BERKELEY LAB - UC BERKELEY POSTDOC CAREER FAIR 2022
- Good morning and welcome to the Berkeley Lab in UC Berkeley Postdoc Career Fair. My name is Cecilia Fura. I'm the senior manager at the Visiting Scholar and Postdoc Affairs office and one of the co-sponsors of this event.
It is my great pleasure to introduce UC Berkeley associate vice chancellor for research, Dr. Linda Rugg. We are delighted to have her give the opening remarks to kick off today's event. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Rugg. (audience applauding) - I have to navigate this whole thing here. One more time.
That's okay. I came up the wrong stairway. Good morning, everybody. It's good to see you this morning.
I hope you've been having a good and productive time meeting each other at this special event. I wanted to thank you all for joining us today. And from our postdocs and visiting researchers, to our sponsors, we extend our warmest welcome to the third and final day. So this is your last chance to get to know each other of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and UC Berkeley Postdoc Career Fair.
And this is a great partnership for us so we're really happy that this could be worked out. On behalf of the vice chancellor for research, Dr. Yelick and myself, and I wanted to just say that she's on vacation and if she were not on vacation, she would definitely be here because she's been a long-time member of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and UC Berkeley. So she comes from your communities. On behalf of Kathy and myself, I wanna thank and acknowledge all of you who made this event a great success.
The Berkeley Lab Postdoc Association, our partners at the Career Pathways Program at the Berkeley Lab and our Visiting Scholar and Postdoc Affairs team that's Cecilia setting up. I wanted to thank all of you for your efforts in making this event happen. Today, we're here as you know, to create connections for all of you, between yourselves, postdocs and visiting researchers, and also with all of you and prospective employers who are seeking the best and brightest talent that Berkeley and the lab has to offer. And they're gonna be over there. We will first hear from a panel of guest speakers from across industries.
And then we're going to welcome postdocs and researchers view to explore the exhibit booths. I think they're they're over that way, right? The exhibit booths, yeah. To explore the exhibit booths, meet the representatives of industries and engage with the sponsors and their teams.
After that, after you have a chance to tour the booths, then there's gonna be a lunch break. And after that, there's going to be a speed networking segment, which should be a lot of fun. And we hope also that you will join us at four o'clock for the reception with continued networking and social engagement. So I'm gonna be turning this over to Meg Rodriguez. She's the program manager for the career pathways program from Lawrence Berkeley Lab, I'm sorry, from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
And she is going to, in her turn, introduce the panel members. I wish you all a very productive and enjoyable time today, the last day of the fair. (audience applauding) - Check, one, two. Okay.
All right. Good morning. Welcome, everyone. Happy Friday. Happy Postdoc Career Fair. We're so happy that you could join us in that you're here. Hopefully, you all got checked in.
You got your drink tickets 'cause that's important. Hopefully you also got your raffle tickets. There's bingo cards for raffle. And so just wanna make sure housekeeping wise.
If you have any questions throughout the event, you can always visit us at the reception desk. So I Meg Rodriguez. I'm the program manager for the Career Pathways Office at Berkeley Lab.
So I manage the postdoc program and I'm excited to invite up with me Max Bremer. He is from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab as well. He leads our Lab Industry Networking Connection. He's gonna help moderate this panel with me. - Yeah, hello. Awesome.
Okay, cool. Yeah, so we're super excited to have a very distinguished industry panel today. Kind of from all over the place and they'll hopefully be talking about what it's like to pursue science-based careers outside of the normal academic setting. So I'm just gonna call up our speakers and just come up. I'm gonna keep the introduction super short, 'cause we'll just ask them to talk about themselves.
But so first we have a Ravi who's a distinguished engineer at IBM. And then we have Kali who is a senior scientist at Galy. And then also we have Jessica from Sepion Technologies who I guess was at Lawrence Berkeley Lab also so, it's kind of fun.
- Welcome and you guys may take your hot seats (laughs) at the front. Yeah. (audience applauding) So the way this is gonna work is we have some preset questions that we're gonna ask the panel and then we're gonna open it up to you all and so we'll bring you the mic.
So we are streaming this. So if you can wait till the mic gets to you so you can ask the question so everyone can hear it. So yeah, go ahead. - Yeah, for sure. So I guess the first question I'm just gonna walk over here so I can see you.
The first question that I had was could you just tell us briefly, your name, what you do and kind of how you got there. Just two or three minutes. - Sure.
I suppose I'll start. So I'm Jessica Golden, I'm a director of R&D at Sepion Technologies. We are a battery materials company.
We've been designing materials for lithium metal batteries for about seven years now. We spun out of Berkeley National Lab where our CEO, Pete Frischmann and his post-doctoral advisor, Brett Helms at the molecular Foundry were working on lithium-sulfur batteries. And they figured you could use some really interesting polymer materials to mitigate some problems that we were seeing in lithium-sulfur batteries at the time. And we kind of spun out at the right after that as a platform materials company, to use those same materials, class polymers of intrinsic microporosity to mitigate sort of an array of different problems across different battery chemistries. And it was about three years ago that we down selected to lithium metal. The reason being that we felt we could have the largest impact on the shortest timeline in that kind of technology field.
And it's been up from there. - [Max] Awesome, Kali. - Hi, I'm Kali Brant.
I work for Galy, which is a cellular agriculture startup that's based near Boston. And the company is essentially aimed at taking plants completely out of the agricultural equation. So we use de-differentiated cells sort of like stem cells to directly grow products. And we mainly focus right now on cotton.
