Laboratory researchers recognized for accomplishments in early and mid-career

Sept. 5, 2018

Fifteen Lab scientists and engineers have been named to Lawrence Livermore's Early and Mid-Career Recognition (EMCR) Program. From top left: 
Abhinav Bhatele, Daniel Casey, Rebecca Dylla-Spears, Andrea Kritcher, Mark Zelinka, Peer-Timo Bremer, Daniel Clark, Jonathan DuBois, Michael Stadermann, Trevor Willey, Laurent Divol, Erik Draeger, Selim Elhadj, Gabriela Loots and Scott McCall. (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) fourth annual Early and Mid-Career Recognition (EMCR) Program.

The EMCR Program recognizes scientific and technical accomplishments, leadership and future promise demonstrated by LLNL scientists and engineers in their early to mid-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 2018 EMCR winners are:


Five to 10 years

Abhinav Bhatele
Abhinav Bhatele’s research has focused on three main areas: optimizing communication of a parallel application on supercomputers to maximize performance; detailed, parallel modeling of supercomputer networks; and visual analytic tools for performance analysis. He was lead principal investigator (PI) for the Scalable Topology Aware Task Embedding (STATE) LDRD FY13–15, where he developed technology to optimize the layout of parallel jobs to supercomputers based on the network topology. His work on pF3D identified and fixed a major performance bug that led to a nine-times improvement in communication time and a 1.7 time improvement in overall time. He served as the lead PI for the ASCR Beyond Standard Modeling project and as lead PI for a LEARN project on exploring asynchronous task-based models for WCI codes. He has contributed to numerous software tools including Rubik, Chizu, Damselfly, TraceR, DragonView, TreeScope, CallFlow and Spack.

His supercomputer network simulations are beginning to inform people making procurement decisions for the HPC systems purchased by LLNL. He has contributed to performance visualization with new tools like CallFlow (a new application of the Sankey graph-style visualization).

“I am honored to be recognized with this award,” Bhatele said. “I am truly thankful for the mentorship I receive in CASC/Computation and for the opportunity to work with so many great scientists. I hope I can put the recognition and associated funding to good use by identifying and starting new collaborations with colleagues at the Laboratory and other external researchers worldwide.”

Since researchers are encouraged to think outside the box when it comes to how to use the funding that goes along with the award, Bhatele plans on “visiting a potential collaborator in Germany to identify areas for collaboration along the lines of performance analysis and data analytics for high performance computing, and to develop expertise in the area of machine learning.”

Daniel Casey
After arriving at LLNL, Casey became the lead experimentalist on several campaigns on the National Ignition Facility (NIF) and OMEGA supporting National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) programs. He worked on developing and fielding the NIF Hydro-Growth Radiography (HGR) experimental capability, and on the inertial confinement fusion (ICF) “adiabat-shaping” campaign. Both HGR and “adiabat-shaped” experiments demonstrated the importance of the hydrodynamic instabilities for the implosion performance at high compression. Casey also has used a variety of nuclear experimental data to study stellar-core conditions.

Recently, Casey was appointed experimental co-lead of the the Bigfoot and Hybrid B campaigns in LLNL's ICF program. This effort has included developing a new high area-density hotspot concept to study hotspot formation and attempt to develop a high adiabat platform with predictable performance. The stagnation campaign also has successfully performed experiments that have quantified the repeatability of NIF’s record-performance high-foot implosions and tested the sensitivity of that platform to intentional perturbations in drive-symmetry, layer-symmetry and layer-age.

“I am so very honored and humbled to be among the awardees this year,” Casey said. “I have had the great fortune to work with many extraordinarily talented people here at the Laboratory, and this award is simply a reflection of that opportunity.”

Rebecca Dylla-Spears
Rebecca Dylla-Spears’ contributions range from NIF target capabilities, which led to the first layered targets for ICF experiments, to recent achievements in additive manufacturing of optics. She has worked on understanding mechanisms for colloid stabilization in slurries and the hydrogen supercooling kinetics on templated materials.

A technical group leader at NIF&PS, her work to develop additively manufactured optics containing functional gradients will enable new optical materials and components that will enable lighter, more compact systems of interest in defense, energy, space and global security applications.

