National Nuclear Security Administration

Graduate Fellow Feature: Josh Cunningham

December 4, 2018

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Josh Cunningham, an NNSA Graduate Fellowship Program fellow at Y-12 National Security Complex.
Josh Cunningham, an NNSA Graduate Fellowship Program fellow at Y-12 National Security Complex.

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 or field of study?

I hold a Master of Science in communication and information from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. My graduate school research focused primarily on risk communication in the energy sector. Before my fellowship, I was a science-writing intern at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where I composed articles about the Department of Energy’s Summit and Titan supercomputers.

What drew you to the NGFP program?

I came across the NGFP annual report while working as an intern at Oak Ridge. I was so impressed by the individuals as well as the work they accomplished during the year of their fellowship. It was clear to me that NGFP would be a program that would help me grow professionally and allow me to participate in programs that I found personally fulfilling.

What are you currently doing for NNSA?

I serve as the Federal Project Director Assistant for the Uranium Processing Facility Project Office (UPO) at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. This office is responsible for the construction of the Uranium Processing Facility, a complex that will ensure the long-term viability, safety, and security of enriched uranium capabilities in the United States.

In my day-to-day work, I support the office’s Business Management and Federal Project Director Support Division and regularly interface with Y-12 and UPO’s Office of Public Affairs. A project this large and intricate provides me plenty of opportunities to flex the technical communication skills I gained in graduate school while expanding my breadth of knowledge in project management and nuclear security.

What advice would you give prospective fellows?

If working as a part of the NNSA is intriguing to you, do not let a lack of a specific technical or policy background stop you from pursuing this opportunity. There is plenty of need for individuals from diverse backgrounds within this program and NNSA as a whole. The most critical quality that an NGFP Fellow can possess is not nuclear know-how, but a willingness to learn and serve.

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