Working in stewardship science: An early-career perspective

By Amy E. Lovell, Los Alamos National Laboratory

As a graduate student at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL), I studied few-body reaction theory, ranging from few-nucleon models for rare isotopes to uncertainty quantification for the phenomenological optical potential. 

Going into my third year, I was awarded the Stewardship Science Graduate Fellowship (SSGF), which in addition to funding up to four years of graduate studies, also provided a broader picture of challenges and opportunities in stewardship science, connections to the NNSA laboratories and staff, and a cohort of researchers in related fields. 

Through the fellowship, I spent 12 weeks at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) during my PhD, exploring uncertainty quantification for applications in hydrology. This experience at LANL–and the connections I made with the nuclear theory group there–led me to apply for a postdoctoral position at the lab.

At LANL, I began to study fission theory, connecting my background in reactions and uncertainty quantification to a topic that is integral to stewardship science, non-proliferation, and other national security applications.

Now as a staff member in the nuclear theory group, my work encompasses the fundamentals of fission modeling, optimization and uncertainty quantification for nuclear data, and calculations for laboratory missions. LANL provides an excellent environment for studying theory, with a strong connection to national security applications.

The skills that I developed as a graduate student at NSCL gave me a good foundation for a national laboratory career, with a strong theory background, the chance to interact with experimental colleagues, and the flexibility to work on a variety of projects.