January 13, 2023

PNNL Joins CONNECT to Educate Future National Security Leaders

Leveraging the Lab’s expertise in policy and legal analysis, consortium provides pipeline between national labs and underrepresented students

Portrait of Kate Doty and Aubrey Means

PNNL’s collaboration with CONNECT is led by Kathleen Doty and Aubrey Means.

(Composite image by Shannon Colson | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is the newest member of the CONsortium on Nuclear sECurity Technologies (CONNECT).

The primary goal of CONNECT, led by the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), is to educate and train next-generation professionals, expanding the innovation envelope of nuclear security.

Infusion of policy and legal analysis

Since it was launched in 2019, CONNECT has focused on preparing the next generation of scientists and engineers to provide innovative solutions to the grand challenges in nuclear security.

PNNL’s collaboration with CONNECT is led by Kathleen Doty and Aubrey Means, who bring unique backgrounds in nonproliferation, law, and policy to the consortium.

“Understanding the policy and legal implications related to national security can help enable effective technology development,” said Doty, advisor for treaties and agreements in the Global Security, Technology, and Policy group at PNNL. “We want to strengthen the skill set in this area as we look to train a new workforce of highly skilled researchers.”

During the summer of 2023, PNNL will host interns for 8 to 12 weeks. The internships are open to undergraduate, graduate, and law school students who have policy and technical backgrounds.

“We are developing a course curriculum that will be taught at UTSA,” said Means, a national security specialist at PNNL. “With a legal and policy focus, the course will expose students to underlying nonproliferation treaties and policy positions.”

Connecting DOE laboratories and students at minority-serving institutions

CONNECT is funded by the Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program (MSIPP) of the Department of Energy's (DOE’s) National Nuclear Security Administration.

Because women and minorities have been underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, MSIPP is designed to build a sustainable pipeline between the DOE sites/labs and minority-serving institutions for STEM disciplinary skills.

Through CONNECT, PNNL experts will also be collaborating with UTSA; St. Mary’s University School of Law; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Argonne National Laboratory; and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“CONNECT is distinctive within the MSIPP program because of its emphasis on policy and law,” said Doty. “We’re fortunate to be a part of a partnership that will educate and promote these important areas to students from minority-serving institutions.”

Pertaining to national security, the research areas within CONNECT also include nuclear science, fissionable fuels fabrication and processing, nuclear materials characterization, nuclear forensic signatures, nuclear technology, and data and visual analytics.

PNNL is also a member of the MSIPP Partnership for Radiation Studies (PaRS) Consortium; PaRS activities support PNNL’s goals in nuclear nonproliferation and radiation detection research.