So we're working on taking cells from cotton plants and going straight to fiber. So we're taking the fact that you have to use a ton of land space, water, pesticides, greenhouse gas emissions, trying to remove as much of those from the equation as possible. And we're pretty new, but we're making strides and it's very exciting. - [Max] Very cool. And then Ravi.
- Yeah, hi, my name is Ravi. I graduated from Berkeley, so it's always like coming back to where I started. I've been in IBM systems making actually processes, micro process for our high end enterprise systems. So currently, I work at IBM research from Yorktown Heights, but most of the facilities in Albany, New York, where we have the cutting edge, next generation devices that we are making.
And it's especially interesting times because just a few days back the Senate passed the CHIPS Act, which is going to infuse a lot of money into semiconductor research and development for US leadership, which has been the main thing that the focus of this particular legislation is. So I'm excited to be here and we'll kick it off. Thanks. - All right, thank you so much.
So we're really excited to get to know you all more and more about your organization. So the first question kind of the elephant in the room, if you will A lot of postdocs debate the pros and cons of remaining in a more academic setting. So as PhDs who are now in industry, what were the factors that led you towards this career path? And so we can just, whoever wants to go first, but we'll ask each of you the same. - So I'll go first. So my PhD work took a total of seven years, partly because of the lovely weather here in Berkeley.
And so at that time, I came to the country thinking I would go into faculty, which was, my advisor was very direct and said, "Look, you probably need a couple of more years of good postdoc." And then by then, I was adding up the whole thing. It was going to take a lot more time. Then I said, okay, I'll make a pivot. Change to industry. Because at that time, they were looking for, just like how the situation right now is for looking for a lot of people in the semiconductor industry.
And so I thought make a change and that's that worked out. It's the way it worked out. So it's always a question that you have to internalize and see how it leads you. - Yeah, I had similar conflictions. I wanted to be a faculty, member of faculty but I also wanted to have a lot of impact more quickly.
And I think it was time that made me choose to go to industry. And it's not that you can't do great research in academia, it's just that the teams that you can build around your research allow you to have spread your influence much more effectively. So as a really great researcher, you can hire a good team to work with you and have experts on different parts of the problem working to solve that problem with you. So I did a stint actually trying to figure out which path I really wanted to do at Medtronic diabetes in LA. And I worked for the research group there and I figured, I really like this, but there's a lot of red tape in a big company. And so my choice was really between going to academia or to go to a startup.
And I explore both. I actually interviewed at Berkeley Lab at Livermore lab and at Sepion and Sepion was just the right fit for me, so. - I tend to be in the minority in this one.
I always knew I wanted to be an industry. I started in industry after I got my bachelor's degree. I got a job in an ag biotech company and just loved it. Fell in love with the company, with the way it worked, with the job, everything.
But then I decided I wanted to become someone who could actually make decisions about where the science was going to go. So I wanted to go back to school. So then I went and got my PhD in a public wheat breeding program. So it was public industry. And then just because I was doing some really awesome work with CRISPR, I decided to stay on as a postdoc. So then I was in academia and I actually developed and taught a class.
So I've done all of the things, but I always knew I wanted to go back to industry. And for me, it was really a matter of knowing what sort of situation I thrive in. I don't do well without hard deadlines and accountability. I just kind of slack off. And industry is very much like, you have a deadline and they will know if you don't reach it. And I actually really like that fast paced sort of lifestyle.
And I just always knew industry was for me, I guess. - Yeah, thanks for reminding me of those deadlines that are sneaking up on me as well. (audience laughing) I think that the next question too is, everybody here is a postdoc.
So I think one of the big questions that I would think of is how is kind of doing technical work different from doing a postdoc or being in a PhD program? So, so could you just describe the science-y aspects. What's different? What stands out to you? What do you not? That kinda thing. - At our company, I think a lot of the people that come fresh from academia, which is most of our scientists, sort of have the mentality that they have to solve every part of the problem themselves. And so the big change in thinking in working in an industry environment is that you should understand the expertise of your coworkers really well. And then be able to rely on them and to trust their research and to delegate to them. And so build teams around your project, ideas get buy in collaborate, and you don't have to solve everything yourself.
Other nice thing is we have a bit more spending money and a bit more flexibility than being purely grant funded. So if there's something that's a really interesting idea and one of my team members can sell me on the idea. It doesn't have to be a long selling. They can just come and talk to me about it. I'll usually just say, yeah, go buy that.
So that's pretty nice. - Yeah, I think that's very true. And also, I would say one thing, a lot of people coming straight from academia into industry have a tendency to do is kind of try to do the absolute best science to get the answer to that one question, which kind of goes into what you were saying that sometimes, you're tasked with, get this done.
It's not actually in your area of expertise and you have until this day to do it, and you have to be really flexible and work with what you have to get the best answer you can. And I think postdocs and academia have a tendency to be, here's a project. You have a long time to answer it as thoroughly as possible and make sure that you've looked at it from every angle. But industries is more like you're gonna do this this week and next week you're gonna do that.
And it's completely different and you have to get it done. - Yeah, also you have to be willing to let your projects die. Sometimes, in industry, you find out that thing's not gonna work as you thought it would. And it doesn't matter how it works after that. You just have to say, okay, I have to find a new project. That's a hard thing to learn.
