Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Lawrence Livermore received an “A” grade on last fall’s Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) proficiency test, marking the seventh straight “A” grade garnered by Laboratory researchers. Each October, laboratories from around the world take part in OPCW tests, attempting to identify simulated chemical weapons compounds in samples. To retain OPCW certification, Livermore and the other OPCW-designated laboratories must maintain a three-year rolling average of at least two “A” grades and one “B” in ongoing proficiency tests, which are designed to be some of the most difficult analytical challenges that scientists can face.

The Laboratory’s OPCW efforts, performed at the Forensic Science Center, are led by Armando Alcaraz. Researchers who also participated the OPCW testing included Cynthia Alviso, Deon Anex, Sarah Chinn, Todd Corzett, Mark Dreyer, Brad Hart, Saphon Hok, Carolyn Koester, Roald Leif, Katelyn Mason, Brian Mayer, Daniel Mew, Tuijuana Mitchell-Hall, Michael Riley, Edmund Salazar, Robert Schmidt, Carlos Valdez, Alexander Vu, and Audrey Williams.

Each OPCW test is different, and the spiking materials and matrices can vary in complexity. A research laboratory that misidentifies a compound or reports a false positive could receive an “F” and lose its OPCW laboratory designation. Out of the 21 laboratories that participated in the latest test, 14 received “A” grades, 2 received “Bs,” 1 received a “C,” 3 received “Ds,” and 1 received an “F.”

David Weisz, a chemist in the Chemical and Isotopic Signatures Group, was awarded the inaugural Dr. Ian Hutcheon Postdoctoral Fellowship by the National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center of the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office. The award is open to postdoctoral researchers at all national laboratories, and its purpose is to attract future leaders to the field of nuclear forensics.

The prestigious fellowship is named in honor of the late Ian Hutcheon, who was a longtime nuclear forensics expert and former leader of Lawrence Livermore’s Chemical and Isotopic Signatures Group. Hutcheon had mentored Weisz for two years as the latter worked toward his doctorate. Under the fellowship, Weisz will collaborate with a multidisciplinary team of Livermore scientists and conduct research on the fundamental physics and chemistry of fallout formation with applications to postdetonation nuclear forensics.

The East Bay Economic Development Alliance—a regional network of business leaders, educators, and elected officials who work to strengthen the East Bay’s economy—recognized the outstanding success of the Laboratory’s Engineering Technology Program for Veterans (“Vets to Tech”) by honoring it with its Education Award. A collaboration between Livermore, Las Positas College, the Alameda County Workforce Investment Board, and the training nonprofit Growth Sector, Vets to Tech gives veterans on-the-job experience as they continue their education in engineering, math, and physics.

A broader goal of the program is to help tech-savvy veterans returning from military service transition to civilian life. Established in 2014, the homegrown approach is also a Laboratory workforce pipeline for veteran students that gives them skills training, paid internships, and a gateway to future employment at Livermore. Through the program, veterans at Las Positas College can earn a two-year degree in mechanical engineering as they get real-world experience during a 10-week internship at the Laboratory, which is often extended into part-time and later full-time work. Livermore has already hired six of the program’s first eight graduates.