Photo of Dr. Tiberius Moran-Lopez

Hispanic Heritage Month Highlight: Dr. Tiberius Moran-Lopez

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! As the heritage month comes to an end, we would like to recognize the journey and accomplishments of Dr. Tiberius Moran-Lopez, a “trilingual” nuclear engineer whose expertise in advanced physics and modeling directly support our nation’s nuclear stockpile. He’s most looking forward to Día de los Muertos!


What is your cultural background? Where did you grow up? Are you bilingual?

During my early childhood, I lived in Mexico City and then in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico.  During elementary school, we moved to Laredo, TX. I spent the next several years there until I moved to College Station, TX for my undergraduate studies.

As for languages, I do speak Spanish, but I also speak Korean and would perhaps consider myself “trilingual.”

How do you support NNSA?

Currently I am a Federal Program Manager in NNSA Defense Programs’ Office of Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation. Specifically, I lead the Delivery Environments Program within the Office of Engineering and Technology Maturation.  My program focuses primarily on future engineering aspects and applications of the nuclear deterrent.  However, during my tenure with NNSA, I have also been a member of other RDTE sub-offices, and have served on a detail assignment with the Pentagon – all of which have helped me establish comprehensive experience and knowledge in the various aspects of nuclear security, both domestic and international.

How did you become interested in the field you are in? How did you end up on this career path to this point?

My academic background is in Nuclear Engineering and Theoretical Physics. I completed dual Bachelor’s Degrees in Nuclear Engineering and Physics at Texas A&M University. I then went on to complete my Master’s and Doctoral Degrees in Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences at the University of Michigan. My area of specialization was, and remains, in high-energy-density physics, radiation hydrodynamics, shock-driven hydrodynamic instabilities, and turbulence modeling.

This academic path was how I found myself transitioning my career to the NNSA. While at Michigan, I also spent considerable time at the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, as well as other research institutes. Through these endeavors, I was very fortunate to meet Dr. Oleg Schilling; Dr. Schilling became my mentor while at LLNL, then my co-advisor at Michigan, and today remains a good friend, mentor, and collaborator. The opportunity to complete my Doctorate under guidance from University of Michigan and Lawrence Livermore advisors was what facilitated my transition from an academic focus to a professional path in nuclear security.

What’s one of your favorite things about working at NNSA?

In my tenure with NNSA, I have had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people, on both personal and professional levels. I would be remiss in failing to note that many of these individuals have also mentored, guided, and helped me during my time here, and that is why I make continuous efforts to remain involved with academic and early career development programs and opportunities with NNSA.

What are the characteristics of the best teams that you have been on?

In my experience, the best teams have all shared common values: respect, trust, transparency, and inclusiveness.  Each team member and their contributions and experience were respected, each with an equal voice, as opposed to cultures with disparate treatment of members. Trust was the mode of operation, not the exception, and benefit of the doubt was a starting point as opposed to an afterthought. Transparency only strengthens the trust and team cohesiveness, as opposed to counter practices that unfortunately only fracture teams. And inclusiveness is the glue that keeps a team together, through easy and challenging times. I am very fortunate, and happy, to say that I have had the opportunity on several occasions to have been a member of teams exemplifying such qualities.

What advice would you give members of the Hispanic community who want to do what you do for NNSA?

The advice I would offer is for any member of any community, and for any goal anyone wishes to achieve.  First and foremost, my recommendation is for one to know (and be honest with) oneself. This will be a continuous process that involves introspection, but I truly believe it will help one better understand one’s goals and motivations, and the reasons behind them. On a related note, always be the author of your own goals and dreams, but also know your own (dis)interests and limitations, and under no circumstances should any of these be dictated by anyone but yourself. Lastly, I might also recommend that for whatever goal one may choose to pursue, make sure you have fun doing it and don’t take yourself too seriously. Any venture will come with easy and challenging times, and learning to have fun and make the best of both will only help in advancing through the various stages of one’s personal and professional journeys.

How will you celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?

Perhaps my favorite cultural holiday is el Día de los Muertos, which is a holiday intended to reunite families with passed family members and friends. It offers families an opportunity to offer prayers and remembrance and celebrate life in general. Interestingly, other countries celebrate similar holidays, though by different names and different practices, but the concept of reuniting and always remembering passed family members, ancestors, and friends seems to be at the core of the celebration.

What leader or cultural figure would you like to recognize this onth?

To this day I still maintain strong ties with my community in Laredo, TX. Two community leaders I would like to recognize are Ms. Mary Lou Lopez and Mr. Rene Parra, who were both teachers and mentors of mine while in high school and after. Both Ms. Lopez and Mr. Parra are leaders that provided continuous support and guidance not just to me, but to so many students from our underrepresented communities – always emphasizing the importance of education and perseverance.  In no small part have their earlier guidance and support helped me persevere and remain focused, often recalling our conversations, especially when confronted with challenging times. Today, as their contributions to the community continue, I would like to recognize them with utmost appreciation.

Though not of Hispanic heritage, two other leaders I would like to recognize are President Barrack Obama and the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Both are leaders I admire deeply.

“Whatever you choose to do, leave tracks… that means don’t do it just for yourself. You will want to leave the world a little better for you having lived.”  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I am a firm believer in maintaining a good balance, professionally and personally.  For me, going out for a run gives me an opportunity to be alone, clear my mind, and get a clear perspective on things that might be lingering in my thoughts – a form of meditation. I strive to jog 3-4 times per week.  I also enjoy reading and learning about history, science, and foreign affairs and languages.