Andrea Kritcher
Andrea Kritcher is a designer in the ICF program, joining the Lab as a staff member in 2012. She was the lead on developing NIF’s best 2D integrated hohlraum-capsule post-shot models for the high-gas-fill hohlraum high-foot implosion database and is an expert on questions of symmetry control in hohlraums. She was the developer of the 2D integrated capsule-hohlraum HYDRA “common” model for integrated experiments that was the critical part of a major L2 milestone for the ICF Program in 2017.

She is design lead of the ICF Program’s new “hybrid” implosion design effort, an effort that attempts to take the best elements of past designs and utilize data-based understanding of the key physics factors that control symmetry and performance in order to position the ICF program to field large-scale (>1x) ignition-relevant implosions that utilize full-NIF power/energy capacity.

“I am very honored to receive this award and thankful for the unexpected recognition, especially considering the multitude of intelligent and hardworking people here at the Laboratory,” Kritcher said. She is brainstorming about how she’d like to use her additional funding. “In addition to possible research projects, I am also considering taking advantage of this time to develop my leadership skills by participating in LLNL-sponsored programs,” she said. 

Mark Zelinka
Mark Zelinka is a climate scientist who works to understand how clouds affect Earth's energy budget, how and why cloud properties change under climate change and Earth's sensitivity to carbon dioxide.

He has developed a novel technique for quantifying cloud feedbacks and gaining insights into their underlying causes that has become widely used in the research community. Results from these papers were featured prominently in Chapter 7 ("Clouds and Aerosols") of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s Fifth Assessment Report.

“I’m really grateful to be honored like this,” Zelinka said. “I feel privileged to be able to work alongside world-class scientists in the climate program.”


Eleven to 15 years

Peer-Timo Bremer
Peer-Timo Bremer has developed visualization and data analysis techniques and contributed to topological analysis, high-dimensional visualization, image segmentation, large-scale data processing and other data science topics. He guides a team of machine learning researchers involved in applications in material science, CT scan reconstruction, non-destructive evaluation and computing performance analysis. He is the machine learning lead for the NNSA/NHI Pilot 2 cancer research problem, where he is responsible for designing and leading the multi-scale workflow; the machine learning lead for the Cognitive Computing SI LDRD; and the connectome lead for the ACTIV TBI project.

“I feel honored for being selected for the award and I am thankful for the great opportunities I have been given at the Laboratory,” Bremer said. “At the same time I am very thankful for all the mentorship I have received, which has helped me tremendously, as well as for all my exceptional colleagues, whether they are staff members, postdocs or students. Without their support none of this would have been possible.”

Bremer plans to engage in some tech-transfer opportunities to make Lab technology more publicly available and to explore some of the promising research ideas in data analysis that have been shelved over the last couple of years.

Daniel Clark
Daniel Clark contributes to the ICF program. He began at LLNL studying hydrodynamic instabilities in ICF capsule implosions. During the National Ignition Campaign (NIC) at the NIF facility, Clark developed the standard modeling methodology for capsule simulations of NIF experiments. He developed a state-of-the-art, high-resolution 3D model of NIC implosions, incorporating all known sources of hydrodynamic perturbation and drive asymmetry and models of the later high-foot implosions, explaining their performance improvements. His work continues to guide implosion designs within the ICF Program.

“I’m deeply honored to receive this award,” he said. “I’ve always considered it a privilege to work with so many exceptional colleagues and such state-of-the-art facilities as we have here at LLNL. To be recognized in this way is, however, especially gratifying. “

Clark plans to more fully explore the possibility of short-wavelength hydrodynamics in NIF hohlraums using the best simulation tools available at LLNL. In particular, he will use the AMR and mix model capabilities of LLNL’s ARES code.

Jonathan DuBois
Jonathan DuBois joined LLNL in 2007 and has emerged as a leader in the rapidly developing field of quantum computing. His initial work at LLNL was in Path Integral Monte Carlo (PIQMC) codes and methods. Computationally demanding QMC is considered to be the gold standard of predictive theoretical methods. He has used PIQMC to calculate properties of high-pressure phases of materials relevant to stockpile stewardship. DuBois is group leader of the Quantum Coherent Device Physics Group in the Physics Division (PLS). He is the PI of three projects in quantum computing funded by LDRD-SI (“Enhanced Coherence for Quantum Sensing and Simulation“), DOE/ASCR (“Quantum Testbed Pathfinder Program”) and DOE/NNSA/ASC (“Beyond Moore’s Law: Quantum”). These projects span the field of quantum computing, ranging over development of hardware, algorithms, device fabrication and error correction.

