Los Alamos National Laboratory

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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

Sarah Dalton, 2011 

  • Read up on literature and theory related to your project before you get to LANL. It will really help speed your project along, and impress your mentor! 
  • Live in an area with a bunch of other LADSS students. 
  • Take in as much in as your brain allows you to. You probably won't have this many experts in the area at your fingertips again in your life. So ask questions when you have them, and often! 
  • Make sure someone has a car. There are a lot of good day trips within driving distance. 
  • White water rafting/ floating or tubing the Rio Grande near Taos. 
  • Shopping in Taos and Santa Fe. 
  • Bandelier, Valles Caldera, and Jemez National Parks. 
  • Natural Hot Springs. 
  • Wineries. 
  • There are a lot of good hiking trails in Los Alamos. My favorite was Cave of the Winds. 
  • Get to love red and green chilies. They are a New Mexico staple. 
  • Eat at: 
  • El Parasol, Hilltop Diner, and Chili Works in town. 
  • Maria's and Santa Fe Baking Co in Santa Fe. 
  • New Mexico has issues serving alcohol to people with a vertical ID, even if you are older than 21. So if you plan on getting a drink with dinner and have a vertical ID, make sure you bring your passport with you to use. 

Trevor Avant, 2011 

  • Make plans in case of a wildfire evacuation. 
  • Try to live with other LADSS students. 
  • Go hiking in the Jemez Mountains. 
  • Walk around Santa Fe. 
  • The Rail Runner goes between Albuquerque and Santa Fe and is $3 for a student.

Lisa Monahan, 2011 

  • Try to live around other students (LADSS or other LANL students). 
  • Create a dinner group with other students. 
  • Try to travel around the area on weekends - great hiking all over the area. 
  • If you wind up in Santa Fe, try the Santa Fe Baking Company. 

Rose Long, 2011 

  • Choose your project wisely. You will be married to it for 9 weeks. 
  • Completely read the background material, twice. Even if you do not understand it. 
  • Research the guest lecturers before they come so you have an idea of what they will talk about/if you want to study under them. The school is great for networking. Use it! 
  • Review translating between the frequency and time domains. Laplace transform. Z transform. Review one and multiple degree of freedom models. Review analogs between mechanical and electrical systems. Bring your Dynamics textbook and notes. 
  • Live in 9th street apartments with all the other students. If you do, get a room on the 9th street (east) side of the building. The other (west) side gets the afternoon sun, which is suffocating. 
  • Have a plan in case something happens. This involves sharing phone numbers with everyone (make a telephone list or tree) before the first weekend. Have somewhere to stay in case there is an evacuation. Have Jutta’s number (663-5649). Register for the Los Alamos emergency notification system. 
  • Go on all the tours and ask people to see their labs if you can. The Laboratory has a lot of really interesting science going on. Don’t miss the Sandia tour. 
  • You will be tempted to travel during the weekends. I encourage you to climb Wheeler Peak (if you are fit), go to the Spanish Market in Santa Fe, and go to Carlsbad (worth the drive). In Los Alamos, go to the Friday night concerts (especially the Red Elvis’s if they come) and explore the trails. 
  • If you don’t have a car, bring a bike. 
  • The library (town) is of very high quality here. Books on anything you need. 
  • Go to the free food and volleyball at the corner of Canyon and Central every Monday (across from the aquatic center). The food is great. 

Noel Spurgeon, 2011 

  • Do some group bonding. Even if it’s just going out to lunch or something, knowing about your group members and making the effort to get along will make your life a lot easier. 
  • Split up work. If you feel like you’re doing too much, say so. 
  • Communicate. Tell each other if something’s not going well, or not working out. It prevents a lot of fights later.
  • Have a good naming convention for your data files. Something that seems like it would be helpful at the time can get confusing if you’re trying to find a specific data run out of 50 different files. 
  • Don’t get discouraged. Sometimes, things happen (like the mountains catching on fire) that blow your plans out of the water. It’s okay. You’ll be fine. 
  • Listen to the comments you get on your presentation! Actually, listen to all of the mentor’s comments in general. 
  • Hang out with your fellow LADSS students on the weekends. Plan trips. They’re cool people, and you should get to know them, even if you don’t live near them. 
  • Go explore Los Alamos. There’s a lot to do here: the concerts, farmer’s market, hiking, whitewater rafting, and more. If you’re bored, you’re not looking hard enough. 
  • Bring your notes. Bring your notes. BRING YOUR NOTES. They’ll save you a lot of time trying to decipher Wikipedia articles. 
  • Join a dinner group. You don’t want to eat the same thing every day for a week. 
  • Santa Fe is a groovy place. You should visit at least once. Try to go there when there’s some kind of fair or festival going on, because it’s even better. Also, the Blue Corn Café and India Palace are delicious. 
  • Try a breakfast burrito and at least one thing covered in green chili. 
  • Sometimes you just need to have a five-minute dance party. Don’t question it. 
  • Have fun and keep a sense of humor while you’re working. When you get frustrated, it can make things a lot better. 
  • Don’t be afraid to be yourself. We’re all weird. 
  • Have periodic group meetings to check up on everyone’s progress. Having an actual agenda is pretty helpful. 