- But I think the perspective is more of an applied science to an engineering problem, which has a customer deliverable or a market-based deliverable. So it's important to think about, is this going to be used in the end product or is there a place, a home for it? For where this particular technology goes. Sometimes in research, early research, a lot of the ideas are just good ideas because you need to have that pipeline just like academia to research, to development, to manufacturing, the pipeline is critical, but that's the way to kind of at least think about as you would see, it's not all the work that you would do is going to be a 100% perfect and exact.
There might be interesting problems, but you gotta move on. You just have to make the pivot and just, okay, the business says, okay, good. Good work, just move on to the next thing, because we want your inputs and brain cells here.
So that's the way I would think about it. - Awesome, thank you. So you spoke a little bit about how the research industry is like, but how do you decide which ideas to pursue and what's the currency of your work? What does success look like in industry? - So for us, and especially semiconductor research and development, it's a pretty clear cadence in terms of, maybe in the last, maybe five years or so, there are not too much of a roadmap given out, but the demand and in terms of what we need to develop is pretty clear. If you, everybody understands Moore's Law, you get 2x, the number of transistors for every two, three years. And so you gotta do finer and finer dimensions so you know where you are headed and you've gotta figure out what is the right material choices.
How do you innovate in order to get there? That's the most interesting part is every couple of years, the problem set becomes harder and you keep innovating. So the currency is typically in terms of not necessarily how many publications you would do, because typically what happens is a lot of times, if something is getting used in product, they never get published. It's absolute secret, just kept inside. Sometimes they don't wanna teach anybody at all.
So for us, the main currency is A, patents. Because that gets you licensing or preventing other people from copying. And the second part is whether it makes it into actual products and at the end of the day, can you get revenue recognition for it? So that's the two main thing that I can start to say. - I think that currency is the same, even all the way over in- - It's the same. - In Ag biotech.
- Yeah, exactly. - Yeah, agreed. Mostly it's patenting. But it also depends on I suppose, the business. So Sepion's a battery company. There's a lot of different ways you could be a battery company. So you could be making components, you could be making cells, you could be making packs, you could be making battery management systems.
Sepion is making components, but in that process, we have to make cells so we can prove our components work. And so our currency will cover sort of every aspect of proving that that technology really works for the market. And that currency is really dictated by what the market is asking. So we have to go to our customers who are the automotive companies that are making battery electric vehicles and ask, what do you want to see? And we have to ask them pretty frequently, because this is an emerging technology. And so their ideas about what they think they need are changing as quickly as we're innovating. And especially with multiple components coming together in a cell design.
Two years ago, everyone was working on NMC and now, LFP is a thing that people are really considering. So you have to be flexible there and your currency might change. And so, your currency will be dictated by your customer. - Yeah, cool. It's really interesting that there's kind of that like, whatever, outsourcing of like the directions you're moving into your customers, and then you have to kind of approach it from that end.
I guess the next question would be like, what is your actual day-to-day like? So how much time do you spend still doing technical work. Like science versus like managing or bureaucracy or anything else. - Well, I'm at a startup.
So for me, it varies week to week, but I still, even though I'm a senior scientist, every once in a while, I'm spending a whole week in the lab, all day long. Some weeks, I'm doing managerial stuff. Some weeks, I'm a part of the conversations with the other scientists, analyzing our experiments and figuring out the next steps and brainstorming. So especially in a startup, it's very, very dependent on just time of year.
Are you close to the end of the quarter? And what the company needs. And we wear a lot of hats. All of us do. All the way down to the Ras, we do tons of different stuff. - We're also a startup so we're wearing a lot of hats and same, uh-oh. Varies week-to-week.
For the most part, my responsibility is now are totally outside of the lab. But every once in a while, I'm the only one that knows how to do a particular kind of experiment. So I go in and I teach our RAs and scientists how to do it. And I hope that they can get it the first time because I don't usually have enough time to repeat it and watch them do it again. But yeah, for the most part, I think I spend a lot of time talking to customers, talking to our CEO, trying to understand the landscape of the business environment and then trying to manage the team to adapt to the strategic goals of our company so that I get to play with the data. I really love looking at the data.
I look at it a lot, but in terms of sort of hands on in the lab, it's a lot less of that for me these days. - Yeah, so for me, I last maybe the couple of years, I haven't really done hands on experimentation, but mostly, my work is to work with engineers. I don't manage any people in IBM. We have a very different tracks where you can have a pure technical, scientific-based track and there's a management where you're responsible for people management side. So awesome, it's a very solemn responsibility. I wasn't sure I could do that.
I could stick to my core strength, which is technical insights. So a lot of times, what I do day-to-day is with most of the engineering team. And it's looking at all the experiments or planning for what capability we would need two years from now, or three years from now kind of a situation where you need to do a little bit of planning and thinking. So that's a lot of my job right now. And I do a lot of working with young, fresh engineers. People like you, in a sense, just finishing up PhDs or postdocs coming in.
Giving them direction in terms of where to aim, where to focus. Because a lot of times, there's so many interesting problems, but what is useful for the business is always the underlying emphasis. So that's a lot of what I do mostly. - Okay, thank you to the panel and Ravi, I feel like you gave a good segue for this question. So what setbacks have you or any of your mentees experienced in your career and do you have any tips for overcoming them? - Yeah, so in terms of setback, I'll give you a very interesting thing that could happen in a business in an industry.
I was working timeframe 2015. I always a hand-on engineering person. So we had our own semiconductor facility. And then the business, the corporation decides to divest. And divest is like giving away your whole, the place where you worked and you think about it.
