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Feature Story | Argonne National Laboratory

Argonne postdoctoral researchers take science to new heights

During National Postdoc Appreciation Week, Argonne celebrates the contributions of postdocs across the laboratory

Postdoc Appreciation Week recognizes the postdoctoral researchers bringing fresh perspectives and established expertise to groundbreaking research at Argonne.

Postdoctoral researchers at the U. S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory bring unique perspectives on research and innovation and a drive for problem-solving, ensuring research at Argonne is always at the cutting edge.

This week is National Postdoc Appreciation Week, during which organizations around the world, including Argonne, recognize postdocs’ contributions to discovery. A postdoctoral appointment is a training-focused position available to researchers who have recently earned a doctoral degree. At Argonne, postdoctoral positions provide newly minted scientists with the opportunity to conduct meaningful, cutting-edge research in an inspiring and resource-rich environment.

I think that people look at postdocs as researchers who will bring a new perspective to the work.” — Stephen T. Pratt, a group leader in the Chemical Sciences and Engineering division 

Argonne’s roughly 360 postdoctoral researchers advance science across all scientific divisions of the laboratory and are an integral part of the lab’s research community.

There’s so much professional development at Argonne, in addition to having all the resources that you could possibly need to do the amazing science we get to do,” said Jessica Jones, an Argonne postdoctoral researcher who studies materials science and co-leads the National Postdoc Appreciation Week committee. There are so many opportunities and support both from the principal investigators and the lab more broadly, that being a postdoc at Argonne is really a great experience.”

Postdocs bring their unique insights to the table. Those with more established expertise in their field contribute their considerable knowledge and skills, advancing the lab’s research. And postdocs working on projects that offer them the opportunity to use new research techniques bring fresh points of view and may be able to make observations that are not as obvious to others.

I think that people look at postdocs as researchers who will bring a new perspective to the work,” said Stephen Pratt, a group leader in the Chemical Sciences and Engineering division, who started at Argonne as a postdoc and has since supervised many postdoctoral researchers.

Postdocs are key to carrying out research at Argonne, connecting with all parts of the lab.

The postdocs are the ones on the ground floor, in the lab doing the research, but we also get that exposure to all levels of the lab — the technical side and the leadership side — and it gives you a really good idea of how effective science gets done,” Jones said.

Postdoctoral researchers at Argonne build community through the Postdoctoral Society of Argonne (PSA). PSA began as an informal group and has become increasingly active and organized over time. The PSA hosts events throughout the year for both community building and career development. Postdocs have taken increasing ownership in PSA, raising their visibility at the lab and strengthening their communication with laboratory leadership.

The PSA has the pulse of the postdoc community,” said Argonne’s Early Career Program Lead Tina Henne. It helps make sure leadership is engaged with the postdoc community, and ideas and issues get raised that otherwise might not have been.”

The laboratory benefits from postdocs’ fresh perspectives and proven work, and in turn, postdocs gain valuable experience working at a national lab.

I’ve learned what it looks like to start and run a research project, and I’ve learned what effective leadership looks like,” Jones said. It’s really a great place, you’re the one doing the groundbreaking research that Argonne is known for.”  

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.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.