Dawn Bonnell, Vice Provost of Research at the University of Pennsylvania, said that in hindsight, her career path looks well-planned, but is wasn’t. While the supposed trajectory would be, for example, undergraduate school to graduate school, post-doc, and professorship, just when Bonnell was on her way to a professorship at the University of Pennsylvania, another opportunity came up.
Bonnell had a chance to do post-doctoral work at the IBM T.J. Watson Center in the group of a researcher whose work she had followed. She joined IBM for two years, then returned to U Penn. The point of this example was to talk about how far materials researchers can stray from their comfort zone.
While doing research at U Penn, Bonnell changed directions again: The US government launched the National Nano Initiative for which Bonnell saw many opportunities to advance research at her institution. However, those areas were not in her specialty. U Penn had a strong biomedical research program. Bonnell took another risk to learn biology and bring together various departments in order to found the Nano/Bio Interface Center (NBIC).
The post-doc work and establishing the NBIC both slowed down Bonnell’s research work at the time, but overall seizing both opportunities yielded great results for her career. Bonnell is the editor of seven books and an author of more than 200 papers. She has also garnered numerous honors for her work.
Bonnell also advised researchers to volunteer at their institutions and for professional societies such as MRS. The volunteer work, she said, let researchers practice skills such as in organization and leadership which will translate to their career trajectory.
This event was sponsored in part by MilliporeSigma (Sigma-Aldrich Materials Science) and Angtrom Engineering Inc.