It's like, okay, you work 15 years, 20 years doing something. And suddenly, the company says, oops, the business is getting too costly. We don't want to maintain any of these things, too much of cash investment. We are gonna just get rid of it. So what you have to think about is it puts you in enormous amount of reflection mode in terms of oops, or what has happened to me now? What do I do? How do I retrain yourself? And usually what happens is a lot of new opportunities kick in and five years have gone by and suddenly, there is a semiconductor crisis and suddenly, semiconductor industry's red heart.
So everybody wants, oh, can I license it from you? Kind of a situation. So sometimes there are rough times because business will make business decisions because of what it is. And you just have to look at it in a positive angle and say, what's gonna be your way of retuning, or how do you repackage or relearn some of the things and manage yourself. So that's what I can say.
- Yeah, for me, mine's more of like personal journey to where I am now. I didn't always know I wanted to do plant science or anything like that. I graduated and wanted to go to grad school and applied an evolutionary ecology and got into nowhere. And instead of saying like, well, that means I'm a crappy scientist. I just said, okay, that means that's not the path. And then little setbacks like that.
And I think especially, we're all more advanced in our careers. We have our specialties, but industry gives a really good opportunity for you to take what you've learned, but also start down slightly new career paths. It's really wide. And I feel like that's kind of where academia narrows you down.
You really could only get a job in academia doing what you do now. But industry, you could do anything. So I got to go to galley and work on a crop that I've never worked on before, but now I'm also learning how to be a manager and doing business side of things. So I can now translate what I've learned here into a whole bunch of different things. And I think that having those open opportunities and going with them and just following a path that feels good is actually I think the best advice I ever gotten. It's worked out really well for me.
- Yeah. I've been really fortunate to have great mentors and advisors who have helped me steer me on a clear path. And I've also been very proactive about saying what I wanted. So I think my first meeting with my PI in grad school, I told him that I wanted to graduate in four years with at least five papers and five patents. (laughs)
And I graduated in 4 1/2 with five papers and like three patents, which was pretty good. So, but he made sure that I had the opportunities to reach at least near to what my goals were. And then that set me up really well when I was looking for positions elsewhere. I think we had a big setback at Sepion, which could have impacted me quite negatively, but ended up being really nice.
I was hired to work on aqueous materials development as we were a subcontractor on a big Department of Energy grant. And the prime contractor had been also exploring different kinds of batteries and partway through the grant, realized they did not want to do this kind anymore. So they divested from that part of their business.
And that meant that we very suddenly, lost funding for the position that I was hired exclusively to work for. So all of the research that I had done for materials for aqueous batteries was not gonna be useful for lithium ion and lithium metal batteries, because those are organic electrolytes and polymers that work in organic don't really work in aqueous. You can't really switch them back and forth. So I had to figure out just materials designed for a completely different platform, but it let me flex my materials design skills and it brought me into a part of the company was where I had a much bigger team to work with.
And it ended up actually, so beyond sort of deal siloed at that point. And we had much more collaboration across groups. And so it was better for me and better for our company. Although it was scary at first. - Cool.
Yeah, that's really interesting. I was especially thinking about Kali's comment about kind of the transition. - Mic. - I think it's, is it on? Oh, all right, I wasn't sure if it was on. Anyway, I was thinking about kind of Kali's comment about this transition out of PhD into post, or from the postdoc into industry.
And so, I mean, everybody here is a postdoc and interested, what are kind of the tips you need to stand out doing that transition? What are kind of the pitfalls you see when postdocs come into your company? So maybe you can start with that. - I would say probably a pitfall is treating an interview for industry as if it was an interview for academia. Being really focused on how long it will take. And I need three years to do this project, as opposed to saying, I'm adaptable. I can work quickly with deadlines.
I have a bunch of different skills. We really don't want someone who's amazing at one thing and can do that one thing all the time. We want someone who we can tell, likes a challenge, likes to learn new things and is willing to adapt their work to what is needed, as opposed to what we're used to, which is how do you do the absolute best science for the entire project? I think, just show that you know what industry is and you're ready to be confronted with that, I think is a big thing. - Yeah, I think what Kali put it very nicely because because I can give you a very good example.
So when I graduated, there was certain materials which didn't exist in the industry. So now 20 years down, it's completely obsolete. So it happened in between time, like when you're coming out of your postdoc or a doctoral program, it didn't exist. And five years, 20 years from now, it will be obsolete. So you will go through these transitions.
So I think the most important thing is to be kind of nimble and going for the full exact science is interesting. But at the end of the day, there has to be an application for it or a use case for it where a company or a enterprise can monetize and make money. So, because it has to be the thought of it as a business.
So it's a slightly different mindset that you need to come in with. And there are going to be a variety of opportunities. Just like, as I said, when I was graduating, I didn't even anticipate that I would work on something, which now is completely obsolete.
So it'll happen in the sense you'll always work on very interesting problems, but you have to be nimble. I think that's the main thing. - [Speaker] That's a good word, nimble. Yeah.
- When I'm interviewing, I think the main thing that I look for, especially with someone coming out of academia is that they have a really good mentality towards working with other people and that when they talk about their research, they're able to talk about how they worked with other people. If I hear that they worked sort of head down by themselves, in the lab, doing every aspect of the work by themselves, that to my mind says, oh, this person's not gonna maybe wanna work with a team. They might be afraid to engage with others and their projects are gonna drag out too long. You get things done more efficiently when you're able to work well with others. So that's the main thing that I actually look for in an interview. - Wonderful, thank you.
