Staff scientist Mukul Kumar from the Materials Engineering Division will serve a joint position with both Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Washington State University (WSU). This is only the third joint appointment for LLNL. Joint appointments tie both institutions together in a more formal way and contribute to work that is mutually beneficial.
Kumar will train and collaborate with students, postdoctoral fellows and other faculty members in WSU’s Institute for Shock Physics (ISP) in dynamics of materials and the nuances of shock compression experiments. This opportunity allows a deeper level of collaboration and training that he wouldn’t have been able to accomplish as a faculty staff scientist solely focused on programmatic work. Typically, staff scientists spend considerable time and financial resources getting LLNL postdocs up to speed in dynamic compression, but the ability to “outsource” the training in partnership with a proficient and specialized facility like the ISP allows graduate students and postdocs to contribute quickly once joining LLNL.
“Mukul’s appointment at WSU will strengthen our interactions with ISP and the wider academic community,” said Dennis McNabb, the associate division leader of LLNL’s Enabling Technologies in the Design Physics Division. “Those interactions will help foster collaborations between students and LLNL staff and help expose our staff and programs to new techniques and ideas. The Institute for Shock Physics at WSU is one of the few academic centers focused on advancing our understanding of the properties of solid materials under extreme dynamic loads through a breadth of experimental approaches.”
“Dr. Kumar’s appointment will be an excellent resource for WSU graduate students and will provide more research opportunities for them,” said WSU Regents Professor of Physics and ISP Director Yogendra Gupta. “Overall, this joint appointment should be a model for how universities and national labs can partner strategically to serve the nation’s research interests.”
WSU is the pioneering academic institution in shock compression of condensed matter, with many alumni joining the national laboratories. Their comprehensive facilities will help Kumar’s research group study the mechanical response of new materials created through additive manufacturing to see how they fail or deform. WSU also provides the Lab an outlet to carry out in-depth explorations into the performance of additively manufactured materials and other advanced materials.
“WSU has a long history of expertise in the area of shock physics. The students that come out of that institute are very well trained,” Kumar said. “The idea is to get students from WSU to interact with the scientists at LLNL. For a student, that’s a gold mine and a wonderful opportunity for hands-on collaborations with Lab scientists.”
The opportunity also means LLNL postdocs who do not have a background in shock physics can go to WSU and learn how to conduct shock wave experiments from scratch. This is helpful for recruiting young staff scientists and creating a pipeline of students for the Lab that are trained in shock physics research.
“It’s a great way for the Lab to get a sense of the community at large. It’s important to have a presence in the scientific community,” Kumar said. “I am looking forward to working with the students.”
Kumar served as an adjunct professor at WSU prior to this appointment. He is a recipient of the NNSA Defense Programs Award of Excellence, Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education (ORISE) Fellowship, and ASM International A.E. Focke Award.