National Nuclear Security Administration

NNSA student opportunities help launch career for rising star

July 19, 2019

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David Alexander, post graduate researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory
David Alexander, post graduate researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory

The Nuclear Security Enterprise affords ample opportunity to tackle interesting challenges while contributing to national security. David Alexander is a post graduate researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) who has been helping carry out NNSA’s enduring missions in multiple capacities throughout his career – and he’s just getting started.

What is your academic background?

I earned both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Tuskegee University. I am continuing my education by pursuing a doctorate in mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso. My first semester begins this fall.

What are you currently working on for NNSA?

I have two different projects that I work on. The first is to investigate the effects of component materials on performance in fuel cell systems. The second involves finding optimal surface chemistries in mixed potential sensors for carbon monoxide detection.

David Alexander, post graduate researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory
David Alexander, post graduate researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory

How did you get interested in nuclear security?

It began with the Consortium for Materials and Energy Security while I was at Tuskegee University, which is part of the Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program (MSIPP). This program provided me with funding to attend the Los Alamos Dynamics Summer School, which subsequently exposed me to the many opportunities available in nuclear security.

What is the best part about your job?

Having access to various resources like developmental training and mentors, which affords me the opportunity to expand my skill sets and wisdom navigating the industry. Daily improvement as a person and a professional is paramount to me, so having such resources available is very fulfilling.

What is your proudest accomplishment while working at NNSA?

Being able to pass on the expertise I’ve gained while working at LANL to the junior students. It is a joy to experience my journey through NNSA, but it is a greater joy to serve as a mentor and share my journey with those coming after me.

David Alexander, post graduate researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory
David Alexander, post graduate researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory

Is there something you’ve learned here that you didn’t know before?

I’ve learned the true power of collaboration by witnessing the inner-workings of government, industry, and university partnerships to create opportunities for underserved communities. It is eye-opening to understand the checks and balances, from financials to mission objectives, in place to hold all stakeholders accountable in the collaborative effort.

Have you had any surprising or unexpected experiences working at NNSA?

Yes, I did not expect to have face time with [NNSA Associate Administrator for Management and Budget] Frank Lowery in a hotel lobby during an MSIPP Annual Technical Meeting. He was very interested that NNSA offer me valuable opportunities. He was ecstatic to learn how the African American Partnerships Program and Partnership for Research and Education Consortium in Ceramics and Polymers facilitated my acceptance into the doctoral program at University of Texas El Paso and that I have been able to initiate my doctoral research before arriving at campus. It was a pleasant surprise to be able to share my matriculation through these various NNSA-sponsored programs and how they have empowered me to secure a bright future.

What advice would you have for anyone interested in a career in nuclear security?

I would strongly advise everyone to take advantage of any learning opportunities available. It will help you refine and better understand how you want to make an impact in this world and create your legacy. Once the vision is clear, then network to position yourself on that track. Anything is possible through the NNSA!

Visit the NNSA website to learn more about career opportunities with the Nuclear Security Enterprise.