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 1:00 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 1:00 am



Jennifer Enderson, president of Emory Valley Center, and Bill Hevrdeys look over plans for the new facility.

Bill Hevrdeys, a Consolidated Nuclear Security Construction engineer who has worked at Y‑12 for more than 12 years, has worked on hundreds of construction projects all over the country, but one project is especially near and dear to his heart — the new home of the Emory Valley Center.

The future 25,000‑square‑foot building will house a medical and nursing center, gym with commercial kitchen, classrooms for children and adults served by the Emory Valley Center, and administrative offices.

Hevrdeys is using his expertise, honed over a 40‑year career, to write design and construction contracts for the Oak Ridge nonprofit. He says it began as just another construction job but quickly blossomed. Since 2013, he’s put in more than 1,000 hours of volunteer work.

Read more about Hevrdeys’ work for the EVC on the Y-12 website.


Working on the new Emory Valley Center is special to Bill Hevrdeys. EVC provides case management, training, housing, jobs and other services for adults with severe disabilities.

Jan 26, 2016 at 1:00 am

Calvin NelsonPantex’s Calvin Nelson was recently awarded the 2015 Analyst of the Year for Transportation Security by the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Materials Information Program. The award, for which Nelson is the first‑ever Pantex recipient, recognizes outstanding analytic support to the NMIP.

All transportation security analysts and criteria managers working in the program, including the national laboratories, submit nominations to the NMIP Program Management Office in Washington, D.C., where the finalists are selected. “Nominations are submitted based on an individual’s dedication, teamwork and diligence to the program,” said Tommy Butler, director of special programs. “For Calvin to be selected for this award is without a doubt noteworthy of his performance.”

Read more about Nelson on the Pantex website.

Jan 25, 2016 at 1:00 am

Sandia National Laboratories' Researcher Juan Elizondo-Decanini holds two compact, high-voltage nonlinear transmission lines. He leads a project on nonlinear behavior in materials — behavior that’s usually shunned because it’s so unpredictable. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

Sandia National Laboratories' Juan Elizondo-Decanini turned a long-standing problem into an idea he believes could lead to better and less expensive machines, from cell phones to pressure sensors.

“This is one of those cases where it appears it’s going to result in substantial savings and it’s going to generate a whole suite of new gadgets,” he says.

Juan leads a project on nonlinear behavior in materials — behavior that’s usually shunned as too unpredictable. Instead of avoiding nonlinearity, he’s embracing it using harmonic waves called solitons and studying, for example, how nonlinearity might be used in capacitors to further improve cell phone reception or lock out computer hackers.

Capacitors are fundamental elements in electronic circuits that store energy by accumulating electrical charge after voltage is applied to them. The stored charge is determined by the capacitance value: the more capacitance, the more charge stored and the more energy at a given “charge” voltage. High-quality capacitors are considered linear because capacitance value doesn’t change as voltage is applied to store a charge. In a nonlinear capacitor, capacitance value changes as voltage is applied, so the energy or stored charge is different from what was expected.

Learn more about the nonlinear capacitor.

Jan 22, 2016 at 3:00 am


NNSA's Emergency Communications Network (ECN) provides the capability to exchange real-time voice, data, and video information for managing emergency situations that involve NNSA assets and interests. In 2015, emergency response support teams in NNSA’s Office of Emergency Operations vastly improved on the communications support available in these situations by revamping the mobile ECN systems. NNSA reduced the size of the ECN systems by approximately 88 percent and their cost by 60 percent, while increasing the available communications pathways by 300 percent.

Previous ECN Mobile systems cost about $400,000; weighed approximately 500 pounds and provided a single source of communications: satellite. New ECN Mobile systems cost approximately $145,000; weigh about 60 pounds and provide three sources of potential communications: satellite, Internet, any available cellular signal.

What does this improvement mean for the United States? More effective and efficient communications for NNSA personnel deployed as part of the nation’s radiological and nuclear emergency response capability, helping to provide security to the nation from the threat of nuclear terrorism.

Jan 22, 2016 at 1:00 am

Argonne’s Amanda Youker discusses the Mo-99 program, which supports nonproliferation goals, with NNSA Administrator Frank Klotz.Since its founding in 1946, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has played a key scientific role in developing the beneficial use of atomic energy. In fact, over the last century, Argonne’s expertise was involved in the development of every nuclear research reactor in the United States.  What may be less well-known about Argonne is its partnership with NNSA to prevent the misuse of that same power.

Lt. Gen. (retired) Frank G. Klotz, Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), received a first-hand look at the role Argonne’s research and development work plays in this major national security mission when he visited the laboratory on January 15.  While Argonne has its roots in the non-military use of nuclear energy and is part of the larger DOE national laboratory complex, it also works closely with NNSA in several critical areas that contribute to global nuclear security.

“Reducing the threat posed by the potential spread of nuclear weapons material is a core mission of NNSA, and Argonne has been an important partner in that effort for decades,” Klotz said. “The experience and scientific expertise of the researchers at Argonne have made the world a safer place, and it was a pleasure to meet some of those people today.”

A core mission of NNSA’s Office of Material Management and Minimization is to reduce nuclear threats by minimizing the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in civilian applications. This is largely achieved through conversion of nuclear reactors from the use of HEU—which can be a proliferation risk—to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel. Since this program was launched in 1978, more than 90 reactors in dozens of countries have been converted to LEU, or verified as shut down. Argonne experts support this effort by redesigning reactor cores to use LEU, and by developing new types of fuel that can work in the reactors.

Another way Argonne works to minimize the use of HEU is in the production of critical medical isotopes. Argonne supports NNSA’s mission by developing a variety of technologies to produce the most commonly used medical isotope, molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), without the use of proliferation-sensitive HEU. Argonne supports international Mo-99 producers to convert to the use of LEU, and supports NNSA’s domestic commercial partners to accelerate development of the capability to produce Mo-99 in the United States without the use of HEU.

Argonne Director Peter B. Littlewood welcomed Klotz to the laboratory and said Argonne’s decades of experience in nuclear reactor and fuel design makes the laboratory a singular resource in the nuclear nonproliferation effort.

“Argonne was founded to help fulfill the promise of peaceful nuclear energy, and we also recognize that we must be vigilant to prevent its misuse,” Littlewood said. “We are honored to have General Klotz visit, and we hope to strengthen this partnership, which is critical to the security of the United States.”

Klotz and Dr. Stephen Streiffer discuss work sponsored by NNSA at the Advanced Photon Source, a U.S. Department of Energy User Facility at the lab. Streiffer is director of the APS, which provides the brightest storage ring-generated X-ray beams in the Western Hemisphere.While controlling nuclear material is important, care must also be taken with so-called dual-use materials, equipment and technologies that have peaceful applications but that can also contribute to the development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). For example, some computer codes that are used to model nuclear reactor cores could also be used to model nuclear weapons. Argonne maintains an active trade- and technology-control program that works with NNSA to help prevent diversion of U.S. nuclear and related dual-use exports, and to further strengthen international efforts to control the trade in WMD-usable equipment and technologies. 

During his visit, Klotz also toured the Advance Photon Source (APS), a DOE Office of Science/Basic Energy Sciences user facility at Argonne that provides the brightest storage ring-generated hard X-ray beams in the Western Hemisphere. Users perform a broad range of NNSA-supported research at the APS. NNSA supports operation of two sectors of the APS, which are used to conduct high pressure and shock physics experiments that support NNSA’s nonproliferation and defense program missions.

For Klotz, it was a full day, but one that he said emphasized the importance of cooperation across the entire DOE enterprise.

“Every site and laboratory within the DOE system is on a mission of ensuring the security of the United States, whether that be through energy security or through national security,” Klotz said. “I am proud of the contributions made by our laboratory workforce—some of the best and brightest scientific minds in the world.”

Jan 19, 2016 at 5:00 pm


NGFP Fellows at the annual NGFP Career Skills Workshop, where they met with PNNL and NNSA leaders to gain practical guidance and best practices for applying to positions after their fellowships.

The NNSA Graduate Fellowship Program (NGFP) participated a Career Skills Workshop earlier this month in Washington. The annual event provides Fellows practical guidance and best practices for applying to positions after their fellowships. Fellows learned about what to expect when for applying for federal positions, resources for working with national laboratories across the U.S. Department of Energy complex, and general information about federal positions and hiring processes. Key presenters included:

  • NNSA Deputy Associate Administrator for the Office of Management and Budget Frank Lowery, who shared information about federal hiring and the USAJobs job portal. 
  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) Director of Talent Acquisition Rob Dromgoole, who provided guidance for writing résumés and preparing for interviews.
  • PNNL NGFP Operations Lead Ryan Boscow, who shared advice on how best to pursue positions in the federal government and the national laboratories.
  • PNNL Technical Recruiter Colin Sanders, who shared tips for using LinkedIn and other social networking tools to assist in career searches.

NNSA Deputy Associate Administrator for the Office of Management and Budget Frank Lowery speaks to Fellows at the NGFP Career Skills Workshop.

PNNL Technical Recruiter Colin Sanders presents to Fellows at the NGFP Career Skills Workshop.


Jan 19, 2016 at 1:00 am


Most of us just reach into the closet to pull on a warm coat to shield us from the winter weather, but for thousands of needy children in the Kansas City area who have outgrown their coats, it’s not so simple.

Thanks to the Coats for Kids program, which provides new and gently used coats for children who need them, many of these children will be toasty warm.

Each year, NSC contractor Honeywell teams up with local radio station KMBZ 98.1 FM to support the effort.

“We are on a mission to get students excited about math and science,” says Chris Gentile, Honeywell FM&T President. “We’ve found that kids cannot concentrate on their studies and be successful at school if they are not well equipped with the basic necessities. This is why we feel it is important and take part in this effort.”

This is the sixth year that Honeywell issued a challenge to KMBZ radio listeners to donate $1,000 over a 10 day period. When the goal was reached, Honeywell doubled it with a $10,000 donation to help purchase new coats for Kansas City kids in need. Together, we contributed more than $24,000 to help area children keep warm.

Jan 19, 2016 at 1:00 am

Installation of part of ARC preamplifer systems.

X-ray radiograph of a backlit grid produced on the first programmatic ARC shot.

The National Ignition Facility’s (NIF) performed the first programmatic experiments with Advanced Radiographic Capability (ARC) on December 1-3, 2015. ARC, a petawatt-class laser with peak power that will exceed a quadrillion watts, is designed to produce brighter, more penetrating, higher-energy X-rays than can be obtained with existing radiographic techniques. In the December tests, good quality images of a backlit test grid were recorded on an image plate diagnostic. This is an important milestone toward the quality imagery of NIF experiments that ARC will be able to produce.

The world’s highest-energy short-pulse laser, ARC will take high resolution x-ray images at very high speeds and brightness under experimental conditions that are relevant to understanding the operation of modern nuclear weapons. ARC captures imagery at a resolution of 20 millionths of a meter and up to 50 billion frames per second. ARC will create images so quickly, brightly and clearly that it will be able to produce radiographic “movies” of the small scale experiments conducted at NIF—a feat it is expected to achieve in 2016.

ARC is one of the many diagnostic tools serving as part of NNSA’s non-explosive nuclear stockpile stewardship program. NIF experiments are essential to the nation’s stockpile assessment and certification strategy. NIF will be the only place for scientists to gain access to and examine thermonuclear burn without nuclear explosive testing.


After amplification in the NIF laser, the ARC beams are compressed in the target bay and focused to Target Chamber Center (TCC).


Jan 13, 2016 at 1:00 am