Scientific Data Management Group.

Pu Ren of SciData’s Machine Learning and Analytics Group agreed. “I received two rounds of feedback for the slides and during the dry run, and that helped me improve my presentation a lot. I am really grateful for the feedback from the reviewers.”  

A man with medium skin with black hair and beard wearing a casual suit presents material shown on a screen to his left while interested onlookers listen.

Postdoc Imtiaz Mahmud during his presentation. (Credit: Linda Vu)

Alec Dektor joined AMCR’s Scalable Solvers Group about seven months ago and was very excited when he learned about this professional development opportunity. “It was an excellent chance to share some of my work and learn valuable presentation skills that will benefit the rest of my career.” 

A man with a fair complexion and light brown hair wearing glasses and a casual sweater points to a scientific graph displayed on a large monitor.

Postdoc David Tench. (Credit: David Brown)

For those who didn't attend the symposium this year, Jonghyun Bae of AMCR’s Performance and Algorithms Research Group recommends participating in the future. “This symposium gave me opportunities to greet other researchers who I did not have the chance to meet before. Also, I was able to talk to some researchers and postdocs who are interested in my research, which I think is very positive for the formation of the next research and communication network.”

A woman with light complexion and long dark brown hair wearing business attire and glasses speaks in front of a large monitor.

Postdoc Patricia Gonzalez-Guerrero. (Credit: David Brown)

Dong Min Roh of AMCR’s Scalable Solvers Group agreed. “Not only do you learn the skills of giving a short talk to a general audience, you get to learn about other exciting research projects that are going on at the lab and speak to other postdocs who you may not usually run into.”

“To other young researchers, I would recommend participating in this symposium as early as possible in your postdoc journey,” said Patricia Gonzalez-Guerrero of AMCR’s Computer Architecture Group - who, on the same day she gave her presentation, was coincidentally offered a research scientist position at Berkeley Lab.

All of the presentations were recorded and will be available soon on the CSA YouTube channel.

About Berkeley Lab

Founded in 1931 on the belief that the biggest scientific challenges are best addressed by teams, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and its scientists have been recognized with 16 Nobel Prizes. Today, Berkeley Lab researchers develop sustainable energy and environmental solutions, create useful new materials, advance the frontiers of computing, and probe the mysteries of life, matter, and the universe. Scientists from around the world rely on the Lab’s facilities for their own discovery science. Berkeley Lab is a multiprogram national laboratory, managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

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