Nov 28, 2007

More work leaving LANL

No need to state the obvious about the good ones leaving, and taking their work with them. So I won't.



From this news item:

Argonne Bolsters Efforts in Security Research

ARGONNE, Ill., Nov. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory has expanded its capabilities to protect U.S. interests at home and abroad.

The Vulnerability Assessment Team (VAT) moved to Argonne's Nuclear Engineering Division last month from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The VAT conducts multi-disciplinary research and development on physical security devices, systems and programs.

The "VAT's expertise and capabilities align extremely well with Argonne's work in national and homeland security," said Alfred Sattelberger, associate director of Physical Sciences and Applied Science and Technology at Argonne, who helped to find the group a home at Argonne. "Since the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001, this lab has been actively bolstering its research portfolio to support the Federal government's national security efforts. We expect that the VAT will be integrated into that work."

The VAT has worked extensively in the areas of product anti-counterfeiting, tamper and intrusion detection, cargo security, nuclear safeguards and the human factors associated with security using the tools of industrial and organizational psychology.

The VAT made the move to Argonne because the team wants to make scientific research an integral part of its activities -- a strategy not typically considered or employed when it comes to physical security, said Roger Johnston, who heads the team.

"We're trying to elevate the field of physical security," said Johnston, who earned a doctoral degree in physics from the University of Colorado. "You can't for the most part get a degree in physical security even though physical security is extremely important and can often be a complex, multidisciplinary problem. Unfortunately, security is not viewed in the same way that science and technology is viewed. Too often, security is thought of as being black or white -- something is either secure or it is not. In reality, security is a spectrum, with lots of tradeoffs and uncertainties. Security should be controversial, constantly progressing, and not thought of as having only one right answer. There are intelligent approaches to addressing security unknowns and that's where scientific research, including social science, comes into play."

Another reason Argonne was an appealing destination for the VAT team is the lab's "attitude that it should be interacting with private industry," Johnston said. "We want to work more with private industry. We've gotten a lot of interest from companies about security." The VAT is especially interested in collaborating with the pharmaceutical industry, which struggles with the issue of how to deal with drug counterfeiting and tampering.

The VAT was also attracted to Argonne because of the Laboratory's interest in students. The VAT has previously employed over 50 student research assistants in 14 years at LANL.

Because the over-arching goal of the VAT team -- which also includes Jon Warner, a systems engineer, Peter Chen, a psychology professor at Colorado State University, and a soon to be hired computer and security analyst -- is to improve security, its members have to think like "the bad guys," said Warner. "We are adversarial vulnerability specialists; we focus on being the bad guys," he said.

Ross Anderson, a University of Cambridge professor of security research, said this about the VAT: "The most impressive physical security research team in the world is probably Roger Johnston's Vulnerability Assessment Team at Los Alamos." Indeed, the team has 10 U.S. patents, two R&D 100 awards, and was awarded Popular Science magazine's "Best of What's New Award," the LANL Fellows Prize for Outstanding Research, and the LANL Achievement Awards in 2007, 2004, 1999 and 1995.

Past VAT sponsors include the International Atomic Energy Agency, EURATOM, the U.S. Departments of Energy, State and Defense, the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration, intelligence agencies and private companies. In addition to its own research, the team hosts a peer-reviewed scientific journal on physical security, the only known one of its kind, Johnston said.

About Argonne

Argonne National Laboratory, a renowned R&D center, brings the world's brightest scientists and engineers together to find exciting and creative new solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.



Anonymous said...

That's the "pits"

Pun intended.

Anonymous said...

This team worked in Chemistry Division and was hired here at LANL by Sattelberger, when he was the Division Leader. This was an easy and quick revenge for him, after Nanos "stepped him down".

Gussie Fink-Nottle said...


It's now been more than 3 years since the shutdown, so it wasn't "quick". And it's never easy to to get a whole team to agree to leave LANL and go somewhere else.

The good news is that the VAT team now has a less dysfunctional, and hopefully more supportive and productive home.


Anonymous said...

Sattelberger was fired by Nanos and then Bowles & Kuckuck made him a senior Lab Fellow. He was eagerly hired away from LANL to build another LANL-like Chemistry capability elsewhere. This is no surprise. Sattelberger brought several Lab Fellows to LANL. He built C-Division and he single-handedly brought in numerous PDs who have ascended to high-ranking levels at LANL. Not bad. LANL should not have let Sattelberger go. Even though Sattelberger is a sexist pig, he will make LANL sorry they ever fired him...yes, he is THAT good.

Anonymous said...

Roger Johnston, the leader and creator of this group, had been at LANL for many years before he left. Just look up the Wall Street Journal article about his work at LANL from March 1997 (ten years ago) if you're in doubt. It's a great read and made for good LANL PR at the time.

That LANL let him and his team get away speaks volumes. Rodger is a well known expert in technologies that are in high demand within certain circle of the national security crowd. This is another sad example of LANL letting some promising non-weapons work walk straight out the front door due to neglect.

Anonymous said...

" said Alfred Sattelberger, associate director of Physical Sciences and Applied Science and Technology at Argonne, who helped to find the group a home at Argonne. "

Sattelberger!! That was one one of the cowboys that Nanos got rid of
and thank, God for it. Now look at
Sattelberger! Way to go Nanos.

Anonymous said...

LANL management and others have yet to grasp the fact that some of the best DO work here. If they do not feel they are treated with respect, they will go elsewhere. When they do, they will not shy from speaking their mind. How many ex LANL folks are in Washington speaking their mind?

