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By Leah Poffenberger
As part of the APS response to COVID-19, the APS Careers team, together with Farah Dawood, APS Chapters Program Manager, has been hard at work all summer, hosting webinars and online workshops aimed at early career physicists. The Summer Webinar Series, which ran from May to August, included more than 20 online sessions covering topics from career development to mental health and self-care.
While APS has been offering free webinars for a number of years, the Summer Webinar Series ramps up the content available online to support APS members, especially those who are students and early career physicists.
“Before COVID and the Summer Webinars, we had been getting fifty to sixty people registering for webinars, but the first Summer Webinar—Building Your Professional Path During COVID—had 400 registrants,” says Crystal Bailey, Head of Career Programs at APS. “People are much more willing to attend webinars now that they’re stuck at home.”
The Summer Webinar Series began as a way to offer online resources, specifically in response to anxiety about job opportunities drying up during COVID, and a recognition of the number of early career APS members who are likely facing increased stress.
“Farah Dawood wanted to put together a series of webinars in response to COVID, and we know a significant portion of our membership community is undergraduates, graduates, early career physicists, basically early career folks who are probably at home worried about all kinds of things,” says Bailey. “We realized that we had an opportunity to provide information that would be useful to them, so Careers teamed up with Dawood to create the Summer Webinar Series.”
To build the series, Dawood started off by sending a survey to early career members of APS to find out what kinds of webinars and workshops would be most useful. As a result, the Summer Webinar Series offered more than 20 different sessions, including both webinars and virtual workshops, on topics from managing workflow and stress to exploring “off the beaten path” physics careers. The virtual workshops provided a complementary component to the large webinars by giving attendees a space to interact with each other and facilitators.
After each webinar session, attendees were able to share feedback, ensuring the series continued to provide relevant and useful information. According to Bailey, most of this feedback has been positive. “Since I am a graduate student close to finishing [my] PhD program, I learned a lot of things from this webinar. It really helps to prepare [me] further,” said one participant in the Building Your Professional Path During COVID Webinar.
In addition to the Summer Webinar Series, APS Careers has put together several workshops and webinars for use by Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) sites that have had to operate virtually due to COVID-19. The APS Editorial Office has also been offering webinars on topics like writing a great scientific paper, further increasing the kinds of information APS members can access from the safety of home.
As the summer comes to a close, the Summer Webinar Series will end with a special two-part event on science policy, in partnership with the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
“Given that Science policy continues to be an active career option for physicists, we partnered with AAAS to provide an overview of the available opportunities in this field, as well as to give our audiences a chance to directly interact with science policy professionals through a virtual panel and networking event,” says Midhat Farooq, Careers Program Manager.
APS Webinars will continue in the fall, with new content covering a variety of careers topics.
“People have been really happy with what we’re doing, and we need to build on that momentum—this is obviously something that we’re offering that is valuable to the community,” says Bailey. “The plan moving into the fall is to continue offering regular webinar presentations on specific professional development themes, for example careers in industry.”
APS Careers is also working to launch a professional development e-mail series called “Shape-Up” to help participants keep track of their professional development goals through small, actionable tasks.
“We’d like to take an audience-based approach to everything we do in Careers…we’d like to understand people’s goals and tailor what we offer accordingly,” says Bailey.
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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondents: Sophia Chen, Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik