The workshop hones intern and staff scientist ability to speak to the public about science.

The more than 400 fourth-graders who donned lab coats at Sandia National Laboratories' outreach program last month quickly learned the importance of science when the “Magic Chemistry Dog” was dognapped, and only forensic chemistry analysis could solve the crime.

Fingerprint tests, chromatography, pH testing, and fiber analysis helped students spend the day getting excited about chemistry in pursuit of answers about a missing furry companion. 

The CSI: Dognapping Workshop was designed by more than 65 Sandia staff and intern volunteers to excite and encourage the next generation of scientific leaders. The 2 hour workshop uses theatrics and hands-on activities to help students to understand concepts from materials science to chemistry to forensics.

Last month’s workshop was the 11th year Sandia hosted the activity, which was awarded the ChemLuminary Award for Outstanding Kids & Chemistry by the American Chemical Society in 2015.

Read more about this year’s workshop, and read the activity instructions in full here.


The students are "accused" of dognapping, but use science to prove their innocence and find the dog.

Feb 9, 2016 at 11:00 am


Sandia California held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Algae Raceway Testing Facility last week. The new facility will help scientists advance laboratory research to real-world applications.

In a twist of geometry, an oval can make a line. The new algae raceway testing facility at Sandia National Laboratories in California may be oval in shape, but it paves a direct path between laboratory research and solving the demand for clean energy.

As the nation and California adopt policies to promote clean transportation fuels, that path could help bring the promise of algal biofuels closer to reality. As one of the fastest growing organisms on the planet, algae are an ideal source of biomass, but researchers have not yet found a cost-competitive way to use algae for fuels.

“This facility helps bridge the gap from the lab to the real world by giving us an environmentally controlled raceway that we can monitor to test and fine tune discoveries,” said Ben Wu, Sandia’s Biomass Science and Conversion Technology manager. “The success of moving technologies from a research lab to large outdoor facilities is tenuous. The scale-up from flask to a 150,000-liter outdoor raceway pond is just too big.”

Read more.


Feb 9, 2016 at 9:00 am


Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz (second from bottom left, clockwise) and Anne Harrington, NNSA deputy administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (sitting next to Moniz), discuss Ian Hutcheon's legacy with his wife Nancy (across from Harrington) and daughter Dana Hutcheon Gordon.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz last Thursday awarded the first Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (DNN) fellowship in honor of the late Ian Hutcheon, a longtime nuclear forensics expert at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, to Thomas Gray.

Gray serves as a nonproliferation graduate fellow in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. Gray was one of 22 applicants for the position. The fellowship is a two-year assignment as a junior professional officer (JPO) in support of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Division of Nuclear Security.

To the nuclear nonproliferation world, Hutcheon brought not only a passion for science, but an ability to reach out to partners internationally, engaging them in the science that supports U.S. nuclear security efforts. Because of his innate ability to engage, teach and inspire, Hutcheon was one of the very finest scientist-diplomats, with a unique ability to grow and inspire young talent.

Read more about the fellowship here.

Feb 9, 2016 at 12:00 am


Scientists at NNSA facilities study climate and meteorology. Other sites are key players in weather preparedness.

Today, on National Weatherperson Day, NNSA recognizes numerous contributions to the nation’s climate and weather readiness in any situation. With emergency response as one of its core missions, NNSA’s enterprise helps prepare the nation against the worst disasters, with weather as an important component in the equation of security.

NNSA’s labs have been recognized internationally for their invaluable work in climate modeling and aid in emergency weather preparedness. NNSA’s Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories are active as Weather-Ready Nation (WRN) Ambassadors for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) effort to strengthen national resilience against extreme weather.

NNSA’s Pantex Plant has been recognized as one of the National Weather Service’s StormReady sites for its community activism in severe weather preparedness. Staff at NNSA’s Los Alamos Laboratory received the GreenGov Presidential Award in November 2015 for their proactive commitment to environmental stewardship through planning, monitoring, and response.

Three of NNSA’s labs, Sandia, Lawrence Livermore, and Los Alamos, work in a partnership with other labs and groups to generate the most complete climate and Earth system models for climate change issues. Lawrence Livermore and Sandia each have a dedicated organization for monitoring and studying climate, while Los Alamos has two (here and here).

NNSA’s meteorological expertise also plays a big role in the nation’s preparedness against nuclear threats via the National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC), which conducts atmospheric dispersion modeling of hazardous materials in support of health and safety decision making. NARAC is also a key stakeholder in the Interagency Modeling and Atmospheric Assessment Center. With support from across the nuclear security enterprise, NNSA’s emergency response assets are integrated into the Federal Radiological Monitoring and Assessment Center to keep the nation safe in case of radioactive threats by, among other activities, evaluating weather conditions. 

