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.
Victoria Vardanega, NGFP Fellow, Material Management and Minimization for the Office of Conversion
Victoria Vardanega is a fellow in the NNSA’s Graduate Fellowship Program working with Material Management and Minimization within the Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. Victoria supports programs in our International Conversion portfolio working on the conversion of highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel and targets to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel. This work helps reduce the risk that hostile states or non-state actors will acquire weapons-usable nuclear material.
Victoria shares how she became interested in nuclear security, saying, “I am half Korean, so the importance of nuclear security has been something that’s been ingrained in me since childhood. As I grew up and explored careers in foreign policy, I found that nuclear security really touched upon my regional and functional interests with my East Asia policy background. When I applied for the NNSA Graduate Program Fellowship and interviewed with my current office, I knew I wanted to be a part of the NNSA and engage in a career helping to address nuclear security issues.”
Working at the NNSA completely changed the trajectory of Victoria’s career. Before entering graduate school, she had a narrow idea of what a career in foreign policy would translate to in terms of work in the federal government. Thanks to the opportunity to work for NNSA for almost a year, Victoria’s eyes opened to the diverse ways in which she could commit to public service. “I am excited to continue to learn and grow at the NNSA as I pursue a career in the nuclear security enterprise.” Victoria said.
Victoria graduated from Pomona College with a double major in economics and Asian studies, with a focus on Korean history. After a yearlong research assignment with the Fulbright Program in South Korea, she returned to school and completed a master’s degree in international economics and Korea studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. During her time at SAIS, she interned at the State Department, the Department of Labor, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
On what she has learned since joining NNSA, Victoria says, “I feel like I am constantly learning things I didn’t know before from a technical and policy perspective. The beauty of my current work is that I am surrounded by experts that constantly blow me away with their expertise but also take the time out of their day to explain new things to me. From the technicalities of different aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle to hands on experience with project management of diverse teams, my fellowship has allowed me to always be learning something new.”
*This is part of an ongoing series to recognize women in nonproliferation at NNSA*