A hush fell over the room Thursday evening as word came that Dr. Steven P. Girrens had entered the elevator at the Los Alamos Research Park. He was heading to the Engineering Institute on the third floor where he was about to be surprised by a crowd of colleagues and Laboratory officials who would reveal that he has been named a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).
The secret had been kept from Girrens since November and he was clearly shocked when he entered the room.
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich congratulated Dr. Girrens via video broadcast during Thursday’s event. Heinrich holds a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Missouri and is
the only engineer serving in the United States Senate. Watch video here
Girren’s citation reads: “Dr. Girrens is being recognized for his leadership of the engineering activities associated with Los Alamos National Laboratory’s national security mission. He has tirelessly promoted engineering innovation in our nation’s nuclear weapons program and other global security work, developed and sustained research collaborations with private industry, promoted professional society activities and championed new collaborative education and research programs with domestic and foreign university partners. Steve also volunteers significant time on various boards and organizations in the Los Alamos community.”
“I had no idea this was going on,” Dr. Girrens said. “I am touched and honored and I know just how much work goes into something like this so thank you to all involved – it really means a lot to me.”
Dr. Chuck Farrar of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Engineering Institute, with assistance from LANL Systems Engineer Mike Steinzig, nominated Girrens who has been an ASME member for 35 years.
“I have worked directly with Dr. Girrens for 32 years beginning as a co-worker in LANL’s Advanced Engineering Technology Group,” Farrar said. “I have subsequently worked under his management when he was the Weapons Response Group Leader (managing approximately 90 engineers and technicians), the Engineering Science and Applications Division Leader (managing approximately 900 engineers and technicians), and currently the Associate Director for Engineering Sciences where he is responsible for leading the non-weapon engineering enterprise at LANL.
“In all of these positions, Dr. Girrens has demonstrated nationally and internationally recognized leadership of the engineering activities associated with LANL’s national security mission. He has tirelessly promoted engineering innovation in the stewardship of our nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal as well as for LANL’s basic science research infrastructure and he has been an outspoken champion for the continued improvement of engineering practices at LANL.”
The Engineering Institute is a research and education collaboration between LANL and the University of California-San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering. Dr. Girrens was a charter proponent of the Engineering Institute.
The Engineering Institute’s mission is to develop a comprehensive approach for conducting mission-driven, multidisciplinary engineering research and recruiting, revitalization and retention of the current and future staff necessary to support LANL’s stockpile stewardship responsibilities.
Components of The Engineering Institute Include:
- Los Alamos Dynamic Summer School (LADSS);
- A joint LANL/UCSD degree program with a unique focus in validated simulations, structural health monitoring, and damage prognosis;
- A joint LANL/UCSD research projects;
- Industry short courses; and
- An annual workshop.
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 percent to 50 percent of their time on EI activities. Two other staff members spend 50 percent to 100 percent 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.
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.
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 16 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.
Currently, LANL is funding 15 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.
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.