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October 2017

Amanda Davis, Defense Programs NGFP fellow

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. Program participants are able to develop technical and leadership skills to launch their careers with a full immersion in one of NNSA’s core mission programs.

What drew you to the NGFP program?

I first learned of the NGFP program through my Ph.D. thesis advisor at the University of Rochester, who knew that I was interested in science policy. My graduate research was largely NNSA-funded and had presented me with the opportunity to learn about research being conducted across the NNSA laboratories by scientists in my field of Inertial Confinement Fusion. While I am very interested in the science, I also wanted to better understand how research directions in the field are determined when the science is closely tied to a mission like stockpile stewardship. The NGFP offered a great introduction to NNSA and the field of science-informed policy, while allowing me to expand my view of my research field and apply the knowledge I gained in graduate school.

What has been a highlight of your time with NNSA so far?

In August, I went to tour the facilities where high-precision scientific samples are fabricated for testing on the National Ignition Facility in California, the Z Pulsed-Power Facility in New Mexico, and the Omega Laser Facility in New York. The incredible engineering and the broad scope of the work being done, together with the development and investments involved in bringing up these unique capabilities, were very impressive and helped me better understand the support required to operate these large NNSA research facilities. Additionally, in September, I had the opportunity to attend the 10th International Conference on Inertial Fusion Sciences and Applications in Saint-Malo, France, a bi-annual gathering of researchers in my field from across the globe. This provided me with helpful insight into the current state of international efforts in Inertial Confinement Fusion and into recent developments in the U.S. program. 

What do you hope to do after the fellowship?

I am hoping to take what I have learned this year back to the NNSA laboratories by serving in a postdoctoral research position in the physics of Inertial Confinement Fusion. Equipped with the new knowledge provided by this experience, I can better tailor my research to fit the needs of the Stockpile Stewardship Program. 

What advice would you give prospective fellows?

Definitely apply! The Program has offered the opportunity to meet great, fun, impressive people with backgrounds ranging from nuclear physics to environmental science to policy and security. It has been a fascinating and motivating introduction to Washington, D.C., the NNSA, and the important work that comprises the NNSA mission. It’s not your normal science postdoc!

The NGFP is funded by NNSA and is administered by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Explore a career in nuclear security!