National Nuclear Security Administration

NNSA ensures weapons development knowledge is passed to next generation

July 20, 2018

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The 2018 Sandia National Laboratories Weapon Intern Program class.
The 2018 Sandia National Laboratories Weapon Intern Program class.
Michael Thompson, NNSA's Assistant Deputy Administrator for Major Modernization Programs, speaks with the 2018 Sandia National Laboratories Weapon Intern Program class.
Michael Thompson, NNSA's Assistant Deputy Administrator for Major Modernization Programs, speaks with the interns.

In a discipline as highly specialized as nuclear weapons research, it is vital to ensure that accurate information is successfully passed down to the next generation. Sandia National Laboratories’ Weapon Intern Program (WIP) makes sure that decades of weapons-related knowledge will not be lost. 

During a recent visit to NNSA’s Washington, D.C., headquarters, the current WIP class got the chance to learn what NNSA does from the experts who carry out its missions every day.

“I would love to be in your shoes,” said Michael Thompson, Assistant Deputy Administrator for Major Modernization Programs in the NNSA Defense Programs Office, as he kicked things off with a welcome address and overview of NNSA’s history, organizational structure, and current missions.

Thompson explained that rapid advances in technology and an ever-shifting geopolitical climate make this “the most exciting time ever to join NNSA.”

I would love to be in your shoes. (It's) the most exciting time ever to join NNSA.

Michael Thompson
NNSA's Assistant Deputy Administrator for Major Modernization Programs

Phillip Forsberg, a WIP intern in NNSA’s Office of Cost Policy and Analysis for Defense Programs, strongly encourages those interested to apply.

“This program is a tremendous opportunity. You will go on tours and see things that you will likely never be able to see again. WIP provides both a broad technical base – physics, policy, and detailed lectures on mechanical and electrical components – as well as customized projects based upon interns’ interests.”

Forsberg also warns that applicants should be ready to learn. “We frequently had eight hours of technical lectures in addition to the projects that were assigned. If you want to make the most of WIP, prepare to put in the extra time. I have been exceptionally satisfied with what I have been able to learn.”

Sandia Labs created the intern program in 1998 as a formal way to transfer weapons development know-how and experience while increasing the understanding of those new to the nuclear weapons field. Since then, over 400 people have graduated from the 11-month program. Participants have come from NNSA plants and sites, National Laboratories, and the U.S. military.

Each intern completes three classroom projects that reinforce lessons; develop depth and breadth in nuclear weapons knowledge; and build networks vital to their career. The ideal candidate has at least a bachelor’s degree in an engineering or scientific discipline and two to five years of experience related to nuclear weapons.