“I feel grateful for the support and recognition,” Dubois said. He plans to explore novel fabrication and control techniques for quantum coherent devices.

Michael Stadermann
Michael Stadermann has developed many enabling technologies as the target fabrication S&T leader, where he is responsible for making the HED/ICF physicists target designs into reality. His efforts have led to obtaining critical physics data in key experiments on NIF. He has guided and contributed to efforts to minimize or replace the tents that support the capsule in the hohlraum, to develop low-density foam liners for hohlraums and to improve beryllium and high-density carbon ablators.

He is an expert on the fabrication, characterization and application of ultrathin polymer films (“tents”) for supporting NIF capsules. He defined and commissioned the initial (45 mm) and current state-of-the-art (15 mm) tent fabrication processes.

Stadermann also was the PI for a recently concluded LDRD ER project aimed at advancing the science of fabrication and the characterization of the mechanical performance of ultrathin films. He developed methodologies to measure stress/strain curves for ultra-thin films, which he then applied to development of cross-linked and graphene composite films. The LDRD project resulted in a R&D 100 Award this past year. He also maintains an active scientific presence extending his carbon nanotube research into capacitive desalination and energy storage.

“I feel excited and honored that my work at the Lab is recognized with this prestigious award, and I want to thank all of the people who have contributed and made this possible,” he said.

Staderman plans to continue his desalination work.

Trevor Willey
Trevor Willey applies modern materials evaluation methods in areas such as LLNL’s high explosives (HE) programs as well as in the nanomaterials and synchrotron-based materials characterization. Willey has spearheaded LLNL research efforts and capability development at the Dynamic Compression Sector, an NNSA facility at the Advanced Photon Source, that cross-cut each of these scientific communities.

He brought operational status to a one-of-a-kind capability for structural investigations of detonation phenomena at a previously inaccessible combination of time and length scales. This in-situ capability enables X-ray scattering and imaging measurements of nanosecond phenomena with resolutions from angstroms to microns that provide critical information for HE model validation.

Willey led efforts to apply monochromatic micro-CT X-ray analysis to samples of plastic-bonded high explosives that provided the first ever view of the distribution of their polymeric binder. XCT structural characterization provided direct evidence that these materials self-assemble during the formulation process. His work, which includes the development of new codes for data analysis, also demonstrated that the structural motifs probed by XCT are relevant to the performance of the HEs.

A constant focus of his research has been the relationship between structure and properties of nanomaterials. He has applied synchrotron-based diagnostics to probe nanostructured materials with applications in fields ranging from biomaterials to lightweighting, and from energy storage materials to sensors.

“I’m honored and humbled to receive an Early and Mid-Career Award,” Wiley said. “I thoroughly enjoy synergistically working with, and appreciate support of, many mentors and colleagues here at Livermore.”

Wiley plans to explore new research possibilities, directions and collaborations in applying fast X-ray techniques to reaction dynamics, chemical kinetics and electronic structure evolution.


Sixteen to 20 years

Laurent Divol
Laurent Divol is a leader in ICF and laser-plasma physics. After joining LLNL in 2001, Divol led a number of projects to benchmark laser-plasma interaction modeling capabilities against experiments for indirect-drive-ICF, in preparation for the first NIF experiments. These efforts combined experimental work at some of the major laser facilities in the U.S. (Omega, Janus and Trident lasers) with theoretical and computational work. Since 2012, he has focused his efforts on improving the ICF experiments performance by delivering more laser energy into the hohlraum and onto the fusion capsule. In particular, he must be credited for the use of low-gas-fill hohlraums on the NIF, after pushing the concept from a diagnostic calibration platform (the “indirectly- riven exploding pusher”) to a major design now adopted by all ICF campaigns — and having achieved the highest fusion energy to date on NIF.

“I am grateful to the Lab for this opportunity,” Divol said. “After spending most of my career thinking about lasers, plasmas and inertial confinement fusion, I feel ready to use the time offered to learn about something radically different, knowing that this Laboratory’s environment is the perfect place for such an endeavor. Climate modeling, artificial intelligence, more down-to-earth applications come to mind…Now the ‘hard’ part is to choose.

“It depends on what I learn next year using the awarded time. At this point, it is more ‘open my mind’ than 'career change,’ which I think is in line with the goals of such an award.”

