Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Interview :: UCLA's Society of Postdoctoral Scholars (SoPS)

CNSI has recently become acquainted with the Society of Postdoctoral Scholars (SoPS) over the past year.  Starting out as an endeavour by the Office of Postdoctoral and Visiting Scholar Services in 2004, CNSI researchers Greg Pawin and Shelley Claridge joined forces with the group more recently and our involvement  has grown immensely as have their activities and resources.  CNSI bloggers spoke with Greg Pawin and current SoPS President Xue Hua to learn more about SoPS and its offerings to the UCLA Campus. This valuable resource is surely an effort we'd like to help spread the word about, so read below and find out more at the SoPs Website.


What kind of resources and/or events does SoPS offer?
In a way, we at SoPS like to think of ourselves as serving as the compass for postdocs who feel lost at sea, which is a common sentiment due to the grey status they have between that of a student/staff/or faculty. It's a time of transition yet academics are spending more and more time in it. In the meantime, postdocs are trying to gain experience running a lab, fortifying their CVs with publications, figuring out their future careers, and possibly have a family.

We hope we can make all of that a little easier and possibly take one step further and prepare postdocs for routes for unexpected career paths outside of academia, which is why we have been pushing for more entrepreneurship related workshops. In addition to our extensive series of career development seminars and workshops, we hold informational events for more mundane yet daunting hurdles for postdocs, like how to pay their taxes or renew their visas. We have also been trying to expand on the number and type of socials that we hold, including hikes, monthly socials, and coffee hours. However, we are lacking in family friendly events, which is why we're trying to bring back the yearly BBQ.

What is the relationship of SoPS to the Grad Division, and also the rest of campus?
The SoPS is an advisory committee to the Office of Postdoctoral and Visiting Scholar Services, which is in turn a part of Graduate Division, which supplies us with a yearly budget with which we are able to fund our informational seminars, socials, and other myriad of activities. We have sponsored events with various other organizations on campus, especially on career development oriented seminars and workshops. We probably work with CNSI on a most regular basis due to our alignment of interests and very helpful staff.

What discipline does the current group mainly come from, and what diversity in the group do you hope to create?

Fortunately, we're comprised of all types of disciplines, including those from the physical sciences, medical school, and humanities. Ideally, it would be nice if we were perfectly representative in every way to the postdoc population; in race, gender, discipline, marital status, and number of offspring. Understandably, we are lacking in members with children and there is a need for someone to represent their needs. 

Who are the key players of UCLA SoPS? How is the group organized?
SoPS is comprised of the president, who is currently Xue Hua, and various committee chairs, each in charge of: advocacy, career development, treasury, communications, entrepreneurship and business development, social and outreach activities; and each staffed by postdocs who volunteer their time to organize events for the postdoc community. It's a very egalitarian organization, where all positions are vice-president positions aside from the president. Due to the transient nature of the postdocs, we are constantly looking for new members to join the team. If you are interested in helping with one of our many programs currently in place or have ideas you would like to share about helping us grow, please feel free to email

What are the short term, and long term goals of the Society?Our short term goals are to expand the number and types of events that we offer. We would like to offer more entrepreneurship seminars and business meet-and-greet type events to get postdocs to become more business savvy so they can adapt to the changing job climate. We would also like to expand our social activities and build a stronger postdoc community. These goals are all for the long term vision of a vibrant, self-sustaining postdoc community that helps its members succeed and flourish in all their future endeavors long after their stints as postdocs.

What (if any) is the relationship between CNSI and SoPS?
As previously hinted to earlier, SoPS is very fortunate enough to have very similar goals to those in charge of career development and education at CNSI, which has a dedicated and experienced staff for organizing and hosting these events. We work very closely with Jia Ming Chen on a series of career development seminars and workshops and are constantly on the lookout for more speakers and future events. Everyone on the staff who is involved are very committed and supportive of our events, so much so that we also hold our monthly socials there. Also, it doesn't hurt that CNSI is one of the nicer buildings to host events in.

Are there any upcoming events that we can tell our readers about?
In addition to our monthly socials, pub nites, hikes, and career development seminars that all can be found on our website:, we will be hosting a vendor show at CNSI on February 14th, Valentine's Day.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Third Culture: Science, Art & Ideas: Dr. Adam Stieg at TEDxYouth@Conejo

A talk from TedxYouth@Conejo by Adam Stieg, who currently serves as Scientific Director of the Nano and Pico Characterization Core Facility at CNSI and Director of the UCLA Sci|Art NanoLab

His research focuses on the design and application of physical methods toward development of an integrated understanding of matter at the interfaces of traditionally defined boundaries. Numerous ongoing, collaborative efforts involve the study of molecular machines, nanoparticles for targeted drug delivery, inorganic carbon-based materials, directed stem cell differentiation and the pursuit of physically intelligent systems through neuromorphic computation.