So the NSF stated in 2020, that 73% of all R&Ds took place in industry. What do you think this means for science and people doing research in industry? - I think it's the best time to come to industry to do research work. I'll give you a very interesting example.
We have, down in Albany, an extreme UV lithography, which is very similar to the advanced light source. It's a 13 point something animator wavelength, and it's used for patterning. The cost of the particular tool is if you wanna go buy it in the market, 200 to $400 million.
Intel has one, we have one in Albany. So think about the amount of money and investment for research and development in certain areas. If it's cash, if it's gonna pull a lot of cash, typically, in academia or other places may not have such deep pockets to go do what it takes to deliver something.
So therefore, I would think in terms of, especially with the current demands that's coming up in making, so to say, or bringing back manufacturing or bringing back hard technology back to United States, it's a great time to be in industry because industry will have the money to invest and to start to further the science and engineering. So I think that's an important concentration that you should think about. - Yeah, I agree there. And I think you've heard us all say many times that there has to be a business case for the research projects that you do in industry. That's mostly true, but it'll vary from company to company.
And so in my group, I tell people I want 80% of your ideas to be exploitative research. So taking things and trying to make them better. And 20% exploratory. Like, give me your wildest ideas. I don't care if you think it's gonna work, because those are the ones that are gonna bring us really the breakthroughs in our understanding.
And so even within a group, those sort of boundaries can change. And within different industries or different companies, they can change. There's something I think, good about more money and industry going into research, but money has always guided research in academia.
It's the grant agencies are determining which projects get funded, and that can be very challenging. So it's good that there's a balance between what the grant funding agencies are looking for and what the market is looking for. And I think you should go with what you're most passionate about and figure out who's funding that. Is it the market, or is it maybe the Department of Energy or the California Energy Commission? And you can make your decision on where you'd like to do your research based on what specifically motivates you.
- Yeah, that's a great point. Yeah, if you're motivated by the fundamental research questions that don't have a direct application, industry maybe isn't the way to go. But if you are okay with doing discovery, brand new things, emerging tech or anything like that, industry can definitely satisfy that as well. - Yeah. - Cool, yeah. I think we'll just kind of keep on down on this, like emerging trends kind of thing. So it seems like both Sepion and Galy are very sustainability focused, so I'm wondering what are the emerging trends that you see in terms of like what people are looking for.
Other questions would be like, maybe how work gets done changed. And then also lastly, do you see like economic headwinds with like the fed raising interest rates and all of that stuff? So just kind of broad, any other big trends that- - That's a lot of questions. - [Max] Yeah, yeah. (panelists laughing) - I think I could talk about that for an hour. - (laughs) Yeah. I guess the thing I've noticed is a lot of startups, especially in part of the ag space where it's really now becoming more about not just making adjustments to the current system.
There's a lot of companies now trying to completely alter the system. For example, like cultured meat. That is just a massive shift. You're not just trying to change the cows or change how they're fed or something like that.
You're actually just trying to completely alter the way we've thought about it before. And I think that's what I'm seeing in the ag space a lot is just people with crazy ideas that might work now that we have these technologies and capabilities to just completely shift how we've ever thought about agriculture and growing things before. - Yeah, and with emerging technologies, I think there's an incentive for businesses to vertically integrate more than they have traditionally in the United States. So for example, in batteries, we're working on lithium metal batteries for EVs.
There's no known way to make a lithium metal battery or to test one even. We are adapting things that we know from lithium ion, but all of the different components of the cell are changing so quickly that it became very challenging for us to say, oh, we've designed this component to solve this problem, but then this other component changed and now, we needed to solve that too, to even be able to deliver a sample that was compelling to a customer. So we said, all right, we were component design, but now, we do full stack design. And we're looking at pack and battery management now.
And I'm seeing this, you've got some other battery folks out there that are friends. We have batteries and bruise. All the local battery startups meet pre-COVID. But yeah, I think everybody is having this the same problem. It sounds like you guys do it in your industry too.
- Yeah, I think I'll give a slightly different perspective with the Russia takeover of Ukraine. There's a lot of geopolitical issues that's popping up where there's not much of a manufacturing base in the United States. And especially in semiconduction, advanced semiconductor chips, a lot of it gets manufactured in TSMC Taiwan.
And so you can imagine what the situation could be if Taiwan gets gobbled up or gets into a war situation, then just the companies like Apple, NVIDIA, AMD, multiple companies here in the Bay Area, market cap close to maybe three, $4 trillion. That could be at stake. So the whole economy could roil. So the government is thinking about bringing back manufacturing. So Intel's trying to build up new fabs. We are doing within IBM, the next generation research part of it.
So you gotta think through, there will always be these pushing, what does the market demand? Where are things headed? And it's good situation to be in if you want to do a lot of applied science because I think there'll be a shift within the United States to start bringing back onshoring a lot of the capability and it's gonna happen. Suddenly, things just change because of COVID , things change because of the war, and it's just bringing back a new focus to the government and even for the Senate to pass the CHIPS Act, which is for getting semiconductor leadership, because it fuels the whole economy. Currently, the semiconductor market cap overall business is close to $600 billion, and it's slated to grow to a trillion dollars by 2030. In that early 30 timeframe. So that means there is going to be a lot of focus and it's the best time to be doing applied science and engineering, whether it is industry or academia.
