Laboratory researchers recognized for accomplishments in early and mid-career

July 20, 2017

Awardees for the Early and Mid-Career Recognition Program include, top row Todd Gamblin, Daniel Haylett, Holly Carlton, Yongqin Jiao and Brandon Wood; bottom row from left, Tilo Döppner, Sofia Quaglioni, Nathan Meezan, Rebecca Nikolic, Peter Weber, Michael Pivovaroff, Vladimir Smalyuk, Hui Chen, Peter Lindstrom and Michael Heffner. (Download Image)

Laboratory researchers recognized for accomplishments in early and mid-career

Anne M Stark,, 925-422-9799

Fifteen Lab scientists and engineers have been named to Lawrence Livermore's (LLNL) third annual Early and Mid-Career Recognition (EMCR) Program.

"Rewarding exceptional early and mid-career employees is key to retaining and developing a world-class workforce," Laboratory Director Bill Goldstein said. "This program recognizes technical staff who have demonstrated significant accomplishments early in their careers, and show great potential for future leadership."

The EMCR Program recognizes scientific and technical accomplishments, leadership and future promise demonstrated by LLNL scientists and engineers early in their careers -- from five to 20 years since they received their most recent degree. Winners receive a cash award and institutional funding (approximately equivalent to 20 percent support for one year) to pursue research activities in their area of interest.

The FY17 EMCR winners are:

Holly Carlton

Holly Carlton's area of specialization is in failure and fracture of materials. She also is highly skilled in applications of synchrotron radiation micro-tomography for characterization of advanced materials. Since coming to the Lab she has successfully collaborated with numerous scientists and engineers in a variety of mostly programmatically supported projects, and in almost all instances successfully brought a new level of characterization, analysis and insight into challenging materials problems. Her work has resulted in numerous publications and presentations that have both internal and external recognition. As her career progresses she continues to take on greater technical challenges, more responsibilities and is gaining recognition as a materials scientist with high potential within and outside of LLNL.

"I am extremely honored to receive the EMCR award," Carlton said. "I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such outstanding collaborators on such a diverse range of projects."

Carlton plans to pursue new research areas.

Hui Chen

Hui Chen is an internationally recognized physicist who has made important contributions to several areas of plasma physics, most notably in the new field of relativistic positron generation via intense laser-matter interactions. She became a 2016 fellow of the American Physical Society from the Division of Plasma Physics for her work in this field. This work in fundamental physics has captured the imagination of the greater physics community. Her first Physical Review Letter (PRL) in 2009, which discussed the largest production of positrons by laser-plasma interactions to date, was cited by more than 200 websites, including Popular Mechanics, Discovery News, Physics Focus, CERN Courier, Nature Photonics and Science News.

Chen is the experimental and intellectual lead of these studies, which now include national and international collaborators in both theory and experiment. Chen designed, built and calibrated the electron/positron/proton spectrometers needed for this and developed the data analysis methods.

"I am extremely honored by this recognition," Chen said. "Ever since I came to the Lab 18 years ago as a postdoc, I have been fortunate to have excellent mentors and mangers, kind and knowledgeable colleagues and hardworking students - and I am grateful to them all."

Because she was trained and nurtured in high energy density physics (HED) at the Lab, she plans to give back "by contributing to our new HED Center, training young scientists and working on some new ideas."

Tilo Doppner

Tilo Doppner is an experimental physicist who has significantly contributed to the exploration of HED plasmas and matters at extreme conditions, with relevance to fundamental science, inertial confinement fusion (ICF) and national security applications. He has been a leading member in many diverse teams of scientists performing complicated experiments at leading HED facilities, such as the National Ignition Facility (NIF), the Omega facility, Titan, Janus, LCLS and FLASH. He is a world leader in the use of X-ray scattering to diagnose HED plasmas as well as an expert in the areas of implosion diagnostics, radiography and the physics of ICF.

Doppner was one of the pioneers of indirect drive experiments on NIF when he published the first evidence of electron preheat in indirect-drive implosions on the laser. He also was responsible for some of the highest-performing ICF implosions to date. In 2013, he made fundamental contributions to the experiments that achieved fuel gain exceeding unity. He also was the lead author on the high-impact paper on the use of uranium hohlraums, which was essential to the success of these experiments.

"I've been at LLNL for almost 10 years now, and this is the first individual award that I have received," Doppner said. " I am grateful to all the people who mentored and supported me. Without their help I could not have accomplished the work that is recognized by this award selection."

He plans to continue working on developing X-ray Thomson scattering measurements from plasmas at extreme densities, generated by capsule implosion experiments at NIF.

