NIF contributes to U.S. competitiveness significantly by training future generations of scientists. NIF experiments help maintain the skills of nuclear weapons scientists and train the next generation of experts to maintain the nation’s nuclear stockpile. From tours of the facility to our highly competitive summer student program, to our postdoctoral scholar appointments, NIF is teaching the future science stars who will help maintain the nation’s leadership in science and technology.
An especially valuable source of next-generation stewardship scientists is NIF’s collaborations with universities in its Discovery Science (DS) program. Making NIF available to outside researchers not only provides opportunities for advancing basic science; it also serves as career development and an opportunity for innovative high energy density (HED) science for NIF scientists, who spend most of their time performing experiments in pursuit of long-range national security goals.
By devoting a nominal portion of their time to DS projects, NIF scientists stay current on cutting-edge science and experimental techniques, which in turn keeps their thinking nimble and leads to the publication of results in high-impact journals.
In addition, NIF’s academic users are innovative thinkers and future leaders in the scientific community—just the sort of people with whom LLNL would wish to form lasting relationships. While encouraging potential new hires to pursue careers at the Laboratory—especially candidates who are much sought-after by prestigious academic institutions—LLNL benefits from its ability to offer continued access to leading-edge research. All of the LLNL scientists who assist DS users do so voluntarily.
In the nine years since the inception of the fundamental science program, about a dozen scientists who brought projects to the program while in graduate school have joined Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia national laboratories—clear evidence that the program provides a success path between top academic institutions and the labs.