Argonne a top place to work for postdocs in 2013

By Louise LernerApril 16, 2013

For the third year in a row, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory is one of the 10 best places to work as a postdoctoral researcher, according to The Scientist magazine’s annual survey. 

Argonne ranked fifth, moving up from sixth place last year, earning specific praise for its benefits and attention to personal and family life.

About 300 postdocs are working at the lab in a variety of areas, from nuclear engineering to mathematics and computer science. Postdocs are scientists, who, after receiving their doctoral degrees, continue to conduct mentored research to deepen their expertise in a field.

The lab, the only DOE national lab to be recognized in the survey, currently has postdocs from 42 countries and nearly all 50 states.

Once a month, Argonne holds events for postdocs, including safety seminars, workshops to sharpen career skills like resume-writing or negotiation, as well as brown-bag seminar lunches, where postdocs present their research in front of peers and staff scientists. In January, the lab had a seminar devoted to perfecting an elevator pitch — the art of summing up one’s research in a minute or less.

“Our leadership really recognizes how important postdocs are and how crucial their work is to the lab,” said Kristene Henne, who coordinates Argonne's postdoctoral programs. “I think that makes a big difference.”

Postdoc officers from the Postdoctoral Society of Argonne meet quarterly with the lab director to discuss issues important to them, Henne said.

An active centralized postdoc office, Postdoctoral Society, Women in Science and Technology and campus clubs help too, Henne said.

Shaolin (Allen) Liao, an Argonne postdoc who studies ways to use electromagnetic and ultrasonic waves for imaging and spectroscopy, has been involved with the Postdoctoral Society for three years. He currently serves as the liaison officer, scheduling social events like Super Bowl watch parties and trips to see the Chicago Fire MLS soccer team play.

He praised the Postdoctoral Society for its efforts to make new arrivals welcome and the lab for its competitive pay and benefits.

“It’s a temporary job, but it’s also important for postdocs to realize they’re valued,” Liao said. “Argonne is a great place to do a postdoc. You can’t ask for more.”

Argonne has three main postdoctoral programs: the Named Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, Director's Postdoctoral Fellowships and Division Postdoctoral Appointments.

The Named Postdoctoral Fellowship Program awards annual fellowships to outstanding doctoral scientists and engineers from around the world who are at early points in promising careers. The fellowships are named after scientific and technical luminaries who have been associated with the laboratory, its predecessors and the University of Chicago since the 1940s. Director's Postdoctoral Fellows are selected based on their research and academic accomplishments, as well as the strength of their research proposals. Division Postdoctoral Appointments are hired on a continuous base and typically conduct research on existing Argonne science and technology programs.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.