The NNSA Graduate Fellowship Program (NGFP) develops the next generation of nuclear security leaders by recruiting highly motivated graduate-level students. NGFP is administered by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and sponsored by the NNSA to provide students with training and practical experience that contribute to a safer world.
As a fellow, Tony Santo Domingo is grateful for his experience at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) and is excited about becoming a successful leader within the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Here’s his story.
Tell us about your academic studies.
I have a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). I chose the field of engineering because I’ve always been fascinated with how things work. While I was an undergraduate student, I also spent time as an intern at Idaho National Laboratory, where I worked on designing a precision measurement device used to measure irradiated samples of zirconium alloys.
Fast-forward to a few years later, when I had the opportunity to work for a nuclear facility at the NNSS as a qualified system engineer. I also decided to pursue my master’s degree in nuclear engineering at UNLV. I plan to defend my thesis in July of this year, which will examine a system for the direct detection of dark matter.
One thing that I’ve learned is that the more curious and inquisitive I am when approaching problems, the more driven I am to push new bounds — and that’s truly what keeps me excited about the work I do.
What made you decide to join the NGFP and what opportunities have you had as a result of being in the program?
I’ve been involved with national security for quite some time now and have always known that the NGFP is a highly selective fellowship program and the premier junior and mid-career onboarding program for the NNSA. My favorite opportunities have been traveling to different sites and the Aspiring Leadership Certificate Program where fellows are trained on how to become a successful leader within the Nuclear Security Enterprise.
What have you learned in your current position as a fellow?
Currently, I am a Program Liaison assigned to the Office of the Assistant Manager for Mission and Infrastructure at the Nevada Field Office (NFO). As a Program Liaison I’ve had the opportunity to see projects and programs here at the NNSS from a big picture point-of-view, and it is truly exciting to be involved in the future of national nuclear security.
I have learned a wealth of knowledge from my colleagues, who are talented and sharp individuals, and every day I enjoy learning a piece of history from them. Also, I’ve been a team member for two federal assessments (an aviation safety and a federal readiness assessment) which have been incredible learning experiences.
How are you coping with the current telework and social distancing situation?
I am happy to telework and participate in social distancing if it has the potential to flatten the curve and save lives. The transition to online work and school has been interesting. My days are still full of work, meetings, and studying but with a few technical issues mixed in –and a lot more teleconferences! While COVID-19 is affecting us all differently, I am fortunate that other than my environment, my day remains relatively unchanged. I try to remain optimistic with all that is going on in the world today and plan to keep doing my part and staying home.
You accepted a permanent position with the Nevada Field Office recently and will start in the summer. What can you tell us about it?
I’m grateful to have received an offer from the field office and am very excited to continue my work with the Office of the Assistant Manager for Mission and Infrastructure after the fellowship. Ever since I was introduced to the Nuclear Security Enterprise as an intern at Idaho National Laboratory, I knew this was the field I wanted to grow and progress in.
I feel the work I am involved in contributes to the overall mission and what I’m doing is meaningful. Couple that with the fact that I’m a Las Vegas local, I just had to stay!