Jenni Rinker, 2011 

  • The 9th street housing has its pros and cons. Pros: nicely located near the one grocery store, the one bar, a nice park, the library, the bus stop; cheap; if enough of you live there you get to bond more with your fellow LADSS; you can meet other students working at the lab. Cons: it’s an efficiency, so your kitchen is a bit limited. It has a mini-fridge, some cabinets, a small stove with four burners, a sink, and an oven that may or may not work, all crammed into something that looks suspiciously like a closet. I still give the whole thing a thumbs-up because you’re only here for 9 weeks and you can still cook yourself pretty much anything that isn’t super temperature-sensitive. In my opinion, the location and proximity to other students outweighs the lack of a good kitchen. 
  • There are free concerts Friday nights at the parks. They’re fun, you should go. 
  • You need to go to the post office to register yourself to get mail. It’s free and worth it.
  • The buses around Los Alamos are free and run M-F. They’re a great way to get to work. 
  • The library has lots of books and movies, and you can register for free. 
  • One person’s Smith’s card can service up to 3 people because they give you extras. 
  • There are Ultimate Frisbee Monday and Wednesday evenings at upper Pueblo field at 6 pm. 
  • The Canyon Bar (pretty much the only bar in Los Alamos) is about 1.5 blocks west of the 9th street housing. It has free pool Mondays and Wednesdays. 
  • Free movies in the park Wednesday nights. 
  • Student BBQ at Urban Park Monday nights. 
  • If you’re staying in 9th street housing, don’t buy the wireless Internet there. Comcast is better. 
  • Get your mini-project done first and fast. Don’t spend more than three days on the whole thing, and make them the earliest three days possible. 
  • Planning is good. You will run out of time. 
  • GET HOUSING EARLY. Or you may end up overpaying to live 45 minutes away without running water. 

Ezra Jampole, 2011 

  • Have a roommate. It makes free time (there will be a lot of it) much more exciting. 
  • Live in the UNM housing. It is crappy housing but cheap and makes the weekends very exciting. 
  • Do things on the weekends. Between rafting, hiking, rock hunting, cliff jumping, and sky diving, there are a lot of things you just can’t do elsewhere. 
  • Bring your notes from school. They will save you a lot time on Google and Wikipedia. 
  • If you play an instrument, bring it. They are an endless source of entertainment. 
  • If you have a car, bring it. Else you will be helpless. 
  • Play basketball Sundays at 3 at the high school. The locals can be pretty competitive. 
  • Get a YMCA membership. It is dirt-cheap. 
  • Eat the chicken fingers and potato wedges from the grocery store. They are cheap but delicious. 
  • Create a dinner group in which everyone cooks for the others once a week. It is a great way to socialize while eating well and cheap. 
  • Go places other than Los Alamos. Santa Fe is okay, Albuquerque at least resembles a real city, and Denver is far but will make you feel less homesick if you come from a place like Boston or New York. If you only stay in Los Alamos, you will be bored out of your mind. 

Ryan Menefee, 2011 

  • Find housing early. If you wait too long, you might end up living in Jemez. The Caldera is pretty, but it's a ways away from the Laboratory. 
  • Get a Smith's card. It's the only grocery store in town. 
  • Stay on top of your project, because you never know when a wildfire might sneak up on you. A week or two of lost time hurts. 
  • Be sure to pay attention during the lectures. They will usually have something applicable to your project. 

Michael Martin, 2010 

  • Housing may be a problem, search online and find a house, preferably. 
  • Definitely turn paperwork in on time to prevent registration and work complications. 
  • Talk to the mentors about graduate school. 
  • Enjoy the outdoor activities happening in Los Alamos; there is a ton to do here. Bring camping and climbing equipment if possible. 
  • Works on the project diligently, 9 weeks go by very fast. If your project requires people outside of LADSS, be sure to constantly be in contact. 
  • Try to learn as much as possible from the lectures, there is a lot of material, but it is presented by some of the best. 
  • Be respectful and thank the mentors for their time. 