Erik Draeger

Erik Draeger joined LLNL as a postdoc, publishing three papers in Physics Review Letters, and was PI of an LDRD on coupled quantum-classical simulations of P450 enzymes. He worked with Francois Gygi to port and optimize Qbox on the Blue Gene/L supercomputer. Their achievement was selected as a 2005 Gordon Bell prize finalist. Draeger assumed primary responsiblity for the Qbox project 2005. He led the coding and optimization accomplishment that resulted in the 2006 Gordon Bell Prize. Draeger joined the ddcMD code team in 2008 and developed a scalable Poisson solver and parallel decomposition strategy that was integral to the Supercomputing 2009 paper selected as a Gordon Bell prize finalist. He also was one of the original authors of the Cardioid code, a joint project with IBM to develop a massively parallel cardiac simulation capability on the Sequoia Blue Gene/Q machine. The code achieved 60 percent theoretical floating-point peak performance and near real-time simulation at full scale and the results earned the distinction as a 2012 Gordon Bell prize finalist. In 2017, Draeger was selected as deputy director of Application Development for the Exascale Computing Project.

“I’m really honored to receive this award and excited by the opportunity it presents to pursue some independent research,” Draeger said. “The longer I work at LLNL, the more impressed I am by the opportunities the Lab provides to grow and develop as a researcher and a leader.”

Draeger plans to collaborate with a research group at Duke University, headed by former LLNL Lawrence Fellow Amanda Randles, to develop a highly parallel circulatory modeling code for use on next-generation supercomputers.

Selim Elhadj
Selim Elhadj’s contributions are in the area of the science and technology of optical materials for high-performance lasers and gas phase-based approaches to additive manufacturing of metals impacting Laboratory missions in NIF&PS and WCI and materials capabilities in PLS. His LDRD work on IR laser-based mitigation of damage sites on fused silica optics helped gain a fundamental understanding of laser-driven surface modification of wide gap materials. It helped to clarify the factors necessary for a successful damage mitigation strategy, which was implemented in the NIF optics recycle loop, a large optics management strategy that allows NIF to operate daily at required shot rate and energy. Recently, his LDRD team used experimentally validated molecular dynamics simulations to understand dislocation dynamics in gold nanoparticle thin films as part of a wider study to explore high-damage-threshold transparent conductors. As a result of this LDRD, new devices with enhanced performance (high energy optical switching and modulation) can be addressed to continue pushing the limits of optoelectronic devices used in high-power optical and electrical systems. His team recently demonstrated the highest optical damage performance of any known thin transparent conductive films.

“I feel very honored by this recognition considering the caliber of scientists and engineers at LLNL,” Elhadj said. “I personally recognize the role of LLNL as an institution that provides opportunities for growth, and especially my colleagues, postdocs and students, without whom I wouldn’t have had this opportunity for my work and contributions to be recognized. An individual recognition for what amounts to a collective effort over the years.”

Elhadj plans to explore the possibility of using a laser-based approach for defect reduction and annealing in semiconductors used for radiation-voltaics to extend their lifetime in long-lasting batteries. It would be a new working collaboration with Becky Nikolic (a previous DMTS member) and her group in Global Security.

Gabriela Loots
Gabriela Loots has led a foundational program in functional human genomics. She employs sequencing technologies, bioinformatics, animal models and molecular biology to understand genetic and environmental causes of human diseases, such as cancer, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, skeletal development and tissue regeneration.

As an independent investigator at LLNL, she determined that Van Buchem Disease (a high bone mass disorder) is caused by a noncoding regulatory mutation and found that sclerostin (Sost) is a master regulator of bone homeostasis. Sost antibodies are undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of osteoporosis. Loots’ team has mapped out many of the current known interactions between Sost and its upstream and downstream regulators. Loots is developing a program in post-traumatic osteoarthritis, exploiting genomic approaches to understand how the knee develops osteoarthritis after a severe injury.  

Scott McCall
Scott McCall conducts research within the Critical Materials Institute, a DOE hub that focuses on technologies that make better use of critical materials and eliminates the need for materials that are subject to supply disruptions. He was PI of the advanced manufacturing of magnets project. In 2016 he became the CMI Magnet thrust lead. As part of the CMI, McCall also is the project lead for developing aluminum-cerium alloys (ACE). This project advanced from concept to commercially licensed product in three years through the efforts of three national laboratories, two universities and an industrial partner. This team won an R&D 100 award for “ACE — The Ageless Aluminum Revolution” in 2017. McCall also has worked in the field of actinide and lanthanide materials, studying plutonium aging and condensed matter science.


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