Todd Gamblin

Todd Gamblin's research in high performance computing manages to be strong academically, while being programmatically relevant. He has been called "the whole package" -- from having creative ideas to implementing ideas in usable software to helping LLNL code teams to benefit from his work. His accolades include winning a $2 million DOE Early Career Research Program award, a 2015 LLNL Director's Institutional Operational Excellence award and a 2015 LLNL award for organization and reinvigorating the JOWOG 34 Applied CS Workshop.

Gamblin is leading the PAVE project, a pioneering effort that is revolutionizing how people look a performance data for HPC application. His DOE Early Career project is looking at applying statistical and machine learning techniques to exascale performance modeling.

"I feel honored to receive this award, and I'm fortunate to be able to work on interesting problems with a team of so many smart people," Gamblin said. "I don't think there are many places I could work on research and production projects together the way I do at LLNL."

He plans to spend more time on Spack, which is a flexible package manager for HPC software. There are a lot of things to do there -- from core challenges with dependency solving to building up the open source community. "Spack has grown extremely rapidly, and the extra time will help to ensure that the community is sustainable," he said.

Daniel Haylett

Within the space of a very few years at the Lab, Daniel Haylett has become a leading member of the primary design community within the Weapons and Design Physics Program of WCI, most recently becoming the primary physics lead for the LLNL ICBM system, the W87. He already had made significant contributions to the weapons program and has the potential to be a Laboratory leader in the coming years, especially if given the opportunity to pursue his varied research interests.

As the W87 primary lead for fewer than two years, Haylett has made significant advances in the investigation of the impacts of variations in manufacture, part acceptance and assembly on system performance.

"I feel incredibly honored to receive this award, and I think the credit for this award should be spread to the many people who have helped me throughout my time here," Haylett said. "I have found the Lab and my many mentors to be incredibly supportive. I am very thankful for this learning experience."

An early adopter of modern technologies, Haylett developed a novel, additively manufactured component in support of a recent Life Extension Project that has the potential to meet new and higher mechanical requirements. His new design required the development and use of new 3D computational methods, and the component itself could not have been manufactured using conventional technologies.

He plans to work on a project that will advance the Lab's goal of communicating complex ideas in a simpler way.

Michael Heffner

Since joining the Laboratory in 2000, Michael Heffner has made exceptional scientific and technical contributions to a number projects, and in so doing has established two high-visibility programs. Notably, he has consistently embodied a central theme of the Laboratory: the seamless melding of scientific discovery and programmatic relevance through technical excellence.

As his career at the lab has progressed, he has naturally assumed leadership roles in projects of increasing size, complexity and visibility. Recognizing that success in such roles requires constant professional growth, he has sought out both internal and external mentors. Not only has this allowed Heffner to develop the technical expertise necessary to deliver project success, it also provided him the perspective required to identify and meet the needs of the multiple stakeholders inevitably associated with large projects (sponsors, end users, Laboratory program managers, etc.).

"I see this as a great opportunity to further my passion for the basic science at LLNL and in particular the study of the neutrino, an elemental particle which we currently understand is one of the only handful of particles that make up everything in the universe," Heffner said. "The study of this weakly interacting particle could unlock clues to big questions about the universe such as 'Why do we exist?'"

Yongqin Jiao

Yongqin Jiao has exhibited talent and contribution to the establishment of a bioremediation and biomining research program in the Biology and Biotechnology Division of Physical and Life Sciences. Bioremediation has been identified as an important growth area, and she has been instrumental in building the foundation for this program. She has demonstrated an ability to build and contribute to cross-discipline teams that have made important contributions to the area of bioremediation. She also has hired some outstanding young postdocs (at least two of whom have been converted to staff) and has proven to be a thoughtful mentor.

Through wining a DOE Early Career Award in 2011 shortly after her postdoc conversion, Jiao established a microbiology research group focused on uranium bioremediation. With the help of five postdoc researchers, scientific discoveries from her group offer a novel strategy for uranium bioremediation through biology induced precipitation of uranium phosphate minerals. This process provides an appealing alternative to DOE for in situ uranium remediation of the legacy sites.

"I feel honored and very grateful for this award, especially for the fantastic colleagues who I work with every day," Jiao said. "I am looking forward to having some free time to explore opportunities for program development and to advance the next phase of my career -- I am in my last year of the early career category."

Peter Lindstrom

Peter Lindstrom is an internationally known expert in data optimal layouts, geometric modeling and processing and data compression for scientific and graphics applications. Year after year, he has continued to build recognition internationally as a visionary researcher with deep analytic skills and internally via collaborations with several LLNL code teams.

Over the last three years, he has produced fundamental advances in mature fields, deriving new layouts for binary trees, discovering a cache layout metric that generalizes Hilbert curves to unstructured grid and designing a new block-wise orthogonal transform that is a key component of his new ZFP compression technology. His new ZFP compressor outperforms all other competitors by a significant margin, including compression schemes also designed for scientific data.