- Yeah, there's been a lot of government investment in batteries too. There was a bipartisan battery infrastructure and manufacturing bill that passed where the minimum grants they were providing were 50 million for pilot and 100 million for manufacturing. That came out this year. There's another DOE grant for more early stage innovation that came out at the same time. You can get both. - Exactly.
- There's California's matching grants. So they're providing a supplementary funding, they're providing their own funding. So the funding landscape for industry isn't only what sort of venture capitalists, or if you're publicly traded, what the market generally wants. It can also be driven by what the government and the state and federal governments are interested in. - Awesome, thank you.
So we've been dealing with the COVID pandemic for over two years, and we've all had to adapt the way that we work. How has that changed the way that you all work? What changes are here to stay and what does the future of work look like for you all? - So at least within IBM, we've always had quite a flexible work-life balance. And we have teams across multiple different places. So we have a design teams in Austin and different testing in parts of Canada or in Burlington.
And most of the work, which was around in Poughkeepsie in New York. So we were always in diverse, different places. And therefore, when COVID happened, it was just a seamless transition to, okay, you're not going into work, but you're pretty much taking all the work-related stuff from home. So it was seamless. Just managing within the family was a little bit of a challenge. But I would say the work wise, I think things weren't clockwork and we have manufacturing of our advanced computer chips in Samsung.
So Samsung worked continuously, so nothing dropped. And therefore there was no delays. And we were able to bring out our systems at the same exact time that we had planned for.
So COVID actually opened up that, okay, people can now do flexible, so now the it's a reverse problem of, maybe things are, you have to live with COVID kind of a situation. And trying to entice people into the workplace seems to be more of a challenge. And that's what people are at least companies are dealing with. But they we've always been in this remote or accommodating remote employees more. And we didn't even drop a beat during COVID.
- Yeah, I think for what I've noticed, it's, again, it's COVID forced the infrastructure ability to have people work from home where before, there were a lot of companies that were just like, that's not an option. It wasn't even a part of their system. And now I think everyone has allowed that that's an option.
And so partly, that where you can be a little bit more flexible. And then also I've noticed a nice kind of shift in attitude of if you're sick, don't come into work. (panelists laughing) Whereas before it was like, "Oh, I don't feel well, but I'm here."
And now everyone's like, "We don't want you here, stay home." - That's right. - Don't come in and you can still work. So it's I think a little bit more healthy for the person physically and mentally also.
- [Max] That's great. - Yeah, I think work life balance has improved since COVID. At least in my company.
And we have a really flexible attitude towards work from home. Our computational chemist lives in Texas. And I meet with him a couple times a week online. And he does great work. Sometimes, he is on the computer remotely and then I'll be on it locally so I can point the arrows. (laughs)
It's something that I was asking him about. So yeah, it works. I think just having that flexibility and for me personally, I prefer to read and write at home in my home office. So that's where I do most of that work.
And then I go in when I wanna be more collaborative and see my team and have those like really exciting, fun discussions across the office where we're like, hey, did you see that data? What do you think that means? So, yeah, the flexibility. I think it's made our team as tied as it ever was, so. - Cool, cool. All right, well, so this will be, I guess the last question that the moderators do, and then we'll hand over the microphone. I guess the last question that I would have is like, what advice do you have for postdocs here either today, just for like the career fair or just in general, how do you have a successful career? Just any words of wisdom? - Yeah, I guess don't be discouraged, but also, I guess, we're all STEM right, scientists? An n of one is not significant.
So if you get a horrible feedback or rejection, or you're just like, there's an awful experience, don't take it as, that's me, it's my fault. I shouldn't do this. Keep pursuing it. If something isn't working out and you've been trying of a really long time be okay with trying something slightly different and going slightly outside of your comfort zone because you'll get it eventually.
There is something out there for you. And just try to really tailor any interview, any application, any cover letter very specifically to what the job add says and look up the company. Show that you care and direct what you're saying in your interview to what they say they want and what their company goals are.
'Cause we notice that in an interview, is if you've paid attention and if you're in line with what we're trying to do as a company. - Yeah, I try to hire people that I know will be motivated by the things that our company is driven by by our mission. So we wanna mitigate climate change and we like doing science. So I need to see that in the person that I'm interviewing. So know what motivates you and try to apply.
I think be pretty flexible with where you apply and be willing to be interviewing the company that you're interviewing at. It should be a two-way street. You should try to get a feel for whether you would be happy with that research, whether you would be happy in that culture. And if you would be, you'll feel that connection, that click. If you don't, then it might not be the right company for you.
And so it might feel like your career is harder if you start there. I would just try to know yourself and what you really want pretty well. - So I would suggest is to be as flexible as possible because in industry typically, a particular problem set might be two years to four years, five years kind of a timeline before it gets transferred over either to development or research. And then you can move on to new things. So, and I think the most important thing is you have core specialty in a particular area. You can always, this is your best chance to actually pivot and learn or do other things.
Because at the end of the day, it's the ability to think. And that was what my advisor told me. Hey, you have to learn how to do things because coming back, coming from originally from India, we could solve things very well, but not really articulate how to do the formulation of the question.
I think that's where the most important thing is. So it's your willingness to think, apply, be flexible and you can still get to do interesting research-related problems like pretty much what you're doing right now, but more with a product focus or like application focus. That means you will, at least when you look at it three years that you spent on something, you can be able to tell somebody, hey, look, I worked on this. This is what I was able to help the broader community.
