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Campus celebrates its postdocs, and postdocs honor a mentor

By Public Affairs

More than 200 UC Berkeley postdocs, their family and friends, and members of the campus community gathered Thursday afternoon at the Bancroft Hotel to celebrate postdocs and their important contributions to the campus.

Postdoc holding replica of check

Professor Rebecca Heald — named the first recipient of the Faculty Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Mentoring — displays a replica of the check that accompanied her honor. (Boguslawa Lewandowska photo)

Part of National Postdoc Appreciation Week, recognized by the U.S. House of Representatives in a Sept. 23 resolution, the local event was organized by the Berkeley Postdoctoral Association (BPA) in collaboration with the campus’s Visiting Scholars and Postdoc Affairs (VSPA) program and the Vice Chancellor for Research.

Mark Schlissel, dean of biological sciences, opened the event by highlighting postdocs’ important role in the research community. He also cited the role of the Berkeley Postdoctoral Association (BPA), a volunteer organization representing nearly 1,400 UC Berkeley postdocs, in helping to knit this scholarly community together.

“Since postdocs are recruited to Berkeley one lab at a time,” Schlissel said, “they can end up feeling isolated from the broader academic community. The BPA provides an invaluable structure for connecting postdocs to one another and making them feel a part of Berkeley as a whole.”

VSPA Director Sam Castañeda, as well, applauded the intellectual contributions of postdocs from around the world who support the campus’s research mission.

Postdocs offered their own expression of appreciation — honoring Rebecca Heald, professor of molecular and cell biology, as the first recipient of the Faculty Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Mentoring. Sponsored by the BPA and the vice chancellor for research, the new award acknowledges faculty “who have gone above and beyond their academic obligations by fostering the professional and scientific development of postdoctoral researchers, while providing guidance, support, and a successful work environment.” The honor came with a check for a thousand dollars.

Postdoc Daniel Levy, who works in Heald’s cell-biology lab, nominated her for the award — calling her “a fantastically bright and successful scientist packaged into a kind, pleasant, friendly, person.… She treats members of her lab as colleagues, valuing their input and ideas.” Heald was one of 27 faculty nominated by members of the postdoc community for exemplary mentoring.

“Their positive impact on the development of future scientists or professionals clearly has not gone unnoticed,” said BPA President Corinne Hausmann, a postdoc at the campus’s Energy Biosciences Institute.

“Some say that postdocs are a driving force behind the research here at UC Berkeley,” Hausmann added. Highly educated and technically trained, “they often work long hours, mentor students, conduct independent research, and take on responsibilities beyond their pay scale,” she said. “If only for a week, it’s gratifying to see postdocs being honored for their hard work and recognized as an essential part of the UC Berkeley research enterprise.”