Article by MIDN 3/c Zachary Litwin
How should clandestine capabilities affect deterrence policies? Could supercomputer simulations replace nuclear testing? What do quantum mechanical models contribute to predictive theories of fission?
For over 60 years, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has answered questions like these. The Laboratory is the multidisciplinary conception of two physicists and was established during the Cold War to further nuclear research being done at Los Alamos. Its first major breakthrough was a warhead for the Navy’s submarine-launched Polaris missiles.
Today, the Laboratory’s focus on strategic deterrence and nuclear security continues. However, its mission has expanded to include many other research directions that change how America fights and wins. Over 40% of the scientists and engineers employed by the Laboratory hold Ph.D.s, and from the newest smart weapon to the world’s fastest supercomputer, Lawrence Livermore has it all.
To educate the next generation and preserve existing partnerships, the Laboratory hosts hundreds of undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate interns each summer. Among these visiting students are Midshipmen, Cadets, and Active Duty Officers from the Navy, Army, and Air Force. In fact, there is a program that brings in ROTC students as well as recently commissioned officers. Internships manager Barry Goldman explains, “LLNL is a Department of Energy (DoE), National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Defense and National Security Lab. As such, there is a lot we do that supports DoD. By providing support to researchers, ROTC [interns] learn about us and what we do for the military. We see this as a win-win for you and your careers and possibly for LLNL… You bring energy and motivation, and of course, you support the military.”
All interns either do a research project or support their assigned mentor’s research. Additionally, interns can choose to attend guest speaker events, seminars, and tutorials held on campus by experts from various agencies and universities. Some research groups hold classes taught by experienced faculty for their interns.
The culture at the Laboratory is perfect for individuals who demonstrate initiative and a strong desire to learn and work alongside teams of experts. Over 1000 lab employees hold Ph.D.s., so interns learn something new every day. According to Barry Goldman, “students consistently count ‘mentorship’ as one big positive takeaway at the end of the summer.” Thanks in part to the lab’s historical and continued multidisciplinary employment structure, an intern or scientist’s background is leveraged in projects both within and outside of their academic discipline. For example, a computer science major could perform valuable work in both cybersecurity operations and life sciences directorates.
As a math major, I had an internship in cybersecurity at LLNL. During my time at the Lab, I completed an initial research project on a topic that my mentors were interested in exploring further. My mentors shared a passion for the topics that I explored, and they were eager to pass their knowledge and experience down to me. In particular, my senior mentor’s decades of experience at the Lab gave him tremendous context to explain the constitutional, legal, and policy issues surrounding cyber security. All in all, I had a great experience as an intern and would highly recommend the internship to anyone with an interest in the science behind the defense of our nation.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory boasts an impressive collection of user facilities (totaling $6 billion) and access to game-changing technologies hidden from corporate and public view, but its most valuable asset is its innovative culture and workforce. Just as it did during the Cold War, the Laboratory mixes academic research with practical applications to create asymmetrical advantages and solve future problems. Among the solutions that the Laboratory has provided are high performance computing simulations, chemical and biological warfare agent detection technology, and the foundations of the Human Genome Project.
At the lab, ROTC student interns and newly commissioned officers can make valuable contributions to defense and national security while learning about real-world uses of their field of study.
For those interested in an internship opportunity at LLNL, the deadline for resume submission is February 28th, but applying early is best. Midshipmen who plan to apply should reach out to me for advice on the application process.