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The Los Alamos National Laboratory let the public get a small peek behind the curtain this weekend as it wrapped up its week-long 70th anniversary celebration on the grounds of Los Alamos High School Saturday.
Throughout the week, the public was treated to lectures from prominent scientists and government officials, such as U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill and deputy administrators from the National Nuclear Security Administration, Anne Harrington and Don Cook.
Then there were the tours of the top-secret facilities, which included the “Tunnel Site” in Los Alamos Canyon, a facility built in 1948 to house a research lab and a bomb shelter among other things. Other tours included the lab’s accelerator site and the High Magnetic Field Laboratory as well as other locations rarely open to outsiders.
The buses were even stopping at the “New Mexico Consortium,” a research center on Entrada Drive that had sort of an unofficial opening a few weeks ago. According to its director of community development, Shannan Yeager, the center is a scientific research center where LANL, the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University can collaborate on cutting-edge research projects such as turning algae into fuel and creating faster, more efficient supercomputers.
The Consortium is non-profit, and has a board of directors, which include two members from LANL and two from each university, according to Yeager.
The center will also serve as a place for outside researchers to come and contribute, too.
“We would like to have some university researchers come as well as those from corporations and industry, especially if they have a like mission with ours,” Yeager said. The center will also include research on an international level, she added.
“We have a partnership with LANL, and what we do is try to facilitate collaborations between LANL, the universities as well as universities throughout the world,” Yeager said.
The tour wrapped up at the Consortium’s most familiar feature, its state-of-the-art greenhouse, which can be seen from N.M. 502 driving into Los Alamos. At some point, the Consortium intends to invite qualified volunteers from the community to help in the various research projects, including ones that will be going on at the greenhouse, Yeager said.
“We’re going to be inviting researchers who are maybe retired or maybe been raising kids for a few years but has a Ph.D. and wants to start coming back into the world of science,” she said.
Speaking of families, many family members from LANL visited the practice fields at LAHS as anniversary organizers created an instant city populated with booths, games and various “bouncy” houses. Also in attendance was LANL Director Charles McMillan and Gov. Susana Martinez, who talked about their own families, the anniversary and what LANL means to the community as well as the world.
McMillan acknowledged the members of county council that came to the event as well as the state and U.S. representatives.
“...This year, we very much appreciate the support of all of our congressional representatives in what has been a very difficult budget year, not only for the lab, but for the country.” McMillan said.
McMillan also acknowledged the anniversary’s organizers, who McMillan said really worked hard to make the celebration a family event.
“They really stepped up to the plate, and I’ve been very pleased with what I’ve been able to be a part of today,” he said to the crowd. “I trust by all the smiling faces I’ve seen today that you’ve all had a good time, too. It’s been great to show our families some of what we’re doing at the lab.”
McMillan later again thanked the families of laboratory employees, acknowledging their sacrifices and commitment to the lab as well.
“What I like about today is to have families here,” he said. “Families are a very important part of the lab. As you know better than anyone else in the country, the laboratory asks a lot of the people who work here and the consequence of that is that it asks a lot of their families.”
Martinez took the opportunity to talk more about her legislative family, asking attending state Reps. Carl Trujillo and Stephanie Garcia Richard to stand up and be acknowledged.
“These are the folks we work with everyday to make sure we’re working hard for the labs,” Martinez said. “As a state agency, as a legislature we make sure we are bringing back the dollars that are necessary to do important work, not just for our nation but for the entire world. So we all speak with the same voice when it comes to LANL, it doesn’t matter what party we come from.”
She also talked about the contributions LANL has made to the state as well.
“Besides providing good jobs for New Mexicans, LANL continues to raise the bar by enhancing science education for our students,” she said. “That is so important to me, that together, along with our two legislators that are here are going to continue to raise the bar for education for all of our children in all subjects.”
She then concluded her speech with heartfelt congratulations to lab employees and their families.
“Congratulations on the milestones you have reached today and may the next 70 years outshine the past, and may this facility continue to make great discoveries and advancements. And thank you to the families for standing by those great employees.”