Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

August 23, 2023

The NIF&PS Summer Scholar Program poster symposium contest winners pose with the program’s staff at the conclusion of the Aug. 2 symposium at LLNL’s Research LibraryThe NIF&PS Summer Scholar Program poster symposium contest winners pose with the program’s staff at the conclusion of the Aug. 2 symposium at LLNL’s Research Library. From left: Alex Do, Patrick Poole, Tyler Howard, Samuel Schumacher, Elias Anwar, Joe Henderson, Carly Winters, Amber Fry, Jordan Graham, Alexis Diaz, Izzy Rodger, Danyelle Asbe, and Zhi Liao. Photos by Jason Laurea.

The NIF&PS Summer Scholar Program had a record year in 2023—and the program’s director says it’s directly related to LLNL’s fusion ignition milestone last Dec. 5.

“I lot of students were excited about joining NIF because of ignition and said so on their application statements,” said Summer Scholar Program Director Patrick Poole. “They said they wanted to be a part of that science. I’m impressed that there are these scientifically minded students out there who wanted to come and be a part of it.”

On Dec. 5, 2022, LLNL achieved a major scientific breakthrough—six decades in the making—that will lead to advancements in national defense and enhance the promise of clean fusion energy. On that day, a team at NIF, the world’s largest and highest-energy laser, demonstrated fusion ignition for the first time in a laboratory setting, producing more energy from a fusion reaction than the laser energy used to drive it.

Summer Scholar Program intern Joe Henderson explains his poster entrySummer Scholar Program intern Joe Henderson explains his poster entry, “Optimization of a Nuclear Diagnostic using GEANT4 Particle Transport Simulations.” Henderson won the Judge’s Choice In the graduate division of the poster contest.

The buzz over the ignition milestone carried over to an all-time high in the number of Summer Scholar Program interns—92 in all—up from about 70 last year. And the number of applicants for this year’s program also increased by nearly 50 percent, from the usual 270 each year to about 410. Poole said the surge in applicants prompted program staff to issue an early call for Lab mentors, who responded in record numbers.

“The NIF&PS summer program is an integral component of our ability to recruit and develop the best and the brightest talent in the nation,” said NIF&PS Workforce Manager Zhi Liao. “The success of ignition and the continued growth of our programs require a sustainable recruiting and hiring strategy. The NIF&PS Summer Scholar Program is the key to excite, motivate, and promote the next generation of the Lab’s workforce.”

Added Poole: “The tenor of our whole summer program has been, ‘Let’s capitalize on the excitement,’ and give students these opportunities to learn and show how cool it is to work here.” He said he hoped the excitement created by the Lab’s ignition milestone would have a positive impact on the summer program for years to come.

This year’s program also marked a return to pre-pandemic times, as nearly all the interns were on-site at the Lab. Poole said the program will retain some of its hybrid components to accommodate the few ¬†interns who were off-site.

“It kind of feels like business as usual,” Poole said. “You walk down the hallway and you see people chatting and students talking to scientists in their offices. It’s a nice atmosphere that the mentors really helped us cultivate. All the thanks goes to everybody who mentored these students.”

The program celebrated the end of its record year with the annual poster symposium contest on Aug. 2, which drew an energetic crowd of about 150 interns, mentors, and supporters to the Lab’s Research Library.

“If you look around, you’ll see really high-quality stuff,” Poole said at the symposium. “We got the cream of the crop that wanted to come here. They’ve done some great work over the past 10 weeks of the program and it’s really rewarding to see this.”

An estimated crowd of 150 interns, judges, and supporters participated in the Summer Scholar Program poster symposiumAn estimated crowd of 150 interns, judges, and supporters participated in the Summer Scholar Program poster symposium that featured 71 posters, up significantly from last year’s 40 entries.

Outreach librarian Mari Thurgate said the turnout impressed the Research Library’s staff. “It’s really wonderful having the students come through the library,” she said. “We’re also really pleased that the mentors and staff are becoming reacquainted with the library.”

Alex Do, who was in charge of the symposium, said more judges were recruited than in the past so they could each assess fewer posters and  give valuable feedback to the interns.

“I think it’s more important that the students get something out of this experience,” Do said. “The students are the future of physics here, so it’s great to have them interact with everybody.”

Winners of this year’s poster symposium contest were:

Judges Choice


  • Carly Winters—“Automatic Disposable Debris Shield Transport and Handling Design Upgrade”


  • Joe Henderson—“Optimization of a Nuclear Diagnostic using GEANT4 Particle Transport Simulations”

People’s Choice


  • First place: Amber Fry—“Quantifying and Visualizing Target Fabrication Production Operational Performance”
  • Second place: Jordan Graham—“Organic matter derivatization techniques for GC-MS analysis of soils, sediments, and microorganisms”
  • Third place (tie): Izzy Rogers—“An Investigation of the Time-Evolution of Pre-Plasma Density Scale Length (L0) Using FLASH;” Alexis Diaz—“Efficient Representation of Proton Radiograph Images for Machine Learning Applications in Laser Plasma Interactions”


  • First place: Elias Anwar—“Laser-induced dewetting in vicinity of optically engineered materials”
  • Second place: Samuel Schumacher—“Towards the First Measurement of the Opacity of Warm Dense Hydrogen Using the NIF”
  • Third place: Tyler Howard—“Evaluation of Opto-mechanical Models of Stress-induced Birefringence”

“I would like to thank the summer scholar team for another exciting and exceptional summer,” Liao said. “The poster symposium is the capstone of the entire summer and it was exceptional. The entire team, led by Patrick Poole and Danyelle Asbe, should be commended for delivering such as dynamic experience for all the interns.”

Members of the Summer Scholar Program team for 2023 were: Liao, Poole, Asbe, Do, Samuel McLaren, Payal Singh, Sara Novell, Ryan Gini, Debbie Bradford, Pamela Newcomb, and Nicolle Dunn.

More Information:

Summer Scholar Internship Program

“Intern Follows His Lifelong Passion for Science to LLNL,” NIF & Photon Science News, August 23, 2023

“NIF&PS Summer Scholar Wants to Be an Inspiration to Other Students,” NIF & Photon Science News, August 23, 2023

“A Passion for Physics Drives NIF Summer Intern Danny Attiyah,” NIF & Photon Science News, August 9, 2023

“Summer Intern Learns at Intersection of Chemistry and Optical Fiber,” NIF & Photon Science News, July 26, 2023

“LLNL Advances Make NIF Summer Scholar Program a Coveted Internship,” NIF & Photon Science News, Feb. 2, 2023

—Jon Kawamoto

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