Advice to postdocs: Surf the waves!

Tuesday 12 March 2024 10am

Dr Maryna Bilokur took out the prize at the inaugural Life as Postdoc in STEM competition, with a talk journaling her postdoc journey with the metaphor of surfing waves of enormous size, at times feeling isolated and on the verge of a massive wipe-out.

“I hope you haven’t felt this way,” she said. “But I have, at times.”

Dr Bilokur’s passion to succeed and support other post-docs impressed the judges, Dr Xiaolin (Shannon) Wang, from the School of Engineering, Computing and Cybernetics, Dr Galina Levitina, from the Mathematical Science Institute and Dr Li Li Australian National Fabrication Facility ACT Node. Dr Bilokur is in the Experimental Plasma Science Group at RSPhys

Dr Buddini Karawdeniya from the Experimental Photonics Group at RSPhys won the hearts of the crowd, taking the people’s choice award with her story of manifold achievements, despite her partner and father of her child having to move overseas for a year to find a job during the COVID pandemic.

Also speaking were Dr Wageesha Nilmini and Dr Doudou Zhang, both from the School of Engineering, Computing and Cybernetics, who gave heartfelt and emotional talks that covered challenges such as moving continents multiple times, low grant success rates, and juggling a career and motherhood (straight after the talks, Dr Zhang ducked off to feed her 6 week-old daughter on a nearby quiet park bench.)

Despite the challenges the message to their colleagues was to stay interested, collaborate, and to not fear change – of geographical location, or research field.

The event was organised by Women in Physics, Astronomy and Engineering (WiPAE). Outgoing chair of WiPAE Dr Noemie Bastidon was awe-struck by the achievements of the four speakers.

“How can they have such a long list of amazing achievements and still be a post-doc?” she said.

The IWD2024 celebrations also include a Dress for STEM photo competition, which is open until the 26th of March, with the theme #InspireInclusion.

Since WiPAE’s inception in 2020, with the goal to reach out to and support women, to avoid isolation and to support retention, it has run multiple events, competitions and professional development opportunities and facilitated improvements to the working environment, such as the Physics Parents’ room, which was recognised as best on campus.


Dr Neelima Kandula

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