Claire West, University of Washington
This was a great opportunity for me to be taught by different scientists and learn a new field.
Much of my outlook on scientific research is influenced by my narrow academic network of
collaborators. It was important to me to see how others relate to science and to hear the
passion and excitement from the postdocs and staff scientists at LBL. In particular, one postdoc
told me that being a national lab postdoc is one of the most rewarding, exciting, and freeing
times in one’s career. I had never heard someone explain being a postdoc like he did, and it
was very inspiring. Overall, it was refreshing to leave my comfort zone and be challenged in
new ways. It left me feeling independent as a researcher, yet excited to continue meeting
scientists and fostering new collaborations.
Overall, I had a wonderful experience working at LBL this summer. While there were barriers to
connect with other scientists due to working remotely, I greatly appreciated the effort put in by
Bert [my Berkeley lab mentor]. We met weekly to discuss updates, and he additionally
scheduled social events to meet the others in his group. I was surprised and encouraged to
hear about the different, diverse backgrounds of his group members. I worked closely with one
of his postdocs, Tess. We regularly communicate over Slack, however, when my questions
were too big, she was always ready to schedule Zoom meetings. She introduced me to many
different people, including her team who wrote a neural network together, as well as other
postdocs in fields closer to mine. It has been very encouraging to work with someone as upbeat,
patient, and passionate as Tess.
I learned how to train a neural network developed by Tess’s team and how to use my data from
my Ph.D. work and rewrite it in a way for the network to understand. I am still in the process of
learning how to interact with the network, and how to use the predictions by the network for
inverse design. I plan on completing this work past the end date of my internship, culminating in
a joint publication.
It was very maturing to meet with staff scientists and postdocs without my faculty member
present. Everyone I met with had a different educational background and expertise than me,
thus it was very instructive to learn how to explain my science to them and answer their
questions. This experience not only advanced my scientific understanding, but also expanded
my confidence in the knowledge I do have about my field.
Tess and I agreed to continue to work together until we complete our project. We plan on
publishing our work together in a joint manuscript, which will add a compelling chapter to my
dissertation. This internship has impacted my future plans in that it made me very interested in a
postdoctoral position at LBL. I learned about national lab department specific fellowships and
am currently exploring which fellowships of those to apply to. Depending on my graduation
timeline, I will certainly apply for a postdoc position at LBL either this year or next year.