Mina KimNote: April is National Volunteer Month. The Lab has many volunteer opportunities that can use your time and skills for a few hours or stretch over several months. Find your perfect volunteer opportunity.

Mina Kim is a postdoc at the Molecular Foundry learning about colloidal nanocrystal chemistry. She’s interested in learning about the incorporation, or utilization, of machines, both physical robots and computer algorithms such as machine learning, that can help us accelerate solving scientific questions.

Mina is also a very active volunteer with the Lab. She sat down with Elements to talk about the value of volunteering and the benefits that anyone receives when they participate in volunteer experiences.

Q: What were some of your early volunteer experiences?

Mina: I began volunteering in my teenage years back in Korea. I don’t exactly remember why I started, but I felt like I wanted to do something good. I found a hospital that was 100% free for patients and run purely by donated money. I volunteered there twice a week for around 3-4 years, and it was a regular participation where I got to be a part of a community with a lot of people from different backgrounds. There were lots of fun moments as well as heart-wrenching days that we cried together. I made friends with people that I would probably never meet otherwise. It was a really good experience that left a great impression on me, and that kept me volunteering since then.

When I came to the Lab, I saw an announcement seeking volunteers and I thought it would be a great opportunity to get involved.

Q: What volunteering have you done with the Lab?

Mina: I’ve participated mostly in programs from our Government and Community Relations Office. Community Relations has many different opportunities. For example, I got to help the food bank sort food donations with our Lab group. We would sort different foods that were donated to the food bank so that they can be further distributed later. I’ve also joined our Lab’s participation to build fences for a youth home and plant trees for Oakland. Many opportunities are on Saturday mornings, so you don’t need to worry about your work schedule conflict!

Q: What benefit do you personally get from volunteering?

Mina: I think we tend as people to feel good about ourselves when we’re volunteering. There is a very fulfilling feeling when you are helping others. But then also, I think the benefit that I’m getting is learning new skills and new experiences. For example, I’ve never built a fence before, but now I have! Thanks to different types of volunteering opportunities through the Lab, you get to experience different tasks which could lead to finding new hobbies and skills that you’ve never done before. Also, you get to meet a lot of new people that you might have never spoken to throughout your life. You get to communicate, exchange ideas, or just basically learn about different types of people who have different backgrounds and professions, age, cultures, etc. I think one can grow a lot through volunteering, that benefits could outweigh the help you provide in some ways.

Q. Why would you recommend that others volunteer with the Lab?

Mina: Because it’s so much easier with the Lab! I think the hardest part of volunteering is to know where to go, or how to get in on that opportunity to participate in an activity, especially for the first time. I think usually that’s the biggest barrier, and given the opportunities, I believe in the willingness of people wanting to help others that volunteering act itself is easy part. Here [at Berkeley Lab] we have a Government and Community Relations Office that does the hard work for you. They research and communicate with the community and organizations that need help, and arrange the opportunities (shout out to Jenn Tang and Joselyn Delgado!). All we need to do is go to the website and learn about what kind of opportunities are available to sign up. Also, you won’t be alone! Everybody is welcoming and I always have a great time chatting with people from different departments. I hope to see many more lab members at the volunteer opportunities!