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Two Laboratory researchers received Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for work in computational science and physics. This honor is the highest bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers, who are early in their independent research careers.

Heather Whitley, a design physicist, was chosen for her work using path-integral Monte Carlo techniques to produce accurate quantum statistical potentials for use in molecular-dynamic codes and for applying these methods to first-principles understanding of thermal conductivity in ignition capsules for the National Ignition Facility (NIF). Whitley was also selected for her service to the Laboratory Postdoctoral Association.

Jeffrey Banks, a computational scientist, was selected for his work in computational physics, scientific computation, and numerical analysis. In particular, he pioneered contributions in numerical approximations to hyperbolic partial differential equations that focus on the development and analysis of nonlinear and high-resolution finite-volume and finite-difference methods. Banks was also selected for his service in high schools and the scientific community.

PECASE winners receive $50,000 a year over five years to pursue research in their field. Both researchers have been able to pursue the science for which they were honored thanks to Livermore’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program.


Mike McCoy, whose pioneering work in high-performance computing (HPC) established Lawrence Livermore as a world-renowned supercomputing center, was honored with the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) Science and Technology Award. McCoy received the award for “16 years of dedicated and relentless pursuit of excellence” from NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino. Calling HPC “the lifeblood of NNSA science and technology,” D’Agostino says McCoy’s leadership in HPC “has had a global impact.” McCoy leads the Laboratory’s effort to develop and deploy the HPC systems required for the three national nuclear design laboratories (Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia) to fulfill their mission to ensure the safety, security, and reliability of the nation’s nuclear deterrent without nuclear testing. The newly created award is the highest recognition for science and technology achievements in NNSA.


A far-reaching discovery about laser–matter interaction with important implications for NIF has led to the selection of a team of researchers to receive the 2012 John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research. The award, established by the American Physical Society, will be presented in October to Livermore’s Debra Callahan, Edward Williams, Nathan Meezan, Laurent Divol, Robert Kirkwood, and Pierre Michel as well as George Kyrala of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Their accomplishment had its genesis in the late 1990s, when physicists noted that laser beams crossing paths in a plasma could exchange energy. This phenomenon could potentially degrade the implosion symmetry of implosion targets, a crucial requirement for fusion ignition. Over the following 15 years, the researchers conducted experiments at the University of Rochester’s OMEGA laser. They also developed new physics models, run on Livermore’s Atlas and Hera supercomputers, to better understand the phenomenon. The researchers concluded that the energy-transfer process could be controlled with slight adjustments to the laser beams’ wavelengths.


Yu-Hsin Chen, a Livermore postdoctoral researcher in the NIF and Photon Science Principal Directorate, was selected to receive the 2012 Marshall N. Rosenbluth Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award by the American Physical Society’s Division of Plasma Physics. The award, sponsored by General Atomics, was established to recognize “exceptional young scientists who have performed original thesis work of outstanding scientific quality and achievement in the area of plasma physics.” Chen was honored “for measurements and theory of the ultrafast, high-field, nonlinear response of gases near the ionization threshold; characterization of femtosecond plasma filaments; and demonstration that femtosecond filamentation requires plasma stabilization.”

The Laboratory received the FY 2011 M&O Small Business Achievement of the Year Award from the Department of Energy (DOE). The award, given by the DOE Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Utilization, recognizes the Laboratory’s efforts and commitment as a small business advocate that “takes every opportunity to utilize small business concerns to meet its requirements.” According to Michelle Quick, Livermore’s Small Business Program Manager, the award reflects the Laboratory’s achievement of a 2011 NNSA performance goal of 45 percent of total estimated subcontracting efforts toward small businesses. Quick says that promoting small business benefits everyone, as it is “essential in stimulating the economy.” In 2011, more than $573 million in Laboratory procurements were awarded to a diverse group of businesses in California and across the nation, including more than $333 million in procurements to small businesses.

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Privacy & Legal Notice | UCRL-TR-52000-12-10/11 | October 1, 2012