National Nuclear Security Administration

Graduate Fellow Feature: Dr. Mark Walker

November 7, 2018

You are here

Dr. Mark Walker, Nevada Field Office Fellow.
Dr. Mark Walker, Nevada Field Office Fellow.

The NNSA Graduate Fellowship Program (NGFP) is a unique opportunity for recent graduates to join the Nuclear Security Enterprise. These full-time, salaried positions offer a year of specialized, on-the-job training and the chance to tackle real-world challenges in one of NNSA’s program offices. Fellows develop technical and leadership skills to launch their careers with a full immersion in one of NNSA’s core mission programs.

What is your academic background/field of study?

I have a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. While I was an undergraduate student, I also spent time as an intern at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where I worked on equipment for detecting and characterizing nuclear materials. After that, I moved on to the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, where I studied both the technical and political dimensions of nuclear nonproliferation. In May of this year, I defended my dissertation, which examined the evolution of international safeguards at gas centrifuge enrichment plants.

What drew you to the NGFP program?

From conversations that I’d had with current and former fellows before I applied to NGFP, it was clear to me that the NGFP cares deeply about professional development. I’d had my sights set on a career in national security for quite some time, and the NGFP’s job placement statistics were impressive. Beyond that, however, I was impressed by the depth of support that NGFP and the NNSA offices give to fellows participating in training activities, conferences, and networking opportunities. These expectations have held true while I’ve been a fellow, and as a result, I’ve been able to learn things that were far outside my area of expertise coming into the fellowship, which will hopefully serve me later in my career.

What interests you most about nuclear security?

Nuclear security—from nuclear deterrence, to nonproliferation, to counterterrorism—is an important component of U.S. national security, as well as global security. For me, contributing to these efforts is both motivating and rewarding. I also find nuclear security to be an intellectually stimulating topic. Much of the work in this field involves a complex interplay between highly technical and deeply political issues, which often gives rise to the need for out-of-the-box solutions.

What has surprised you about the program?

I’m surprised by the breadth of experience within my fellowship cohort. While there are a fair number of nuclear engineering graduates and nuclear policy wonks in our group, many fellows come from other backgrounds, ranging from geology to law. While some of us went straight from college to grad school, others have extensive work experience. With this diversity, we have a lot to learn from each other’s experiences, in addition to what we’re learning through our individual taskings.

The NGFP is funded by NNSA and is administered by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Explore a career in nuclear security!