Many dedicated men and women of NNSA’s enterprise are expert weatherpersons as part of their jobs in national security, using highly specialized technology for accurate data-gathering and collaborating with other experts and the public in educational and emergency outreach.

Feb 5, 2016 at 12:00 am

World Cancer Day encourages citizens worldwide to take action, raise awareness, and garner support in the campaign to end cancer. Inherent in NNSA’s missions are technological developments for detection, computation, and chemistry—with benefits for cancer research.

Scientists at NNSA’s laboratories receive both federal and private recognition for their work that has a huge impact on cancer research. One exceptional young scientist received an award from NIH for her computational work to learn more about how cancer progresses. Both Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory partner with universities to expand cancer research capabilities.

Cancer breakthroughs at NNSA labs include uncovering how a protein stops prostate cancer metastasis to bone, an association between a virus and bladder cancer, production of medical isotopes that fight cancer, a drug to destroy childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia, use of nanoparticles to destroy cancerous cells, and development of a high-resolution gamma camera used for prostate cancer detection.

NNSA’s work in nonproliferation has led to development of very sensitive and often non-invasive monitoring and detection technologies that have applications in cancer detection and treatment. NNSA retrained nuclear weapons scientists internationally to work in cancer treatment. A recently developed laser plasma accelerator can be used in scanning devices to spot hidden nuclear materials and for radiotherapy treatments for cancer.

Learn more about how NNSA’s labs and work tie into cancer research here.

Feb 4, 2016 at 4:00 pm


From left, Tony Brown, vice president of the Black Achievers Society of Kansas City, Allen Brown of the National Security Campus, and Marshaun Butler, president of the Black Achievers Society.

Allen Brown, senior production scheduler at the National Security Campus (NSC) in Kansas City, Mo., was recently selected as a 2016 Black Achiever Award recipient. Brown was nominated by the operator of the NSC and his employer, Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies, for the honor from the Black Achievers Society of Greater Kansas City, a not-for-profit organization to honor African Americans in business and industry. The award recognizes exemplary leaders for their corporate roles and involvement in the community.

As a senior scheduler at the NSC, Allen Brown is instrumental to the success of materials and planning operations. His 32 years of experience in materials management, along with his expert oversight of long range production schedules and complex scenario planning, have made him a trusted and valuable resource at NSC.

Brown says he attributes his success to his great mentors, and seeks to pay it forward by sharing knowledge with employees and mentoring local students.

Allen has served as a community leader for over 20 years, mentoring others and directing activities at his church. Allen also volunteers in Honeywell-led corporate initiatives like the Harvester’s Senior Food Drive and providing school supplies for underprivileged children.

Click to read more about the National Security Campus and Brown’s award.



Feb 4, 2016 at 12:00 am

Participants in Apex Gold at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

What would national leaders do in the face of a transnational nuclear terrorism threat? Last week, ministers and other senior delegates from 37 nations, along with representatives from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the European Union and the United Nations gathered in Livermore, California, to practice their ability to respond effectively to an emerging nuclear security threat. 

On Jan. 28, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Kingdom of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted Apex Gold, the first ever minister-level gathering to identify national and international actions to address a nuclear crisis. The ministers were presented with a hypothetical nuclear terrorism scenario and then worked together to determine how each of their nations might respond at each step of the situation. The participants also toured Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to better understand some of the technical tools available for detecting and analyzing nuclear material and making decisions in the event of a nuclear terrorism crisis.

Apex Gold helped to prepare ministers to advise their heads of government during a nuclear security crisis or emergency. The exercise also laid important ground work for the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, which President Obama will host on March 30 – April 1, 2016 in Washington, D.C. At the Summit, global leaders will discuss the threat of nuclear terrorism and identify steps to minimize the use of civil highly-enriched uranium, secure nuclear materials, and counter nuclear smuggling. They will also discuss how the vital work the Nuclear Security Summit process can be carried forward in the future.


Vice Minister Renée Jones-Bos of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs talks to her colleagues.


Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and other participants are shown lab equipment at the event.


A demonstration of lab equipment at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.


Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz makes his opening statement during Apex Gold.


Facilitator Kevin O'Prey of FEMA led participants through the scenario-based policy discussion.


Deputy Secretary of Energy Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall leads a discussion during Apex Gold.