That's your contribution to science and technology. That's the way I would think about it. So that there is value or purpose to the whole thing. So it's important. - Wonderful. So we're gonna open it up to you all, the audience.
So if you have a question, feel free to raise your hand, we'll bring you the mic. And then please ask the question into the mic so that folks can hear you. First question.
- Hi, thank you very much for all the information that you have provided. And thank you, guys for the questions as well. A question that I have stems from the fact that we are a very diverse crowd. So can you just so that we can relate to what we do and what you guys do, can you give a little bit more information on what you used to do when you were doing your PhD, what area you were working on, etc.?
- Sure, I'll start. I was a chemist. I am a chemist. I did molecular design for solar photovoltaic, organic photovoltaics and organic light-emitting diodes. And I knew I wanted to work in clean energy. I figured there's a lot of ways to generate clean energy cheaply, but the problem with implementing that is that energy storage is not yet cheap. So I decided I wanted to work on energy storage problems, but I was a materials person and who's doing materials designed for energy storage at the time, it just didn't seem like there was a lot of opportunity.
Lithium ion was such an established technology, but I interviewed around and I was very fortunate to jump into the field at the right time. And this is a hugely growing field. So if it's something that you're interested in, there is so much opportunity. And I'm sure that's like the, I mean, what you guys are doing is so interesting. That's also emerging.
A lot of our neighbors are in sort of like biomedical and biotechnology and engineering and yeah. We see them down the street at the same taco trucks all the time, so. (laughs) - So for me, my PhD was in wheat breeding and genetics. So I worked for a wheat breeding program. So all of the agriculture in the United States, there is a breeder or multiple within that state that actually develops new varieties in collaboration with farmers and downstream producers and companies. And they develop new varieties for that area that have certain characteristics that are needed.
And that means that I worked in the field. I harvested wheat in the summer and did basic research on that. And then also did work on mitigating climate change through manipulating the genetics of the wheat that went out into the field. And then I also worked on CRISPR editing of wheat and trying to do it completely non-transgenically because there is no GMO wheat that is deregulated. And most of the wheat where I worked in Oregon is shipped to Southeast Asia where there are some very strict anti-GMO laws. So all of our consumers said, we want you to do this because CRISPR is really great and you can do wonderful new things, but it can't ever have been touched by transgenics.
So I was working on completely novel techniques to edit wheat without incorporating any foreign DNA. And that was what I did the whole time. I did a whole bunch of different things and it was really fun.
And now I work in cotton, so you don't always stick with the same thing forever, but it gave me enough skills to translate to pretty much any ag biotech space, yeah. - So my background was in material science. My thesis was looking at iron exchange reactions for silver, with manganese oxides, which has like open tunnels. And it just locks up a lot of silver in nature.
So I thought maybe I'll crack it open by understanding it. And it never worked. It just, the silver stayed inside too well.
I did a little bit of characterization work down at SSRL, Synchrotron Lab at Stanford. Then I said, hmm, this is not going anywhere. And as I said, my advisor had told me maybe a couple of more years of postdoc because I want to originally teach. I'd invested too much in terms of four years of TA work here on Berkeley campus, and I had to do a pivot. So I switched into semiconductor, at that time, it was a research and development work in doing data memory.
So just like processors going every couple of years, you're going to the next node, things are changing. So there was a lot of demand for that. And 25 years later, I'm still doing every multiple generations. So started a DRAM, moved into logic. So I'm now doing a lot more device and cutting edge semiconductor stuff. And I had worked on completely different things in my PhD work.
So the way I would bring it back home is I think a lot of the underlying physics or the chemistry of material processing, that part doesn't change. So you can pretty much whatever you've learned or you've done, you can apply very well. And that might be unique angles that you will bring in which not too many of the folks, just doing actual industry work really get to see. So it's like always a cross pollination of ideas.
And that's where the best research gets done in terms of something that will push the boundary and maybe helps the company make the innovative product. That's what I would say. - Yeah, they've both mentioned this, but transferable skills. Your guys' main transferable skill by virtue of being here today is your critical thinking. That is an incredibly valuable skill that not every discipline or degree really confers, but that's something that you have to be able to do really well as a PhD. And so don't yeah, when you go to the interview, consider what you've learned and what your skills are, but also consider how they might be like spread or grown over time.
My cousin was in HR. She's a couple of generations older than me. She's HR from back in the dotcom days. And she gave me the advice, which I think was extremely useful and said that... This was also skewed for gender here.
She was giving me advice. I said, oh, I didn't think I was really qualified for a specific role because it had a really big manufacturing component. I hadn't built that large of a facility before. And she was like, "You know how to do the work, you are qualified." So if you have four outta 15 qualifications, figure out exactly how your other skills might bleed into those other qualifications and then go to the interview thinking you can do the job. Don't go to the interview and say, you know, I'm not sure I'm qualified to do that.
I've had candidates come and tell me that they don't think they're qualified and I'm on the other side of the table. I don't believe you. I actually think you are. I've seen your resume and seen what you can do. I want you to believe in yourself. - [Max] Cool, any other questions? - Yeah, thank you for the very nice panel.
I have a question kind of about the flexibility and the roles that you can take. So in academia, of course, one of the problems we have is there's a lot of inertia to keep being more and more expert in one thing. And something that appeals to me and probably at least some other people here is being able to evolve in your role as your interests go forward in industry.
