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Defense Program leaders’ visit highlights collaboration with MIT lab and researchers

NNSA’s Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Military Application Brig. Gen. Michael Lutton and Dr. Njema Frazier, physicist in the NNSA’s Office of Defense Programs with the MIT students and postdocs. From left, Hong Sio, Lutton, postdoctoral Dr. Cody Parker, Neel Kabadi, Frazier, Raspberry Simpson, Graeme Sutcliffe, Brandon Lahmann, and Chris Wink.

On Thursday, January 19, NNSA’s Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Military Application Brig. Gen. Michael Lutton and Dr. Njema Frazier, physicist in the NNSA’s Office of Defense Programs, visited the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., to meet with the High Energy Density (HED) and Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) Physics Division of the Plasma Science and Fusion Center. 

MIT’s HED/ICF Division has more than 25 years of collaboration with Laboratory for Laser Energetics, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Sandia National Laboratories, and the national High Energy Density Physics research community that supports NNSA’s missions.

Dr. Richard Petrasso, who heads the High-Energy-Density Physics Division, hosted Lutton and Frazier and explained some of the award-winning research and experimentation his team does for NNSA’s missions and the community.

Several leading-edge MIT doctoral theses have come out of work performed at NNSA facilities, including national award- and fellowship-winning research, and the first doctoral students to utilize in their research shots on NNSA’s National Ignition Facility (NIF). The MIT-NIF Ph.D. Program enables students to perform outstanding research and then equips them to take on important and leadership roles in NNSA programs, advancing the missions of the Nuclear Security Enterprise.

“The way the Ph.D. program makes ‘double’ use of NIF shots that support NNSA missions is a great credit to the NIF program, management, and scientists at NNSA,” Petrasso said. “Four such Ph.D.s from the MIT-NIF Ph.D. program have gone on to NNSA facilities, and five more are in the works.”

In addition to a tour and overview of some of the team’s work, all the MIT HED/ICF graduate students presented their thesis material to Lutton and Frazier and engaged in follow up discussions.

“We greatly appreciate the opportunity to meet with General Lutton and Dr. Frazier, and to show them the scope of student and staff research at the National Ignition Facility, Omega laser, Z-machine, and the MIT HED/ICF laboratory, and especially to highlight the outstanding Ph.D. work of the students,” Petrasso said. “At the heart of MIT’s program has been its long lasting collaboration with LLE, LLNL, SNL, LANL and NNSA.”

Learn more about MIT’s High-Energy-Density Physics Division at

Stewardship Science Graduate Fellowship Ph.D. student Hong Sio describes his research on the Omega laser and National Ignition Facility (NIF) to Lutton and Frazier.

Sio explains how MIT researchers use the accelerator to test and prototype diagnostics before fielding them on experiments on NIF, Omega, and Z-machine. This accelerator and the other MIT laboratory instruments are where students get critical hands-on experience, essential for them to successfully implement their thesis experiments at those larger facilities.

Ph.D. student Neel Kabadi explains how he uses the MIT Laboratory's X-ray sources to simulate the intense X-ray backgrounds from experiments at NIF and Z-machine. This ensures that the diagnostic is sufficiently robust to operate and function properly during shots on the larger machines.

Lutton and Frazier discuss the team’s work with the MIT students and researchers.