Next week, institutions nationwide celebrate one of the cornerstones of the research enterprise: postdocs. CU Boulder’s Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA), in partnership with the Postdoctoral Association of Colorado Boulder (PAC Boulder) and select universities, is offering both virtual and in-person activities during National Postdoc Appreciation Week (NPAW), now in its 12th year.
NPAW is sponsored by the National Postdoctoral Association, of which all CU Boulder postdocs are members, to highlight the research, scholarly and creative contributions of postdocs.
Outstanding Postdoc Awards
This year’s Outstanding Postdoc Awards, reserved for postdocs excelling in research productivity, innovation, communication and leadership, are awarded to Drs. Constance Crozier (Civil, Environmental & Architectural Engineering) and Omkar Supekar (Electrical, Computer & Energy Engineering).
Crozier was nominated by Kyri Baker, assistant professor of civil, environmental & architectural engineering, who praised Crozier’s leadership on a Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) grid optimization project—work that garnered national recognition and a $140,000 prize. Baker also highlighted Crozier’s mentoring support offered to students and her involvement with the CU Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) program. Characterizing Crozier as “easy-going, collaborative, and naturally a leader,” Baker emphasized that Crozier has exceeded her expectations during her short tenure as a CU Boulder postdoc for under one year. “I have no doubt in my mind that she will be a leader in the fight against climate change, and a role model for many to come.” Crozier secured her PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Oxford in 2019.
Supekar is a postdoctoral associate in Juliet Gopinath’s Optics and Photonics Research Group, which focuses on electrowetting devices. Describing him as an “excellent researcher (with) incredible dedication, innovation and productivity,” Gopinath underscored Supekar’s contributions to her lab, specifically around Raman spectroscopy. Supekar has published 13 peer-reviewed papers in top scientific journals, participated in eight conference proceedings and delivered three conference presentations. Supekar has also been active in mentoring younger researchers with lasers and microscopy. Supekar secured his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from CU Boulder in 2019.
Outstanding Postdoc Mentor Awards
The Outstanding Postdoc Mentor Awards, recognizing exemplary faculty mentors who regularly engage postdocs, are presented to Rebecca Safran (Ecology & Evolutionary Biology), Graeme Smith (Physics/JILA) and Tom Perkins (Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology/JILA).
Zach Laubach, a postdoc fellow in the Safran Lab, offered a glowing account of his experience working with Safran: “Becca matches or exceeds the efforts of her mentees, prioritizing their work as if it were her own.” He went on to say, “Taking time to be attentive and to carefully listen to mentees does not receive the kind of recognition that propels one’s career forward. Yet Becca engages in such mentorship activities routinely and without a second thought.” Laubach also highlighted Safran’s efforts to improve the climate of inclusivity and community with her lab and department. Safran’s research group investigates the intersection of individual variation and population pattern in evolutionary and behavioral ecology.
Graeme Smith was jointly nominated by current CU Boulder postdoc Vikesh Siddhu and former CU Boulder postdoc, Felix Leditzky. Embodying the understanding that a postdoc is a temporary, short-term position, Siddhu shared Smith’s career advice to him at the outset of his postdoc “your top job as a postdoc is to find the next job you like.” Leditzky, attesting to his recent hire as Assistant Professor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said Smith “played an integral part in guiding me through the process and helping me achieve this career goal. I aim to pay forward the trust and support that I received from him.” Smith’s lab studies quantum information and computing.
David Reid Jacobson of JILA and the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) nominated Tom Perkins, a JILA fellow and professor in the Molecular, Developmental and Cellular Biology (MCDB) department. The Perkins Group examines and applies single-molecule techniques to answer biological questions. Speaking to the level of autonomy he has in his postdoc, Jacobson said, “Professor Perkins does a good job of balancing his communication with postdocs, maintaining a level of interested engagement while also allowing us enough space to build the habits needed for professional independence.” Perkins strongly encouraged Jacobson and other postdocs to pursue career transition awards, resulting in Jacobson winning an NIH K99 “Pathway to Independence” Award, designed to help postdocs secure independent, tenure-track positions.