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National Security Education Center


  • Institute Director
    Charles Farrar
    (505) 663-5330
  • UCSD EI Director
    Michael Todd
    (858) 534-5951
  • Institute Office Manager
    Jutta Kayser
    (505) 663-5649

Collaboration for Education, Research and Innovation

The Engineering Institute is a collaboration between LANL and the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) Jacobs School of Engineering whose mission is to develop a comprehensive approach for 1) conducting mission-driven, multidisciplinary engineering research and 2) recruiting, revitalization and retention of the current and future staff necessary to support LANL’s stockpile stewardship responsibilities. The components of the Engineering Institute are:

The LADSS addresses recruiting entry-level students into the program from across the country.  The joint degree program addresses training of potential new hires and early-career staff, while also serving to retain mid-career staff who act as instructors and advisors for the early-career staff.  In addition to meeting mission-driven research needs, the joint research projects also serve as a retention tool for staff at all career levels that collaborate with the UCSD faculty and students on these projects.  The new technology development associated with these projects inherently provides the added benefit of a recruiting tool.  Industry short courses provide an avenue of outreach to the engineering community at large as well as an additional, non-traditional form of peer review.


The EI was established in April, 2003 through a memorandum of understanding signed jointly by the Dean of the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering and the Associate Director Weapons Engineering and Manufacturing and a subsequent contract with UCSD.  The EI is physically located in the Los Alamos Research Park and resides administratively in the Principal Associate Director for Science, Technology and Engineering’s office.  It consists of a full-time director and program administrator with four additional technical staff members spending 20%-50% of their time on EI activities. Two other staff members spend 50%-100% of their time at the institute while they are working on their Ph. D. dissertations.   Through its research and education activities the EI has collaborations with many LANL technical divisions.

Technical Thrust

The technology thrust of the EI is the development and integration of three following fundamental engineering technology areas

  • advanced sensing and telemetry hardware,
  • novel signal processing and pattern recognition algorithms, and 
  • complex multi-scale, physics-based predictive modeling.

These three fundamental technology areas are essential to advancing engineering capabilities required for LANL’s stockpile stewardship mission, particularly with regards to the validation of the large-scale simulations needed in the absence of nuclear testing.  Thus, the technical thrust of the EI is directly aligned with LANL’s core mission.  Additionally, advances in LANL’s engineering capabilities offer the potential for significant economic benefits to a variety of civilian and conventional defense applications associated with aerospace, mechanical, and civil infrastructure. 

Educational Programs

There are three educational components to the EI. The first is the LADSS, a very selective summer school in which top upper-level US-citizen undergraduate students (mean GPA > 3.8/4.0) from universities around the nation attend lectures and work in teams of three with a LANL mentor on research projects related to the EI’s technology focus.  Their objective is to produce a conference publication summarizing their results by the end of the summer.  The goal of this program is threefold:

  • to encourage these students to attend graduate school and specialize in fields related to NNSA’s mission,
  • to recruit the top students to return to LANL in following summers as graduate research assistants (GRAs), and
  • to subsequently hire the best of these students as LANL staff upon completion of their graduate degrees. 

Over the last seven years, 150 students from 50 academic institutions have participated in the summer school and sixteen such TSM’s have been hired.

The second component of the education program is a joint LANL/UCSD multidisciplinary graduate degree program.  This multidisciplinary program was designed around LANL’s and industry needs for people trained in the areas of sensing technology, signal processing and pattern recognition, and validated simulations.  This program cuts across traditional engineering department boundaries and involves all but one of the departments in the Jacobs School of Engineering.  Consequently, many new courses are being developed, both by UCSD faculty as well as LANL staff who are also adjunct UCSD faculty members 

The final component of the educational program is the development of industry focused short courses taught jointly by LANL staff and UCSD faculty in the areas of structural health monitoring (SHM) and model validation and uncertainty. .  These short courses speed industry adoption of EI research and provide a metric for the relevance of EI research activities.  The courses are completely self-sufficient and require no funding from LANL or LANS.

Collaborative Research

Currently, LANL is funding fifteen graduate student research projects that involve 13 faculty members and more than 20 UCSD graduate students from the structural engineering, mechanical and aerospace engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and computer science departments.  These projects are needed for the graduate students to complete the research component of their degree program.  In an effort to enhance the recruiting aspect of this program, the students spend part of their summers in Los Alamos working with LANL staffs that are collaborating on these projects.  All projects have a direct tie to defense programs.  Efforts are now underway to solicit research topics relevant to LANL programs so that the students have more direct ties to these programs.  It is anticipated that such ties will enhance the subsequent recruitment of these students upon completion of their graduate degrees.

The research portfolio is now expanding as technical staff working on programmatic activities are beginning to collaborate with UCSD faculty and students on research topics of interest to these programs.  In this regard, the EI provides a mechanism to expand the technical expertise addressing defense programs issues at LANL.

Annual Workshops

Additional peer review and strategic guidance will come through annual workshops, with a four-year cycle of recurring themes.  Each year, the workshop will focus on one of the three fundamental technology areas (advanced sensing, signal processing and pattern recognition, and predictive modeling), with the fourth year’s workshop dedicated to the integration of these three technologies.   With this repeating sequence, the evolution of the EI’s research in these respective technologies is tracked on a regular basis. 

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