Feb 1, 2016 at 1:00 pm


These high performance computing (HPC) simulations of star formation account for a broad range of physical processes, including: gravity, supersonic turbulence, hydrodynamics, outflows, magnetic fields, chemistry and ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Image courtesy of Pak Shing Li/ University of California, Berkeley

High performance computing (HPC) simulations exploring star formation by Lawrence Livermore astrophysicist Richard Klein were among select research highlights featured by NASA at the recent supercomputing conference in Austin, Texas.

Klein’s “Simulating Star Formation: From Giant Molecular Clouds to Protostellar Clusters” presentation is now on NASA’s website.

The origin of star clusters remains one of astrophysics’ fundamental unsolved problems. Stellar cluster and massive star formation are at the center of the complex processes that shaped the universe as we know it today. Yet a clear understanding of the processes involved in star formation remains elusive.

Taking on such a problem requires complex simulations that must include a broad range of physical processes, including: gravity, supersonic turbulence, hydrodynamics, outflows, magnetic fields, chemistry and ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. But such simulations are very difficult to produce because of the high degree of non-linear coupling and feedback mechanisms among these processes, as well as the large dynamic range in time and spatial scales.

Read more about it.

Jan 29, 2016 at 5:00 pm


Users discovered items the device could magnify, such as yarn, human hair, and flower petals.

Employees lunching on Friday, January 15, in the Department of Energy headquarters cafeteria received smartphone microscopes and a mission: Engage five students over Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in a STEM conversation using the device.

Employees from the DOE Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, including Director Dot Harris and fellow Melinda Higgins, recruited employees from many offices to participate in the STEM outreach event training.

“The broad participation goes to show how people from all areas can work to increase STEM literacy and awareness,” Higgins said.

“This is a great way to show innovative technology, using an existing technology such as the camera on your smartphone and improving and creating something new such as the microscope,” Higgins said. “This one device can be used to explain the physics behind light and microscopy, the structure and patterns of different substances on a microscopic level as well as the ability to analyze data that is collected to study as images.”

Participants in the STEM outreach event demonstrated using the microscope with grains of salt, tape, and flower petals. The clip-on device magnifies items 100x.

“I can tell you right now my kids are going to be looking at a lot of bugs on this thing,” said one employee, who said she was excited to share the device with her daughters.

Higgins and her colleagues encouraged microscope recipients share the micro-images they took on social media using #microSTEM. The design of the microscope is open-source so anyone can make one. Learn more and watch a video about the microscopes, where they come from, and how they're made here.


The smartphone microscope magnifies objects it views 100x on the user’s smartphone camera.

Jan 27, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Steven ErhartLast month two NNSA Senior Executive Service leaders were recognized as 2015 Presidential Rank Award Winners for distinguished contributions to public service. Director of NNSA’s Office of Policy Steven Erhart was named a Distinguished Executive Winner, and Director of Reactor Engineering in NNSA’s Naval Reactors Program Thomas G. Vavoso was named a Meritorious Executive Winner.

Erhart has 28 years of experience managing nuclear operations for the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense. Before becoming Director of NNSA’s Office of Policy, he served as the NNSA Production Office (NPO) Manager and as manager of the Pantex site office in Amarillo, Texas

“I’m now responsible to the Administrator for originating and integrating all high-level NNSA policy and strategy to ensure consistency and alignment to DOE goals and objectives,” Erhart said. “It’s a very rewarding job, and I work with a lot of really incredible people.”

Thomas VavosoVavoso has been a Senior Executive Service leader in Naval Reactors since 2008 and holds a Master’s of Science in Computer and Information Systems from George Mason University. Vavoso began his career as an engineer in reactor protection instrumentation and control, and is a nuclear safety expert.

“I oversee the technology development, design and manufacture of nuclear reactors that reliably and safely power our nation's submarine and aircraft carriers so those ship crews and commanders can carry out their missions around the globe,” Vavoso said. “Day to day, I strive to create an environment where some very talented people can develop and deliver this technology with appropriate oversight, but minimal obstacles and encumbrances.”

Vavoso and Erhart lauded the work and achievements of the cadre of dedicated and talented engineers, procurement and logistics experts who help harness great energy capability for our national defense.

“Receiving an award like this is kind of like being a sports team manager who gets to hold a championship trophy, knowing the hard work done by those in the arena,” Vavoso said.

“I’m honored to receive this recognition, alongside so many great leaders in public service,” Erhart said.

The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 established the Presidential Rank Awards Program to recognize a select group of career members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) for exceptional performance over an extended period of time.

For a full list of the 2015 Presidential Rank Award Winners, click here.

Jan 27, 2016 at 12:00 am