National Nuclear Security Administration

Graduate Fellow Feature: Tim Ault

April 12, 2018

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Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Fellow Tim Ault
Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Fellow Tim Ault

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 drew you to the NGFP?

Nuclear topics have always offered an unshakable charm, which is why I studied the nuclear fuel cycle in both my undergraduate and Ph.D. studies. Among my post-graduate options in the nuclear community, NGFP stood out for two reasons. First, the program offered the unique opportunity to tackle both the technical and policy aspects of nuclear security. Second, NNSA’s mission stood out as especially important in the current national and global climate. Wanting to make a difference may be cliché, but it’s accurate in this case.

What are you currently doing for NNSA?

I have been involved in a variety of projects, and my largest endeavor has been the prioritization of prospective improvements to nuclear data.  By nuclear data, I mean physical parameters such as half-lives and cross-sections on which the nonproliferation community depends. In some cases, nuclear data presents the greatest source of uncertainty for a particular nonproliferation technique. To improve our understanding of nuclear data deficiencies, I’m examining the state of existing data and seeking input from experts at national laboratories and academia.

What has been a highlight of your time with NNSA so far?

The projects I’ve worked on, and the people I’ve met, have been spectacular. If I had to pick a highlight it would be attending the one-day seminar series on nuclear weapon accidents and safety. Nuclear history is full of rich stories and lessons. If you go into that course doubting the importance of your work, your perspective will be different after its completion.

What has surprised you about the program?

The opportunity fellows have to define their experience. In addition to assigned tasks, many fellows have a say in setting long-term office objectives. Moreover, the program managers vest fellows with more impactful organizational authority than most would expect. This means that I got a meaningful professional experience while simultaneously benefitting the office. It’s a good feeling.

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