The Chemical Sciences Division (CSD) launched its first Postdoctoral Fellow Retreat at Hotel Shattuck on Thursday, July 21st. The agenda included research presentations; discussions on diversity, inclusion, and implicit bias; presentation by the Berkeley Lab Postdoc Association; a CSD “Alumni Highlight” to showcase opportunities after LBNL postdoctoral work; and a career development workshop with resources called “Stepping Up: Practical Career and Leadership Advice for Scientists.”
“By having this postdoc retreat, we wanted to start a new conversation with the Division postdocs on how to best support them throughout their appointment at the Lab, advocate for them, and assist them in shaping successful careers,” said Rebecca Abergel, Principal Investigator in the BioActinide Group. “It was an unprecedented opportunity for them to get to know each other, to understand better the organization of the Lab and of the Division, and to learn about diversity and inclusion at the Lab as well as career development opportunities.”
Ali Belkacem, CSD Division Director, participated in the retreat and was instrumental in getting it launched. “Our postdoctoral fellows are the backbone of the scientific ingenuity and creativity of the Division. The retreat is an opportunity to get them out of their respective labs, and meet their peers working in other areas of chemistry in CSD. Beyond getting to know each other, the goal of the retreat was to discuss science, career paths, and diversity, which are all extremely important issues for early career scientists and for the Division.”
The Diversity and Inclusion Office facilitated a discussion on implicit bias awareness, including a screening of Berkeley Lab’s video featuring Dr. Caroline Simard from Stanford’s Clayman Institute. “Postdoctoral fellows are currently confronted with many diversity and inclusion challenges, and will also become hiring managers in the near future,” said Abergel. “Our goal is to raise the awareness of D&I issues among postdocs, and have them participate actively in our D&I conversation and initiatives.”
Sean Fackler, CSD postdoc, discussed why these types of events are important to early career researchers. “Events like the CSD Postdoc Retreat are becoming more and more important as postdocs need to navigate an increasingly varied and competitive job market. The traditional jobs like professorships are viewed as highly competitive for continuing research, and also have an archaic job path. Today’s postdocs can benefit greatly by receiving mentorship from those who have gone outside this traditional job path and succeeded in business, industry, government, and non-profit organizations.” Fackler also mentioned that his take-away from the retreat is that “CSD is thinking hard about how to help the current and future generations of postdocs succeed in a job market where we are just as prepared to be a CEO or a professor.”
“As Division Director, I learned tremendously from meeting with our postdocs during the retreat, and hearing firsthand about the issues they care about or struggle with on a day-to-day basis. It has been an eye-opening experience,” said Belkacem. “Our postdocs are tomorrow’s principal investigators in academia, and science/business leaders in private industry. It’s never too early or too late to engage in a discussion about career development and diversity, issues that we deeply believe in and care about.”
This retreat is part of a continued effort by CSD to engage with the postdoc community within their Division. For more information about CSD, please visit their website.