PAWS (Professional Advancement Workshop Series) is a program designed to teach you insights, tools, and actions for effectively navigating next steps of your career in academia or anywhere. The audience for these programs is early career researchers and anyone considering a career transition to learn about careers in academia, non-profits organizations, government, NASA management, national labs, and industry. These will be approximately monthly 90 minute interactive seminars led by experts in their crafts and fields. Future speakers will cover many different topics, so we encourage you to follow along with it and all that we’ll do! 

PAWS is sponsored by NASA’s Astrobiology Program and is intended to serve the current astrobiology community, and those that might join it in the future. Advanced registration is required for these events.

Please direct all questions and comments to the PAWS Lead, Dr. Jessica Noviello (

Tools, Resources, and Job Boards

MyIDP (from AAS). This tool helps you rank your skills by your comfort with them and how much you enjoy doing them to guide you towards ideal career paths:

USA Jobs. The place to look for and apply to jobs in the federal government, including civil servant positions at different NASA centers:

American Astronomical Society Job Board:

American Geophysical Union Job Board:

Zintellect Job Board. Used to search for and apply to NPP/NPMP positions! Use the keyword “npp” to search for these opportunities.

NExSS Job Board (for exoplanet related jobs specifically)

NASA Science Career Path Navigator:

Helpful Blog Articles by the Experts

Reimagining STEM Workforce Development as a Braided River (April 19, 2021):

Choose Your Own Geoscience Adventure (August 24, 2021):

Science PhDs lead to enjoyable jobs (March 7, 2018):

Researchers’ career insecurity needs attention and reform now, says international coalition (June 8, 2021):

The Secret to Happiness at Work (September 2, 2021):

‘Hard’ Skills from our PhDs Remain Relevant Beyond Academia (December 15, 2021):

How Savvy PhDs Negotiate Salary Contracts Higher:

How to Avoid Predatory Journals: See the document linked below!

Previous PAWS Events

PAWS #15: Applying to Postdoc Positions
This month’s topic was Applying for Postdoctoral Positions. For those of you planning to defend your theses and graduate within the next year, you will soon be applying to postdoc positions. The entire process can feel overwhelming, but PAWS is here to help! This month our 90 minute-long PAWS event focused on postdoc positions: applying to them, transitioning from grad school to a postdoc, and thriving once there. We had an hour-long panel discussion with some current postdocs, followed by a 30 minute open discussion session that was unrecorded. We thank the panelists for sharing their time and expertise with us!

PAWS #14: Science Journalism feat. Dr. Nadia Drake
This month’s topic was Science Journalism and featured the prolific science writer and current physics editor of Quanta magazine, Dr. Nadia M. Drake, as our guest speaker. She answered our questions about her path into science journalism, how we as scientists can be better resources to science journalists, and how we can learn more about science journalism and build up our science journalism skillsets. Nadia has had a remarkable career so far as a science journalist and has written for all kinds of publications, including National Geographic, Scientific American, Wired, and The Atlantic. We thank her for her time and the perspectives that she shared with us!

PAWS #13: Faculty Applications Part 1
Many early career researchers aim to become professors, but applying to faculty jobs can be intimidating. More than that, there are different types of professorships. What kind of professorship might be right for you? What are some things you can do now to strengthen your future applications? What is it like being a faculty member and an early career scientist? Our panelists were Prof. Ed Buie II (Vassar College), Prof. Kassie Martin-Wells (Ursinus College), and Prof. Joshua Pepper (Lehigh University/NASA HQ).

PAWS #12: Science and Social Media
Social media is used by millions of people around the world and lowers the barriers between the public and professional scientists. The role of scientists on social media has also changed dramatically in the past few years, and that opens up new opportunities and challenges. What are some of the best practices for social media as scientists, and why should we do it at all? Our panelists were Dr. David Shiffman (Arizona State University Washington, DC Center), Molly Wasser (NASA/Goddard), and Bill Dunford (NASA/JPL).

PAWS #11: Science Podcasting
Podcasts are a popular source of information for millions of people around the world. Many of them focus on science! Do you ever think about starting your own? How would you do it? Come learn from those who are doing it now! Hear how they approach hosting a podcast, how they decide on topics and guests, and what advice they have for you. Our panelists were Dr. Carrie Nugent, Dr. Ethan Siegel, Dr. Andrés Plazas Malagón, and Dr. Pamela L. Gay.

