Maintaining Excellence through Intellectual Vitality
MEETING the ever-changing needs of national security requires constantly evaluating Livermore’s programs and fostering new ideas in science and technology. An integral component of our plan for continually invigorating science and technology at the Laboratory is to recruit the brightest scientists and engineers. When Edward Teller cofounded the Laboratory, he understood that fostering an environment of intellectual vitality was necessary to maintain scientific and technological excellence. He also recognized the importance of providing next-generation scientists and engineers practical work experience while they are graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.
One of Teller’s legacies is the Student Employee Graduate Research Fellowship (SEGRF) Program. For more than 40 years, this program has provided students from the University of California (UC) the opportunity to work part-time at the Laboratory while completing their dissertations. During their fellowships, the students are exposed to Livermore’s multidisciplinary team approach that has been a hallmark of our successes. SEGRF, as part of a greater outreach effort managed by Livermore’s University Relations Program, is among the Laboratory’s most successful vehicles for recruiting tomorrow’s workforce and for maintaining the intellectual vitality of our scientific and technological research.
Originally open just to students at UC Davis’s Department of Applied Science, the SEGRF Program has expanded over the years to accept applications from all science and engineering departments at the 10 UC campuses. The Laboratory has been pleased with the results of the program’s expansion and its continued robust performance. We are also pleased that SEGRF attracts a diverse group of students, not only in scientific and technological areas of interest but also in gender and race.
The article entitled “Next-Generation Scientists and Engineers Tap Lab’s Resources” reports on some of the fundamental research conducted by several current and former SEGRF students. They work with scientists and engineers across the directorates, from the National Ignition Facility Programs to Chemistry and Materials Science to Biosciences, in disciplines ranging from optical materials to detectors to advanced simulations. In one project, students are researching instruments to protect the nation from bioterrorist or radiological attacks. Students are also conducting studies to further our understanding of materials during phase transitions and under extreme temperatures and pressures. This research applies directly to our stockpile stewardship efforts to better understand metals as they age. Other research includes conditioning crystals for the National Ignition Facility and simulating the phase transitions of carbon.
The SEGRF Program is highly competitive, ensuring that we attract the brightest students. The students seed many interactions and collaborative research efforts. Students apply as a team that includes their UC thesis advisor and a Laboratory technical mentor. Some UC professors have sent us a continuing flow of high-quality students, strengthening the Laboratory’s partnership with their campuses. One measure of the program’s success is that over the past five years, 45 percent of the students have become Laboratory employees after completing their education.
Our next-generation scientists and engineers help us to remain a beacon of scientific inquiry and intellectual rigor. They share a passion for mission with our scientific and technical workforce that helps make it possible for Livermore to respond to new national challenges as they arise.