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.


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