It was a watery career path that led Jeremy Snyder to the Lab. Snyder, a multi-media communicator in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Area, EESA, started as a kayak instructor in his early teens and became a raft guide in Montana in the summer during college.

“Being a raft guide is my best job ever. What’s not to like about it?” said Snyder. “I spent the day on the river, lived in a tent all summer, told corny jokes, and introduced people to the outdoors and the natural world. Doing that kickstarted my interest in using science communication to get people excited about things I care about.

“There’s no substitute for reaching out to people and hearing about their work. Connecting with others opens doors you might not even know exist.

Jeremy Snyder

Who has influenced or inspired you on your career path? How so?

I was in my sophomore year as a biology major at Pomona College in Southern California, and to my surprise, my mentor in the biology department highly encouraged me to branch out and take a class in geology. The class was taught by a brilliant professor who made me fall in love with the subject, and true to my mentor’s advice, the intersection of geology and biology proved to be a powerful foundation for understanding how life works on earth. Studying both subjects made me better at each, and the combination of the two gave me a really versatile toolkit for my budding interest in science communication.

I also had an internship at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in my junior year, and my mentor there taught me how to navigate the professional world and develop practical skills. It was the first time I realized some niches would take advantage of my science education but let me hone my communications skills. That job affirmed my career path as a science communicator


How many different jobs have you had in your career journey, and which one was the most rewarding? 

There were a lot of part-time jobs during my college days, probably eight or nine. My first post-college job was here at the Lab. I started as a SULI intern during the pandemic with Ken Williams, a staff scientist with EESA. He was interested in a communications project, which was out of the norm for SULI projects but was in line with my growing interest in merging science and communications. As part of the SULI experience, there were career talks, and one of the speakers was Laurie Chong, a communicator at the Molecular Foundry.  I wanted to learn more about her work, so I asked her for an informational interview, and by the end of it, she asked if I wanted to work for her.


What career setback or mistake has helped you to succeed or grow?

After graduating from college, I received a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, which funds a year of international travel to explore an area of interest. I planned to use photography as a visual science communications tool to tell the story of sediment in the Amazon River system. The scholarship was for 2019 and 2020, but COVID came along and derailed my project. 

It also derailed my identity. Until that point, I believed there was a specific arc I needed to be on to have a perfect career. But that wasn’t happening. The pandemic helped me realize I needed to take a step, even if it wasn’t what I planned, and that step would open the next door. As difficult as it was to interrupt my fellowship, it demystified the process of work and identity. You can’t wrap up your identity in your work so tightly that you can’t live. I studied in New Zealand in college and saw that people didn’t identify nearly as much with their careers there. I have mixed feelings because I love and strongly identify with my work, but it can’t be my whole life.  


What is the most important career advice you have received/learned? 

Don’t be afraid to ask people about their work. My mentor at the Smithsonian taught me the value of informational interviews. Getting an interview is easy since most people are willing to talk about themselves. Then, at the end of the interview, ask for the names of others who would be good to speak with. I got my first real job at the Lab because of an informational interview, and I still use informational interviews to learn about people at the Lab and their work. 

A career at Berkeley Lab offers a range of opportunities supported by training, mentorship, and career development programs. Whether you choose to build a career at the Lab or take your skills to other organizations, a career path to and at the Lab sets you up for success.