Since 2003, he has collaborated with artists in a variety of projects, installations, and public exhibitions that provide inspiration and motivation for bringing the power of such creative approaches to the forefront of education.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Will "Publish or Perish" become "Tweet or Perish"?

The dissemination of research data has transformed dramatically in recent years, thanks to both the ability to collect larger datasets (think transcriptomics, participatory sensing, and high resolution imaging) and multiple online platforms that researchers now have access to (online journals...or blogging and Twitter). In at least one case, the opportunity to get news out fast has even taken priority over the peer review process. Given these different opportunities and outlets, how do researchers decide the best way to share their findings?

On Monday  (Jan. 14, 2013), CNBC reporter Jane Wells came to CNSI to talk about the evolution of business news. Her very entertaining presentation — she's the perfect combination of funny and intelligent — opened with a short video clip showing how her own reports have changed over her 31-year career. Wells then shared a report from 2007, where she covered the beginning of the housing bubble burst, which included footage of a realtor, a buyer, a neighbor, and a former homeowner and compared it to a more recent and shorter report that showed Rick Santelli ranting against the Obama administration's handling of the home mortgage crisis — an example of the type of news that gets more attention these days.

Wells said she was at CNSI to talk about "how [her] job is changing and how technology is changing it." Reporters have had to evolve, she said. "We have to be shorter, and we have to be louder. Sometimes really loud." And, "[we] have to be on all platforms."

While the needs of a television station news reporter and a researcher are distinct in many ways, both groups want their work to be visible, relevant, and broadly viewed. Accordingly, scientists have migrated to online platforms to share their work and the work of others as well.

And, while some forums, such as Twitter, may limit the amount of information that can be shared, the internet also serves as a repository for supplemental information — sometimes a lot of supplemental information — that can accompany and enrich published articles in print journals. This can benefit the global community and integrate goals so that they can be reached much sooner. The value of additional online space is also evident for Wells, who has been able to post full interviews online to complement the much shorter snippets that are allowed on TV.

"Things that can't get on the air can get out elsewhere," said Wells.

From the audience's point of view, the challenge arising from these new outlets for information will, of course, be figuring out which news, scientific or otherwise, is believable. Luckily, the world is training itself to sort through massive amounts of information every day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The UCLA NanoSystems Seminar Series Resumes..

After a bit of a hiatus, the CNSI NanoSystems Seminar Series resumes this week with a lecture by Prof. Ron Naaman from The Weizmann Institute of Science.  This lecture is co-sponsored by the Division of Physical Chemistry and acts as a breath of fresh air as the newly revamped series is introduced to our CNSI Members & the UCLA Campus.  Those who are familiar with the lecture series might be aware that there have been over a decade of activities surrounding this staple of the CNSI community since 2002. 

In the early days, these lectures were held in La Kretz Hall next door to what would soon become the CNSI Building.  At the time, there might have been the beginnings of a large excavated hole in the ground that participants curiously walked by to reach the talks and the question of "What is nano?" could be heard frequently around south campus.  Receptions were held in the nearby Life Sciences building, in a somewhat hidden location that gave way to long lines and hours of friendly chatter nonetheless.  This was a time when hopes were high, interests in nano research were just peaking, and a small group of faculty was just beginning to form what would become the first generation of CNSI members.

While the CNSI construction site was in full swing, students and their professors would look through mysterious fencing and scaffolding at the new building's construction, and the talks became more notable with Nobel laureates and well known researchers making frequent appearances.  At one point in 2007, the quarterly poster for the series was spotted by the art department for a then little known television series, "The Big Bang Theory" and still appears during each episode today.  A few months later, CNSI's doors finally opened and the buzz of research began.

Through many changes over the years and the inevitable growing pains that come with, the Series reflected these evolving courses of direction in research in the way of talk topics.  As nano research evolved, so did the institute and, with a faltering state budget in the background, there were unfortunately some tough days on the horizon.  In the midst of financial crises, the series fell silent in late 2011 due to a lack of resources and staffing, but with the helpful and constant encouragement of those same CNSI Members who gathered so many years ago, along with several of their newer colleagues - the series starts anew this Winter.

The lectures will take place on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month, and will feature external speakers as well as talks from CNSI Members.  The intention is to create opportunities for member engagement once again, and to create a collaborative dialogue.  As well, we hope to increase awareness of the evolving capabilities of the CNSI Core Labs, and the growing collaborations amongst our members and partners.

Monday, January 7, 2013


Happy New Year from The California NanoSystems Institute! We hope all you researchers and fellow supporters of science and technology have a wonderful 2013.