"I feel very honored to receive this award and am excited about the opportunity to pursue new research directions," Lindstrom said. "This gives me a chance to explore high-risk, high-reward ideas that I have been eager to work on but not had dedicated funding for."

Specifically, Lindstrom will investigate how novel data compression techniques can be used to more accurately and efficiently solve partial differential equations and other numerical computations that underlie the Lab's many physics-based computer simulation codes. Such compressed data representations consume far less memory and data transfer bandwidth, and promise substantial performance gains and energy savings over conventional floating-point computations.

Rebecca Nikolic

Rebecca Nikolic is an internationally recognized expert in semiconductor device physics.

During her time at the Lab, she contributed to numerous programs, both internal and external, and has made fundamental scientific contributions in the areas of radiation detectors, micro-nano fabrication and materials science, opto-electronics and heterojunction transistors. The advances she has led with her team in microfabricated pillar devices have pushed the state of the art in radiation detection. She also effectively leveraged her expertise in semiconductors to develop programs in new and emerging global security areas, including radioisotope batteries, electronic warfare and wide bandgap semiconductors for high power electronics.

"I am grateful for the award, which is only possible because of the talented engineers, scientists and technologists I have had the pleasure to work with," Nikolic said.

Her activities have spanned basic research, device prototype development and maturing and transitioning technology to sponsors and industry. She also has been engaged in arms control and treaty verification activities. The quality of her work and professionalism have been acknowledged by numerous awards throughout her career, including four fellowships and a student paper award during her academic period, and 11 different awards from the Laboratory and NNSA for various technical and mentoring achievements.

She plans to leverage the Lab's work in 3D-structured semiconductor devices to find new areas to provide innovative solutions, particularly in detection, imaging and energy technologies.

Nathan Meezan

Joining the Lab in 2002, Nathan Meezan quickly established himself as one of LLNL's experts in hohlraum physics and design for laser-driven targets, and was chosen to be the lead designer for the very important first implosion campaign on the NIF laser. This campaign studied hohlraum energetics and drive symmetry. During that campaign, Meezan showed his technical and leadership skills. Despite being relatively junior, he played a significant role in bringing together the interdisciplinary team needed for those experiments -- target physicists, target fabrication specialists, diagnostic specialists and laser experts. He was one of winners of the 2012 APS John Dawson prize for Excellence in Plasma Physics for this work on NIF.

He led the high-density carbon (HDC, or diamond) ablator campaign on NIF. This campaign leverages his expertise in hohlraums by using a new low-fill, near- vacuum hohlraum. He championed this design, which has opened a whole new part of parameter space for hohlraums on NIF. The ICF program is actively pursuing multiple hohlraum designs like the one put forward by Meezan.

"I am extremely honored to receive this award," Meezan said. "I know many of the recipients of the EMCR, and I am humbled by their abilities and achievements. I am proud to be counted among them. I am also grateful for the excellent support and mentoring I have benefitted from during my LLNL career."

Michael Pivovaroff

Michael Pivovaroff's work on reflective X-ray optics includes fundamental research and development, pioneering new application areas and performing scientific investigations with the optics he designs. His research and leadership has been recognized by the broader scientific community. At the Laboratory, Pivovaroff has delivered important capabilities for several programs and has helped mentor new investigators who are pursuing their own X-ray optics research programs.

Pivovaroff has either been principal investigator or played key roles on projects that have developed X-ray optics in several new fields, including: hard X-ray astrophysics, preclinical nuclear medicine, nuclear safeguards, adaptive X-ray optics and solar axion searches. As Pivovaroff took on larger management roles at the Lab, he has made a point to identify and mentor new scientists who have successfully taken on responsibilities and become subject matter experts.

"All of us that develop technologies or conduct research work really hard and hope we're making a difference," he said. "To have my efforts recognized by the Lab is humbling."

Pivovaroff plans to further develop X-ray optics for solar axion searches. "I think X-ray optics can greatly enhance our ability to detect axions, a leading candidate for dark matter," he said. "I'm going to analyze some existing data and get that published. While it's only a small piece of a much bigger enterprise, it's exciting to be able to contribute to the search for dark matter."

Sofia Quaglioni

Sofia Quaglioni is best known for her leading role in the emergence of a pioneering capability, using ab initio (literally, from first principles) approaches combined with HPC, to accurately describe light-nuclei reactions for low-energy astrophysics and terrestrial fusion energy applications. Starting from the constituent protons and neutrons and the fundamental interactions among them, this method has brought a leap forward (unimaginable until only nine years ago) in the ability to accurately describe reactions between light ions in a thermonuclear environment, as well as the structural properties of exotic nuclei.

She also played a key role in the accurate determination of two- and three-nucleon forces grounded in the fundamental theory of quantum chromodynamics, delivering an internationally widely adopted model that provides a good description of nuclear structure and reaction properties of light nuclei. More recently Sofia's efforts have been dedicated to harnessing the effect of projectile and target deformation during a nuclear collision and systematically including three-nucleon forces in her reaction formalism.

"I feel extremely fortunate and honored that I have been selected as an EMCR winner and I am ecstatic at the prospect of being able to pursue my research interests through this amazing program," Quaglioni said. "Throughout my career at LLNL I have received extraordinary mentoring and support. This is the latest example of the unique opportunities that LLNL has provided me to grow scientifically."

Quaglioni plans to further extend a state-of-the art first-principles approach to light-nucleus reactions, which was initially developed here at LLNL with investments from an Laboratory Directed Research and Development project and later through a (now concluded) DOE Early Career Award. If successful, this new extension would enable the accurate prediction of nuclear reactions leading to the emission of three particles that are difficult to measure or simply inaccessible to experiment, but play a fundamental role in explaining the inner workings of the universe or are critical to the national security.

Vladimir Smalyuk

Vladimir Smalyuk is a world-recognized expert in hydrodynamics, as demonstrated by his 38 first-author publications in the field. He has been involved in understanding the impact of hydrodynamic instabilities on inertial confinement fusion, both direct and indirect drive, HED physics for stockpile stewardship and the role hydrodynamics play in astrophysical phenomena.

He is the experimental leader of capsule physics in the ICF Program. He has led the experimental development of adiabat-shaped implosions to develop a way to minimize hydrodynamic instabilities in low-adiabat ICF implosions. He has led the effort to reduce the impact of fill tubes on ICF implosions.

"I am very excited and feel honored," Smalyuk said. He plans to spend a portion of his time working with younger scientists on Discovery Science campaigns on NIF and "writing papers that I did not have time to work on before."

Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a member of the Chemical & Isotopic Signatures group. An esteemed leader, collaborator and mentor with a keen scientific mind, Weber is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable SIMS analysts in the world, with broad knowledge of biology, geochemistry, nuclear forensics and material science. At LLNL, he is the chief scientist and laboratory manager for the NanoSIMS, and a co-investigator on multiple. In the past decade, as the LLNL NanoSIMS group has expanded, he annually supervises 20 LLNL staff and 40 visitors on an instrument that is oversubscribed by a factor of two and operates 24/7.

Not simply a technical expert, Weber is a valued mentor to these scientists (many are students and postdocs), and is universally described as personable and supportive, willing to help all users with any problem. He continually develops intelligent, creative and effective experiments, as well as innovative ways to analyze and present data.

"It was very gratifying to my work and the work of my colleagues recognized," Weber said.

In his most recent work, Weber made key contributions to the CMX-5 international nuclear forensics exercise, sponsored at LLNL by the FBI. His discoveries of isotopic heterogeneity at the nanoscale during that exercise gave rise to his interest in developing new forensic tools for nuclear fuel pellets using NanoSIMS.

The most exciting part of the EMCR is that it will give me time to work on a new nuclear forensics project," Weber said. "We have obtained extremely interesting data showing that we can image isotopic heterogeneity in uranium fuel pellets, and I am very interested to see what kind of forensic information we can extract from these data. These samples were just part of an international nuclear forensics exercise, so the work is extremely timely and will be of broad interest in the nuclear forensics community."

Brandon Wood

Brandon Wood has a strong track record of not only scientific accomplishments that have garnered both internal and external recognition, he's also contributed significantly to program and reputation building at LLNL. Widespread recognition of his technical accomplishments is reflected in more than 20 invited talks at international conferences, including a prestigious Gordon Conference, and more than 25 additional invited seminars at institutions around the world. His publication record is epitomized by recent recognition with an LLNL Physical & Life Sciences Directorate Award for Excellence in Publication for joint experiment-theory work on interfacial phenomena in supercapacitors.

His interface modeling work in support of the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office led to a co-recipient of the 2014 Hydrogen Production R&D Award, for work on large-scale first-principles modeling of semiconductor-water interfaces for solar hydrogen production. He also was featured as an outstanding alumnus of the DOE Computational Science Graduate Fellowship program in the 2017CSGF annual report.

He also is principal investigator for the DOE EERE HydroGEN Advanced Water Splitting Materials Consortium, an energy materials network focused on hydrogen production from water.

"I'm thrilled to receive this award and to be associated with so many talented scientists at the Lab," Wood said. "It's such a wonderful and engaging team environment, and I continue to learn something new from my colleagues each day."

Wood plans to pursue new modeling capabilities for simulating chemistry and diffusion at complex interfaces. "This has long been an interest of mine and ties into several of the energy security arenas that I'm involved with at LLNL," he said. "The EMCR award will provide me with the flexibility to develop new skills and integrate diverse approaches from chemistry, materials science and advanced computing."

Tags: Science / Careers