So I would love to hear a bit more, I mean, you guys addressed it some, but at both the big companies and the startup companies, how much flexibility do you feel is there to adapt in the roles that you can have? And by that, I mean, coming in as an applied scientist on one team and switching to say, an adjacent team, or it can mean coming in as an applied scientist and deciding you want to be like a software engineer or working in more, deeper in the basement towards like fundamental research or longer term R&D. So I'd love to hear your perspectives on that. Thanks.
- I can go first. So within at least IBM, for the longest time, I was in the system side, which is more hardware and bringing out computers to enterprises. And recently I made the switch to research doing advanced work, which is probably five years before manufacturing gets to see it. So there is a lot of port, you can actually go from within, since the industry landscape keeps changing, and a lot of it will keep changing, evolving, just because of how the business is gonna go.
Like maybe 10 years back, just people were thinking about cloud and oh, AWS was the first cloud provider or IBM was trying to get into the CIA government contract and didn't get it, whatever. Because things will keep evolving and you need to relearn, retool yourself almost. I would give a rule of the maybe three years to four years timeframe.
If you're doing the same thing for more than two to three years, then it could get obsolete. So you don't wanna get into a situation where things get obsolete. So you could branch off doing, if you're good at programming, software stuff, all the cloud offerings.
So within IBM, at least that flexibility of moving around is very high. And people sometimes say, "Hey, you know what? I want to do more customer relationship. I wanna be on the business front talking to outside companies." Somebody might say, "Hey, I wanna go do IP law." Or, "I wanna help write patents and be an patent agent" or something.
Because they typically look for a science background or engineering background. And you are licensed to write patents and applications because sometimes it's faster to write in house rather than send it to external counsel. So you have a little bit more flexibility when the company has a larger company, when it has multiple divisions doing various things. And it's great if people move around a little bit, because then you bring in fresh perspective or at least best lessons learned from other side that's typically not easily transferred within large corporations.
- For startups, it's really great because we don't, sorry. You don't have a really solid structure where every position that they need it every time is already filled. So there's a lot of points in time where something needs to happen or we need to do something new, or we have an idea and there's an opening. There's no one there who actually like is in that role or has that expertise. And there's a whole lot of room in what I tell all of our new hires is if you see something that you're interested in, go help do it, tell them you wanna do it.
And then go be the point person. so you can learn all these new things that includes just tagging along with someone who is an expert, but they're the only person at the company. So they need help. So you can learn anything you want really, because there's always a space opening where we need help. So you can really kind of find what you like to do and then say, all right, well, I wanna be a part of this project definitely specifically, please put me on it.
And you learn a lot of new things that way. - Yeah, there's a ton of opportunity for professional growth and development in industry. It can vary. There are some places where there's kind of internal secrecy even within the company. So one group can't talk to another group about what they do. If that's something that you wanna be able to grow or branch out, that might not be the right company for you, but for a company like mine or it sounds like both of yours, there's a lot of opportunity to move laterally or even not move laterally, but just gain new skills from a different field.
You mentioned IP law and Sepion, we're sort of a design license and component manufacturer. So IP was really important to us and we didn't have internal specialty, we had outside counsel. And like you said, it was a little bit slow. So I started studying IP law during the pandemic because I had a lot more free time. And that's what I do now.
It's really nice for managing an R&D team because I can take everything that we innovate on and then make sure that we actually have the patents that give us the freedom to operate in that space. So, yeah. - Awesome. - [Max] IP is quite the quarantine hobby. - It is, yeah. (laughs)
- All right. We probably have room for two more questions so if you do wanna ask a question, we'll open it up another right here. - Thank you very much. It's very nice to be here. Yeah, I was going to ask would you mind to share your experience for your transition between? Because you used to be an academic life, like the rhythm every day, what you do, and then how was it for you? When you start your job in the industry, how you change the rhythm and everything, and what was the obstacles and how you deal with that? And how long it takes you to adjust and like, okay, now I'm settling up.
Thank you. - Yeah, well, when I was in academia, I lived in LA and was paid $27,000 a year. So I mostly lived at the lab off of $5 bonnies and I had pants in the lab like sweatpants because I'd be there for 12 or 13 hours a day and the comfiest shoes. And I basically didn't see the light in the winter.
So I have much better work-life balance now, and I can afford to live in the Bay Area, which is a place that I really wanted to live. So that's really nice. Learning how to be comfortable with free time was actually an adjustment. So I ended up getting a lot of hobbies, so I wouldn't get depressed and lonely, which is a thing that also was compounded by the pandemic. I started surfing, climbing, just finding other things to do. I do native gardening now.
Interestingly did a volunteer opportunity and met up with the other volunteers who all also had PhDs, which I was surprised by. There was one that was a biochemist, two biochemists and an electrical engineer PhD. So I guess that was like a nerdy kind of volunteer thing. So yeah, finding something to do with your free time.
My partner, I've been also training him, he just finished residency and is now an attending physician where he's learning to be a DJ. - I'll go. I think work-life balance is key.
So for me, I'm always the most finicky one with cooking. So I used to go down to Berkeley ball, get the right kind of thing, the right go to the right farmer's market. So at home, I have to do the most precise. It has to be just to conform to my standard.
My wife, she could eat anything. So, so for me, it's, I always had a hard deadline because I need to come back. It has to be fresh. And that's the way I was trained, but I'm just doing the same thing even now. That is one aspect.
The other aspect is the lot