PAWS #10: Science Policy
This month we focused on science policy. First, what is science policy? Where does it happen? Who is involved? In this interactive 90-minute workshop, participants were asked to face a real-world science policy question and grapple with the pros and cons of potential solutions. We followed the interactivity with a question and answer session. Our speaker was Marlit Hayslett, PhD.

PAWS #9: Careers at National Labs
The United States National Laboratories conduct scientific research and development under the scope of the U.S. Department of Energy. These organizations cannot fulfill their goals without the many scientists who work there. Who are these scientists? What do they research? We discussed this and more with panelists Dr. Corinne Scown, Dr. Roger Aines, and Dr. Josh Schaidle. Is a career at a National Lab right for you?

PAWS #8: How to be an NPP
This month’s PAWS event focused on the NPP and how to navigate it. The NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) is a prestigious fellowship where participants get the opportunity to do research at a NASA center and be mentored by NASA scientists. We went over the basics of how to apply for the program and who is eligible, along with some good advice from the panelists. Our panelists were Dr. Scott Miller of ORAU, Dr. Ravi Kopparapu of Goddard Space Flight Center, Dr. Greg Mosby of Goddard Space Flight Center, and Dr. Jessica Noviello, NExSS Management NPP. Is the NPP right for you?

PAWS #7: Overcoming Perfectionism
This PAWS event focused on necessary measures to protect our mental health as we work through academia. Dr. Dickerson spoke of the origins of perfectionism and how it hinders us as we pursue our goals. We learned about how procrastination is partially driven by our need to be perfect, and how to fight back against perfectionism. We also spoke about the relationship between perfectionism and imposter syndrome, the sinking belief that we don’t belong and will soon be found out. By confronting our fears, we can have breakthroughs. Though this event was not recorded, there are resources you can access to help you navigate your mental health needs.

PAWS #6: Universe Sandbox
This event was a lightly structured panel featuring two members of the Universe Sandbox team: Dr. Erika Nesvold, astrophysicist and developer, and Dan Dixon, creator and founder of Universe Sandbox. They spoke to us about what their jobs are like, how they got started on these paths, and how they integrate real-world (universe?) science into their games. What is next for Universe Sandbox and how can you make YOUR science more interactive? Watch and find out!

PAWS #5: NASA Management
This event was a lightly structured panel featuring NASA scientists and science managers Dr. Aki Roberge (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Astrophysics Division), Dr. Hannah Jang-Condell (NASA HQ, Astrophysics Division), and Dr. Shawn Domagal-Goldman (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Branch Lead). They spoke to us about what it’s like to work as a manager at NASA, work/life balance, the blend of politics and science, and how they move between science and management. The recording and more information are here:

PAWS #4: What is Data Science? An Interactive Panel
This event was a lightly structured panel featuring data scientists Dr. Dave Spiegel (Stitch Fix), Dr. Jess Kirkpatrick (thredUP), and Dr. Thibaut Astic (KoBold Metals). They answered many audience questions about the transition from academia to data science, what the field is like, and what skills are most valued in the field. The recording and resources are here:

PAWS #3: Interview Like a Pro: Communications Strategies to Stand Out
Amy Aines returns for her third and final workshop to teach us about how to shine during the interview. She prepares us to answer behavioral questions by providing the right amount of detail and enthusiasm, how to highlight your strengths with examples, and how to get interviewers to see you in the job. This event was held on November 4th, 2021 on Zoom. The recording and associated resources are here:

PAWS #2: Get Ready to Interview: Mine Your Skills and Tame Your Nerves
Amy Aines returns to prepare attendees for the interviews that come in a job search. She teaches us how to identify the parts of your training that best exemplify your skills, how to highlight your strengths, and how to graciously talk about your weaknesses. This event was held on September 28th, 2021 on Zoom. The recording and associated resources are linked here:

PAWS #1: Preparing for a Fulfilling Career Transition: Which Job? Which Company?
Amy Aines leads attendees through identifying what it means for a job or a company to be a good match with them and their skills and encouraging them to explore unexpected options when searching for the next job. This event was held on August 31, 2021 on Zoom. The recording and associated resources are linked here: