U.S. Army Research Laboratory establishes a Postdoctoral Association

December 02, 2014

By Joyce M. Conant, ARL Public Affairs

Story Highlights

  • The number of postdoctoral fellows at ARL has increased more than four-fold in less than a decade
  • Postdocs play a vital role at ARL by introducing fresh research directions and providing novel in-house expertise to the organization
  • This is the only organizationally-sanctioned postdoctoral association at a military service laboratory

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory Postdoctoral Association was recently established, marking a major step forward for postdoctoral training at ARL. The association is designed to enhance the postdoctoral experience at ARL by creating an inclusive environment where postdoctoral fellows can interact, build professional connections and develop career objectives.

Jamie Lukos, founder and president of the ARL-PDA, said this effort was led by ARL's postdoctoral fellows in collaboration with Frederick Gregory, a program manager at the Army Research Office and Vallen Emery, Director of Outreach in the Office of the Director.

"The number of postdoctoral fellows at ARL has increased more than four-fold in less than a decade with approximately 140 postdoctoral fellows situated across the major ARL installations," said Lukos. "Prior to establishing this association, there was only limited structured support in place designed to meet the unique needs specific to the ARL postdoctoral community. As this community continues to grow, there was an increasing need for an organizational effort to support and enrich postdoctoral fellows' educational and professional experiences as they contribute to our nation's Army."

ARL leadership has been incredibly supportive of postdocs and the association.

"Postdocs play a vital role at ARL by introducing fresh research directions and providing novel in-house expertise to the organization," said Dr. Thomas Russell, director of ARL, who recently acknowledged the importance of postdocs to the organization by dedicating his time to a postdoc-only town hall discussion to listen to and address questions and concerns from the postdoc body.

"We believe the association is invaluable not only to current postdoctoral fellows, but is an institutional strength of ARL to promote a positive environment for young professional scientists." said Lukos. "In only a short time, we've already seen a positive culture shift. As with any laboratory environment, everyone's experience at ARL is very different. Having a peer group to identify with and interact with can really help provide a consistent base of support."

Beyond the scope of ARL, Lukos hopes the success of this effort can educate and inspire other government DoD laboratories. "As far as we can tell, this is the only organizationally sanctioned postdoctoral association at a military service laboratory," said Lukos. "That makes this effort an incredibly unique and exciting endeavor, and one with potentially far-reaching DoD impact as we begin to form ties with other labs like the Naval and Air Force Research Laboratories."

The ARL-PDA mission is focused on four objectives. First, the association acts as "transitional support" by forming an accessible peer group that provides essential information to orient new postdoctoral fellows to the expectations and regulations of ARL. Second, the association is working to promote professional development opportunities and career guidance as postdoctoral fellows progress through their appointments. Third, it facilitates social and professional interactions among postdoctoral fellows across all major installations of ARL, with monthly meetings broadcast across Aberdeen Proving Ground, Adelphi Laboratory Center, Simulation Training and Technology Center and White Sands Missile Range. And, finally, the association acts as a liaison to the executive offices of ARL to represent postdoctoral fellows' interests and needs.

 

Last Update / Reviewed: December 2, 2014