Abraham Light-Marquez, 2010 

  • Start your project early and work diligently; 9 weeks go by in a flash. 
  • Hang out with the other students; it will make your time spent more enjoyable. 
  • If you’re a golfer, try to get out and play Black Mesa; it’s a bit expensive but it is worth it. 
  • There are lots of outdoor activities (soccer, ultimate Frisbee, tennis, volleyball), and the people are very friendly. Get involved. 
  • Make housing arrangements early or you’re going to regret it. 
  • Go to an Isotopes baseball game; the stadium is awesome. 
  • Try to visit Carlsbad Caverns, it’s a long trip but it’s one of the most amazing natural phenomena in the world. 
  • Talk to Gyuhae as much as possible he’ll make you laugh every time. 

Ramon Silva, 2010 

  • Find a place to live early!!!!!! 
  • Bring a road/mountain bike. All the cool people do it! 
  • Enjoy the outdoors! Bring gear to rock climb, hike, camp, and backpack with. 
  • Having a car makes things easier, but isn’t required in my opinion. 
  • Carry and umbrella all the time! Trust me on this…

Lucas Chavez, 2010 

  • Get a place to live as quickly as possible. 
  • There are lots of outdoor opportunities. Make sure to bring all your equipment. 
  • There is no Wal-Mart, so plan accordingly. The closest one is in Espanola (20-minute drive). 
  • Urban Park has a good volleyball court. 
  • A Facebook group will help when planning our activities. 
  • Try do get things done as soon as possible, because the last day of work will sneak up on you. 
  • Go to all the planned activities. 
  • Explore the trails of Los Alamos - they are amazing. 
  • For those who rock climb, the only indoor wall is at the YMCA. 
  • There are great outdoor climbing places in Los Conchas and White Rock. 

Daniel Easton, 2010 

  • Get to work early on your project, and, if you are held up, consider a change of direction. 
  • Go rock climbing outdoors, or start at the YMCA and then go outdoors. 
  • Try to bring a car. But if you can’t, you’ll always be able to get a lift from someone else. 
  • Go camping, hiking, take trips, leave town on the weekend. Vegas 4th of July! 
  • Play football (soccer) on Tuesdays or Thursdays. Watch out for the old guys – they are better than you. 
  • Sort out accommodation early; don’t wait around. It’s a bit of a mad dash. 

Elizabeth Cross, 2010 

  • The dress code at the Laboratory is very casual, shorts and a t-shirt every day are fine, so don’t bother bringing any suits. Instead you should pack moisturizer, it is really dry up in Los Alamos and your skin will suffer. 
  • Sort your housing out as early as you can, there are a lot of students here in the summer and it’s small town. 
  • Be patient in the first week, there is a lot of not too fun training to get through, but it is necessary. 
  • Bring your MP3 player; you will need it, as you’ll most likely be in the office a lot. 
  • The library has a bookshop that sells old books for 50 cents, or occasionally gives them away for free. 
  • Come a few days early if you can and sort your Internet out. Comcast is only open during work hours. 
  • If you’re going to do the night hike don’t drink too much before hand, it’s hard to suppress the giggles.

Alex Schlichting, 2010 

  • Reserve your housing ASAP, things will disappear fast. 
  • Don’t live in Iris street apartments if you want a clean/good kitchen and bathroom. 
  • Take the higher rent over a place that wont pro-rate and will charge you for all of the month of August. 
  • Make sure you turn in all necessary documents to ensure you’re on the right pay scale ASAP; going to grad school makes a difference, too. 
  • Get a Smith’s Card - it’s free. 
  • Take the Atomic Shuttle to work and back, it’s always on time. 
  • Be proactive in doing your work and thinking of things to do that your mentor doesn’t tell you to do, a few setbacks can leave you with nothing in the end. 
  • If all the people in the program who don’t living together, eat lunch together and do stuff together outside of work, work hours will be more fun. 
  • If you are not an outdoor person, at least give it a try, otherwise, you will miss out on group activities and will find yourself sitting around watching TV while everyone else is camping or doing something fun. 

Clinton Carlson, 2010 

  • The biggest piece of advice that I can offer is that an overwhelming feeling is okay. I thought that I had plenty of knowledge in structural dynamics when I arrived in Los Alamos, but I quickly realized that one class was not enough. If you are worried that you are way behind everybody at the school, stop worrying. Ask questions and talk to the mentors and guest speakers and you will learn a lot. 
  • Make sure that you do activities with the other students no matter what it is. That way you make friends and get to tell all your jealous friends back home about what you did. For example, mud volleyball. 
  • Look for housing very early. There aren’t too many places to live in Los Alamos and those places fill up quickly when all the students start coming here for the summer. You could rely on a lot of luck, but I wouldn’t recommend it. 
  • Take any athletic activities easy for the first two weeks. You will notice the change in elevation. Once you are accustomed to the elevation, take advantage of all the outdoor activities that are here in Los Alamos. Make sure to drink a lot of water, too. And use sunscreen no matter what. 
  • Go to Ruby K’s. That is a really good breakfast restaurant. 
  • Don’t pay attention to the sheet that has acceptable forms of identification. Bring your driver’s license and passport or official copy of your birth certificate. You can get by with your driver’s license and social security card the first day, but you need your passport or birth certificate to get your badge. They don’t have any sympathy for you. 
  • Have a camera.

