Laboratory lauds leaders for innovation

-A A +A

LANL recognizes 2009 Distinguished Performance Award recipients

By Carol A. Clark

Jagdish Laul’s work will save an estimated $5 million per year in surveillance and maintenance costs at six nuclear and non-nuclear laboratory sites.


Laul, a principal safety engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, received a 2009 Distinguished Performance Award for developing the technical bases that justified establishing lower hazard designations for the six sites. He based his work on a “thorough understanding” of the materials involved and on “carefully researched” operational histories, working within the constraints of federal guidance and safety laws, as applied through DOE rules and regulations.

As a result, he was able to provide a much better understanding of the actual risk each site poses. His work also establishes a valuable foundation of information for future remediation.

“It is such an honor to be recognized in this way,” said Laul who has worked at LANL for 11 years. “All of the individuals and teams receiving this award have contributed so much to the advancement of research and science.”

Laul is one of five individuals, five small teams and seven large teams to receive the prestigious award. They are recognized for job performance that goes above and beyond what normally is expected.

Also recognized in the individual category along with Laul was Christopher Fugard for adding significantly to the National Nuclear Security Agency’s understanding of the technical issues shared by modern nuclear threats. His assessment of these emerging technologies, taking into account both their offensive capabilities and defensive measures that could be taken against them, has had an impact on NNSA’s defense programs and nuclear counterterrorism program.

Howard Patton earned his distinguished performance award for developing and publishing a theory that explains the unusual surface wave energy found in the 2006 and 2009 North Korean nuclear weapons tests.

Patton developed a compelling and plausible theory to explain the unusual surface wave energy after the 2006 test, hypothesizing that explosions in virgin rock would generate significantly higher surface wave energy than in previously disturbed rock. He refined and validated his theory with an analysis of the 2009 test. Surface wave techniques can now be adjusted to account for the energy increases in virgin rock explosions.

His theory and mathematics could potentially provide a transformational seismic-event identification capability for treaty verification, ensuring that virgin rock explosions will not be misidentified.

Lorenzo Gonzales is a Master Teacher in the Northern New Mexico Math and Science Academy (MSA), which is LANL’s community education outreach program for Northern New Mexico’s K-12 teachers.

Gonzales was recognized for his work as the major designer and implementer of many of the MSA program components. Gonzales also established an MSA Master of Arts program in Teaching Math and Science for New Mexico State University. The program graduated its 57th teacher in 2009.

Research Technologist John Valencia rounds out the five individual award recipients for 2009. Valencia was recognized as the driving force behind space programs supporting the nation’s nuclear nonproliferation treaty monitoring capabilities.

He was involved in a ramping-up effort to complete production, testing, integration and delivery of six combined x-ray spectrometer and particle dosimeter (CXD) payloads scheduled to fly on current-generation GPS IIF satellites. During that effort, he was asked to design a substantially new and enhanced CXD sensor suite for the next generation of satellites, the GPS-IIIs.

His efforts ensure that the Space Nuclear Detonation Detection Program is well positioned for global coverage of nuclear threats during the next 20 years.

Valencia is the second person in his family to be honored. In 1981, his father, Flavio Valencia, received the award for his own contributions to the laboratory.