Dr. Ellen Syracuse
Dr. Ellen Syracuse

The National Nuclear Security Administration is celebrating the women who make up the backbone of our Enterprise. Our workforce is made stronger by the contributions and accomplishments of amazing women whose expertise ensures that we successfully meet the challenge of our crucial mission.

Although women make up more than half of the world’s population, women comprise a minority of professionals working in nonproliferation. In the Women in Nonproliferation Series, we celebrate the women from the NNSA’s Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation who work in Research & Development, Material Management and Minimization, Global Material Security, and Nonproliferation and Arms Control. These outstanding NNSA women are leading the way to help keep our nation safe and set a powerful example for women and girls considering careers in nonproliferation. 


Dr. Ellen Syracuse, DNN R&D HQ Technical Advisor, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Dr. Ellen Syracuse is the DNN R&D Technical Advisor at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and is on a detail assignment to NNSA Headquarters, where she uses her technical expertise to help manage programs at the national labs that focus on using ground-based sensors to monitor for and understand underground nuclear explosions. Her work helps the NNSA better understand the signals created by an underground nuclear test, supports a national capability of monitoring for nuclear explosions globally and serves as a deterrent to their unsanctioned development internationally. When not on detail to headquarters, Dr. Syracuse serves as a seismologist at LANL.

A highlight of Dr. Syracuse’s work at NNSA is the Source Physics Experiment, which is designed primarily to better understand the differences in seismic activity between explosions and earthquakes. At LANL, she analyzed data from this experiment to understand seismic energy dissemination. Now at NNSA HQ, she is on the other side of the project and a part of all the work, by many people across several institutions, that goes into designing and implementing the next phase of the experiment that will provide unprecedented insights into how explosions and earthquakes interact with the Earth.

Dr. Syracuse completed a Bachelor of Science in Physics at Brown University in 2003, and a Ph.D. in Earth Sciences at Boston University in 2008, where her dissertation focused on using seismology and numerical modeling to understand the structure of subduction zones and volcanic arc formation – why volcanoes form where they do – with a focus on the Central American subduction zone.

In her spare time, Dr. Syracuse enjoys running. She says, “While my commitment to the activity has varied over the years, I’ve been a runner since 7th grade. I’m not particularly fast, but I’m persistent. Running gives me an opportunity to spend some quiet time away from things, to figure out how to solve a problem, or to just enjoy the world around me. Whenever I travel, I take my running shoes with me and take some time to explore where I’m visiting.”


*This is part of an ongoing series to recognize women in nonproliferation at NNSA*