The NNSA Graduate Fellowship Program (NGFP) is a unique opportunity for recent graduates to join the Nuclear Security Enterprise. These full-time, salaried positions offer a year of specialized, on-the-job training and the chance to tackle real-world challenges in one of NNSA’s program offices. Fellows develop technical and leadership skills to launch their careers with a full immersion in one of NNSA’s core mission programs.
What is your academic background/training?
I recently completed my PhD in the MIT Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering. Before this, I earned my B.S. in physics from Florida A&M University.
What drew you to the NGFP program?
Having spent the last 6 years as an academic, the NGFP program provided me the opportunity to gain practical experience with nuclear security policy-making and implementation. As a technical person, a key draw for me was the opportunity to be trained on the engineering and design decisions of the current stockpile, and understand the actual modernization plans for future systems. This level of training, by people directly involved with the actual weapon systems, is something you cannot access outside of the government.
What are you currently doing for NNSA?
I work in the Office of Major Modernization Programs (NA-19). This office is responsible for the modernization of warhead systems and ensuring access to the strategic materials used in the U.S. stockpile. As an NA-19 fellow, I support the programmatic work in the office. I have contributed to the development of strategic documents, attended meetings with NNSA leadership, and participated in weapon design training courses.
What interests you most about nuclear security?
The interdisciplinary nature of nuclear security is what I find most exciting. Action in this field is influenced not only by technical drivers, but also by cultural and political considerations. This diversity of perspectives from which to view a problem gives me an unbounded opportunity to grow and contribute. This is what I find most interesting about the field.
What has been a highlight of your time with NNSA so far?
A highlight of working in the NNSA has been the people. The NA-19 leadership has been thoughtful about finding the intersection of my professional interests and their mission needs. Within my first few months as a fellow, I was able to attend two Nuclear Weapon Council meetings, and observe first-hand the relationship between the NNSA and the Department of Defense. This opportunity was made possible because my supervisor listened to my interests, and advocated for my participation.
What advice would you give prospective fellows?
Do not be afraid to be your own advocate. Your supervisors cannot tailor the NGFP experience to your interests if they do not know them. Share your goals, and ask them for their help, as a mentor, in achieving them. The best leaders will see your drive, and want to foster it.
Mareena Robinson was recently interviewed for a “Young Phenom” feature article in ESSENCE magazine.
The NGFP is funded by NNSA and is administered by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Explore a career in nuclear security!