Neslihan Tas portrait

When not at work researching Arctic permafrost microbes or mountainous watersheds, research scientists Neslihan Taş (above left) and Erica Woodburn (above right) are out and about learning what it’s like across Berkeley Lab with fellow recipients of Early Career research awards from the Department of Energy, Berkeley Lab, and UC Berkeley.

In December, Berkeley Lab Director Mike Witherell and Horst Simon, the Lab’s Deputy Director for Research, invited the researchers to participate in a year-long Early Career Enrichment Program (ECEP). Taş is one of 5 Berkeley Lab scientists awarded Department of Energy Office of Science Early Career Research Program awards during 2018.  Woodburn is one of 10 recipients of the FY2018 Early Career LDRD research awards from Berkeley Lab. Two Lab faculty scientists who won DOE Early Career awards through UC Berkeley also participate in the ECEP.

The ECEP was established to give early career scientists increased exposure to the Lab’s scientific programs and operations, and to guide them towards leveraging the Lab’s assets to tackle important science and technology challenges. The cohort has met once a month since January to engage in activities meant to expose them to operations or scientific areas beyond the scope of their day-to-day research.

Taş has enjoyed the exposure to the science  done across the Lab, from the Molecular Foundry to the Biosciences Area. The cohort has even spent time learning from the Lab’s IT and HR professionals. She says she already sees the benefit to researchers in the early stages of their careers from the program, which like the Early Career LDRD awards, is in its first year.

“It’s been helpful to be introduced to the scientific spectrum and operational inner workings of  Berkeley Lab,” Taş says. “Because many early career awardees are fresh out of their postdoc experience, it can be difficult to imagine the collaboration possibilities outside of their immediate research areas.

“This program has also opened my eyes to opportunities that exist to collaborate across areas and to strengthen Berkeley Lab’s mission.”

Woodburn is grateful for the camaraderie that has come with being part of the ECEP. “At our monthly meetings we have a chance to use each other as sounding boards for things that are helpful and strategic in advancing our research,” Woodburn says. “Since many of us are first-time project PIs, it’s been a very valuable resource to be able to exchange experiences.”

The ECEP cohort will visit EESA in July.

The Early Career Development track within the LDRD Program is intended to help Lab scientists begin leading their own research, and could help them prepare to compete for DOE-funded awards such as the DOE Early Career Research Program awards.