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Charles McMillan, Ph.D., director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and president of Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), the company that operates the lab for the National Nuclear Security Administration, was named alumnus of the year by his alma mater, Washington Adventist University during alumni homecoming weekend, April 12-14.
McMillan was the guest of honor at the annual alumni awards banquet held in Bethesda, Md., April 13.
In a brief address to the gathering, McMillan paid tribute to WAU’s emphasis on service as a valuable part of the learning experience. He said he was pleased to note that the Gateway, the University’s iconic emblem of service, remains on the campus. His graduating class, the class of 1977, replaced it after it was destroyed by fire in 1970.
“Service of the highest level requires education of the best quality,” McMillan said. “Education is not just about the acquisition of knowledge; it is about asking the right questions and how to know if the answers make sense.”
Integrity, quality and a strong STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education are increasingly critical to students’ success in the world today, he said.
McMillan graduated from Washington Adventist University, then Columbia Union College, in 1977, with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and Physics. Upon graduation, he taught for a year at Rusangu Secondary School in Zambia after which, he earned his doctoral degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
He began his career in 1983 as an experimental physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California. He later moved into computational science and management at LLNL before joining Los Alamos in 2006 as associate director for weapons physics. In that capacity, he oversaw the safety, reliability and performance of the US nuclear deterrent, which is the lab's main mission.
McMillan has earned two Department of Energy Awards of Excellence; one of them for developing an innovative holographic tool that enhances the ability of scientists to predict nuclear performance.
Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are the two physics laboratories in the United States where classified work toward the design of nuclear weapons is undertaken. According to its website, the mission of Los Alamos is to “develop and apply science and technology to ensure the safety, security and reliability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent; reduce global threats; and solve emerging national and security challenges.”