As students return to school this fall, many will have great stories to tell about their summer internship and experience. For seven students who attended the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) annual Minority Serving Institution Program (MSI), that is particularly true.

During the summer, these seven students with varying backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics who attend different minority serving institutions got to spend 10 weeks working across various parts of NNSA labs, field offices and program offices. The students gained practical experiences, directly correlated to their education, inspiring many with the ambition to join the federal workforce in the future.

For Connor Natzke, an undergraduate student at Colorado School of Mines pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics, the MSI program exposed him to the unique and innovative work conducted at the NNSA. Furthermore, he was able to continue a long-standing family tradition, given that both of his grandfathers had previously worked for defense contractors.  

Connor, MSI Program intern

Image Background Caption:  Connor by the Z Machine | Air-gas breakdown when Z Machine at Sandia National Laboratories fires.

Connor’s perspective:

When I began my summer internship at the NNSA, I had no idea what the organization accomplished, or the role of the federal government in managing our national labs. The college I attend did not have a substantial NNSA presence during its annual on-campus job fairs, instead being overshadowed by the plethora of petroleum, mechanical, and chemical engineering companies. As a result, my time spent at the NNSA opened my mind to the state-of-the-art work being done, the hard-working employees that compose the agency and their commitment to fulfilling NNSA’s mission.

Given that both of my grandfathers worked for defense contractors during the height of the Cold War, my family instilled in me a certain sense of patriotism. We have always supported the defense industry in the United States, and I have longed to be a part of it since I began my studies in engineering. To that end, the summer opportunity at NNSA gave me the chance to experience the mission first hand. I’ve also gained tangible insight into the steps I would need to take in my pursuit for a career in nuclear field. During my internship, my coworkers were extremely helpful in teaching me how the federal government functions, and also showed me just how tight knit the working relationships at NNSA is. Every person I encountered showed a deep rooted passion for their job, and pride in the work that they do on behalf of the United States. I am extremely grateful to have been a part of the organization and now look forward to working in the nuclear industry upon completion of my degree.

Maurice, MSI Program intern

Maurice’s perspective:

As a graduate student at Florida A&M University pursuing a Masters in Industrial/Manufacturing Engineering, the MSI program gave me the opportunity to utilize my academic experience in Quality Control and ISO 9000.

I was placed in the Office of Audit Coordination and Internal Affairs. Upon starting the internship, I was initially unsure of what to expect from a federal government agency with nuclear responsibilities. Then, to throw in the acronym usage which I now know is common within the federal environment, I was met with a steep learning curve. Nevertheless, I overcame that obstacle with the assistance of my co-workers, who ensured I was equipped with the necessary learnings to get up to speed.

Through the internship, I learned how various multifaceted parts of the department – labs and program offices contribute to the overall nuclear mission at NNSA. This experience afforded me the opportunity to work on exciting projects while also partaking in learning modules and other online training programs that facilitated the transition into the federal work system. Having experienced the MSI program firsthand, I highly recommend it to future students. It is likely the best opportunity possible to truly experience and understand the federal government, and gain practical work experience.

During our time in the program, students got the opportunity to interact with NNSA senior level management in various departments, including the Department of Energy's Under Secretary for nuclear security and NNSA Administrator Frank Klotz, and the Associate Administrator for External Affairs, Clarence Bishop.

Frank Lowery, Deputy Associate Administrator for Management and Budget also worked with and mentored the students. His involvement motivated us to pursue federal careers as we select our prospective employers in the future.

About the MSI Program

The MSI Internship Program offers undergraduate or graduate student attending a participating Minority Serving Institution the opportunity to explore future careers, through practical work experiences directly related to their academic background at world-class scientific facilities or Federal offices across the country. Prospective students are afforded a real opportunity to combine their studies with on-the-job training and experience as it directly relates to their academic program, so that they can make more informed career choices in the future. For 10 weeks during the summer break, they are given the opportunity to work on exciting projects in research environments with some of the nation’s top scientists and engineers at NNSA’s laboratories, Federal field offices or with small business partners. 

For information on eligibility requirements and applying for these positions, please visit MSI Vacancies.

Sep 18, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Dozens of government agencies, area businesses and other organizations recently offered classes, demonstrations and displays during the third annual Safety Fest TN. Most of the activities took place at Y‑12’s New Hope Center and were organized by the Oak Ridge Business Safety Partnership with CNS serving as one of the event sponsors.

The Secret City Fire Officer Conference was also held at Y-12 last week in conjunction with Safety Fest. The Conference sponsored by the Y‑12 Fire Department, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Fire Department, and the fire departments of Oak Ridge, Knoxville, Maryville and Alcoa.

Safety Fest at Y-12 offers classes, demonstrations and displays

Sep 17, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Medal of Honor recipients Herschel "Woody" Williams (USMC, WWII, Iwo Jima), Ron Rosser (US Army, Ponggilli, Korea) and Wesley Fox (USMC, Quang Tri, Vietnam) were welcomed by CNS President Jim Haynes (far left) and NNSA Production Office Manager Steve Erhart (far right) at the Medal of Honor Town Hall Forum held at Y-12’s New Hope Center last week.