Daisy Zheng, 2010 

  • Bring casual clothes for work! Even if you want to dress up, keep in mind that in some of the labs only jeans and tennis shoes pass the safety rules. 
  • Get a Smith’s card. I’m serious. It’s like the center of town. 
  • Bring sports equipment if you’re outdoorsy. There will definitely be a large amount of students here who are interested in anything you want to do. 
  • Movies here can be a little pricey, but if you go to Santa Fe, there’s a one dollar movie theater. 
  • Ask as many questions as you can to your mentors, they’re the best resources here. 
  • Have fun! This summer school has some of the coolest, intelligent people you’ll ever meet. 

Colin Haynes, 2010 

  • Make an effort to hang out with the other interns. There’s plenty to do in the Los Alamos area and it’s always more fun with good company. 
  • Bring your favorite sporting equipment—it will come in handy. 
  • For those of you who golf, play Black Mesa golf course. It is worth every penny. 
  • Make housing arrangements early. 
  • Take pride in and ownership of your project. You will have a more satisfying and successful summer school experience if you do. 
  • Portable music players (or at least headphones) are strongly recommended. 

Alexandra Sobin, 2010 

  • If you like coffees… get a coffee card at Java Rocks right away. You will find yourself going there more than you think. 
  • Bring all of your camping equipment with you from home. It’s worth the haul so you have everything for weekend trips without having to borrow from others. 
  • Try rock-climbing at least once outside with the Rock-Climbing Club at LANL. Even if you don’t like it, at least you can say you’ve tried it and it’s a great place to socialize and make new friends. 
  • Walk around the Farmer’s Market in Los Alamos (Thursdays) + Santa Fe (Saturdays) and the Flea Market (Saturdays) between the two towns. People watching and just bumming around shopping is great there. 
  • Take advantage of the hiking around Los Alamos. There are a lot of good hikes just minutes away. 
  • The YMCA is a great place to work out and also rock-climb indoors. It’s pretty cheap for young adults and if you live close to the 9th Street Apartments, it’s a quick walk. Take advantage of the fun classes, they are a blast! 
  • If you can, try to gather people up for weekend adventures camping, hot springs, hiking, rock-climbing, etc. 
  • And last but not least, always get a jump-start on your project and ask LOTS of questions to your mentor (that’s what they are there for!!).

Dustin Harvey, 2010 

  • Take care of housing as soon as you know you are coming. There are a lot of students in Los Alamos over the summer, which is great, but housing fills up. 
  • Spend time with your peers outside of work. They’re pretty cool. 
  • Lastly, take advantage of all the outdoor activities in northern New Mexico. It’s all here: climbing, hiking, sports, cycling, backpacking, etc. 
  • If you have the chance to spend a summer in Los Alamos and work at LANL, don’t miss it! 

Scott Ouellette, 2010 

  • It is beneficial to be outgoing and try to make friends with your fellow students. LANL brings in hundreds of students each summer for internship/research opportunities, and most of these students are willing to hang out, go hiking/camping, play sports, etc. 
  • The altitude can be a difficult transition at first. Drink lots of water and try to do some cardiovascular exercise on a regular basis. Before you know it, you’ll feel great and be in amazing shape when you return home. 
  • A brief review of how and why the lab (LANL) came to be, and some of the notable figures (J.R.Oppenheimer, R.P. Feynman, H.A. Bethe, Gen. L. Groves, etc.) who made significant contributions to its success is a good start towards understanding the unique environment in which you will be working. 
  • Cooperate with your team! Very rarely will one student know how to do every task involved in the research project. Try to divide the work evenly, but work together on important tasks (e.g. presentations or the conference paper). Consult your teammates first if you have any questions, your mentor is here for guidance, not solutions. A weekly ‘To-do’ list is very useful for staying on-track with project objectives. 
  • Don’t wait for your mentor to hold your hand throughout the project. There is not enough time in the program to wait for step-by-step instructions. Also, don’t be afraid to suggest new ideas or try new things. That’s why we are here, to experiment and learn. 
  • On every project-related email you should always ‘cc’ these people: Dr. Farrar, your mentor, and your teammates. 
  • Be appreciative of how hard the mentors and administrative staff work to make your life easier. 

Stephen Neidigk, 2010 

  • Find a place to live as early as possible. Places fill up fast. 
  • Take advantage of the taxi service that any LANL employee can use. 
  • Expect delays in your project, so start as early as you can. We had unforeseen issues in our project that took more time to research and implement then the project itself. 

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