The three recipients discussed their experiences and answered questions from the public. Williams and Rosser also toured the Y-12 National Security complex with Haynes and Y-12 Historian Ray Smith. The group visited 9731, Y-12’s pilot plant during the Manhattan Project, and the south ridge of the site.


Sep 16, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Local firefighters and others came together last week to remember and honor 9-11’s fallen heroes at a ceremony held at the Y-12 National Security Complex. The firefighters were at Y-12 for their annual Fire Officer Conference, held in conjunction with Safety Fest.

Y-12 honors 9-11’s fallen heroes

Y-12 honors 9-11’s fallen heroes

Sep 15, 2014 at 10:00 am

Sandia National Labs recently hosted an informational seminar on flying Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). Participants learned how unmanned aerial systems can reduce costs and expand program capabilities. The presentation explained the process for obtaining approval to fly a UAS at Sandia, described operational requirements, and shared lessons learned from direct program experience.

Sandia hosts unmanned aircraft seminar

Sep 10, 2014 at 4:00 pm

“Stockpile Stewardship: How we ensure the nuclear deterrent without testing” is a recently-released video by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that explains stockpile stewardship and Livermore’s role in it. For a behind-the-scenes look at the unique capabilities at the lab that are indispensable to NNSA’s Stockpile Stewardship Program, watch below. The video covers high performance computing, the Superblock category II nuclear facility, the JASPER a two stage gas gun, the High Explosive Applications Facility (HEAF), the National Ignition Facility (NIF), and the Site 300 contained firing facility.

See video
Sep 10, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Sandia highlights California work

Each summer, Sandia highlights research, activities and people at Sandia California in a special edition of Lab News.

This year’s issue highlights a story about researchers that are using their “fuze” expertise in assisting the Air Force. Other stories include big data, climate modeling, how the adoption of natural gas vehicles would have little effect on emission objectives, and a feature about summer interns.

Read more.

Sep 9, 2014 at 10:00 am

NNSA Assistant Deputy Administrator for Stockpile Management Steve Goodrum recently presented Defense Programs Awards of Excellence (DPAE) to 175 Pantexans who excelled at Stockpile Stewardship work during 2013.

The seven awards were presented to teams involved in a variety of efforts, including nuclear weapons work, environmental remediation, high explosives testing and production planning.

The DPAE program was established in 1982 to recognize individuals or teams for significant achievements in quality, productivity, cost savings, safety or creativity of work performed in support of the Stockpile Stewardship Program.

About the photo: Pantexan David Thomas, from right, receives a Defense Programs Award of Excellence from NNSA Assistant Deputy Administrator for Stockpile Management Steve Goodrum as NNSA Production Office Manager Steve Erhart and Pantex Site Manager Michelle Reichert wait to congratulate him.

Pantex recognized by NNSA’s Defense Programs

Sep 8, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Los Alamos National Laboratory has successfully fired the latest in a series of experiments at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS). The experiment provides important surrogate hydrodynamic materials data in support of NNSA’s mission.

NNSA BlogThe experiment, dubbed Leda, was conducted on Aug. 12, 2014, and consisted of plutonium surrogate material and high explosives to implode a "weapon-relevant geometry."

Hydrodynamic experiments such as Leda involve non-nuclear surrogate materials that mimic many of the properties of nuclear materials. Hydrodynamics refers to the physics involved when solids, under extreme conditions, begin to mix and flow like liquids. Other hydrodynamic experiments conducted at NNSS use small amounts of nuclear material, and are called "sub-critical" because they do not contain enough material to cause a nuclear explosion.

See the video.

Read more.

About the photos: 
(Above) Technicians at the Nevada National Security Site move the "Leda" experiment in a specially designed container from the Device Assembly Facility.  LANL photo.

(Below) Technicians at the Nevada National Security Site make final adjustments to the "Leda" experimental vessel in the "Zero Room" at the underground U1a facility. 

Hydrodynamic experiment conducted in Nevada

Sep 8, 2014 at 11:00 am

Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have named NNSA’s Pantex Plant a Weather-Ready Nation (WRN) Ambassador. The WRN program is a new initiative to spread critical information to residents about how to prepare for and respond to a weather emergency. Ambassadors take the lead in helping unify efforts across government, non-profits, academia and private industry to make the nation more ready, responsive and resilient against severe weather.

Pantex joined Carson County this month as a WRN Ambassador, with plans for multiple events throughout September to spread the message about weather preparedness to Pantexans and county residents. Pantex is the first DOE entity named a WRN Ambassador, and Carson County is the first county in the Texas Panhandle to achieve the designation.

Read more.

About the photo: National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist Krissy Scotten, from left, presented the WRN Ambassador designation to Pantex Site Manager Michelle Reichert and Carson County Emergency Management Coordinator Brenda Vermillion at a Pantex ceremony Tuesday.

Pantex named weather ambassador

Sep 5, 2014 at 1:00 pm