Anonymous said...

I had not heard that Sattelberger is (was) a "sexist" pig. I have known him for many years and would not consider that to be a true statement. He did bring some women such as Carol Burns into management.

Anonymous said...

Enough with the mythology. Sattelberger is a second rate chemist who happens to have a real eye for talent and sufficient charisma to be a great recruiter for any instiution. He stumbled into an opportunity to raid the LANL weapons program capital equipment budget back while it was still fat and happy, to build a strong synthesis capability. He's a good old boy gladhander who takes care of his friends and golf buddies, but a lousy manager who couldn't care less about the broken-down rat-infested dysfunctional working conditions in his Division, so long as the pubs keep coming out. That way, Big Al can get lots of invitations to the Gordo's and get drunk with his buddies, and still pretend like he's a real chemist. As far as I'm concerned, Argonne can have him.

Roger Johnston, on the other hand... that's a real loss.

Anonymous said...

7:17 AM - I concur. Sattelberger is not sexist. He brought in lots of high quality women scientists and he always had women deputies. He is not a bad guy.

Anonymous said...

Whether or not you liked Sattleberger is real interesting, and all, but beside the point. The real issue is that you are seeing the future of WFO at LANL. That is, there *is* no future of WFO at LANL.

Anonymous said...

From 7:45 PM - "He built C-Division ... "

YEs, that is correct. Sattelberger made dystfunctional C-Division what it is today. All the mishaps, poor management, in-fighting (and all the blog bashing on regarding people in C-Division) that have transpired over the past 8years can all be traced back to him. Sattelberger fostered competition, back-stabbing, gossip, playing favorites (his buddies) - anything to get another publication for C-division, no matter what the cost to people. Now he is bringing his style of leadership to Argonne - another great strategic hire in the DOE complex!

Anonymous said...

Here's a fellow, Rodger Johnston, who spent years building up a well respected program at LANL that brought in both outside money and plenty of fame. This is exactly the sort of development effort we need to see more of at LANL.

And what does LANL do after his years of effort to grow this innovative program? It lets him walk away with his whole team!

This is very depressing. Who is managing the store at LANL? Anybody?

Anonymous said...

"Sattelberger fostered competition, back-stabbing, gossip, playing favorites (his buddies) - anything to get another publication for C-division, no matter what the cost to people."

So he made it like a university.

Anonymous said...

Holy Fuck, BatMan! These people still don't get it! Let's try using small words this time, and speaking slowly.







There, got it this time?

Anonymous said...

Can Mikey "hustle"? Here's a partial excerpt from Wednesday's LA Monitor article.

Udall pushes for LANL growth - Los Alamos Monitor, Wed Nov28

By CAROL A. CLARK Monitor County Editor

Citing Sandia as the model to mimic, Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., is urging Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Michael Anastasio to seek funding to expand non-weapon areas such as nonproliferation, energy security and energy renewables. The issue, Udall said, is the shrinking nuclear weapons footprint in the country.

“The administration has decided it can be shrunk down and still be effective,” he said. “Los Alamos has the biggest share and so it can take the biggest hit of the three labs (LANL, Sandia and Lawrence Livermore). My vision is to try to get the lab to diversify in a number of ways that they are already doing on a small scale.”

Udall said he has spoken with Anastasio about the "Sandia model" on several occasions.

About six years ago, Sandia saw the shrinkage coming and decided to get out in front of it, Udall said, adding they came down from some 75-percent weapons to 50-percent weapons. They’ve done it in such a way that they’re now diversified, so this latest shrinkage is going to be minimal, maybe just 70-80 jobs, he said.

“I told Mike (Anastasio) he needs to get out there and hustle for the lab like Sandia did – to work with various agencies in the government to grow these areas,” Udall said during an interview Wednesday at the Los Alamos Research Park. “He told me he’s the guy to do that.”

Anonymous said...

There are several digs at LANL in this article, like "The VAT made the move to Argonne because the team wants to make scientific research an integral part of its activities." Or how about "Another reason Argonne was an appealing destination for the VAT team is the lab's "attitude that it should be interacting with private industry."
Not too subtle. If they gave a damn, LANS management could even figure out the problems that caused this team to leave.

Anonymous said...

You are wrong, 11:28 AM. Mikey just told Tom Udall he's ready to hustle up some WFO to help save the lab and Mikey never lies!

Well, almost never.

You know, only when he really has to.

Come to think of it, he does lie, sometimes.

A lot, actually.

Oh, hell, we're SCREWED!!!

jacks said...

So they got supported, recognized and grew here. Have they left because of the overhead or the pits?

Anonymous said...

That's a pretty narrow range of possible explanations, 1:36. I know of one team that left because of the degraded quality of management at LANL. Of course, as a direct result of poor management, overhead rates have soared in the past year.

Anonymous said...

I know both Roger Johnston and Al Sattelberger. Both are first rate people.

Some of the comments that are posted about Sattelberger being a sexist and other things are not correct. Both of these guys were really great laboratory citizens and their departure is a great loss.

Anonymous said...

Sattleberger was a huge loss for LANL. When he left, Mary Anne Yates went with him. Mary Anne was also a huge loss for LANL.

Argonne, led by Sattleberger and Yates, is actively recruiting successful WFO PIs from LANL. They know how hard it is to get work done here and their sales pitch is really enticing. If only I could sell my house.

Anonymous said...

Al built C Division? Not really. It was Bob Ryan who secured the initial flush of BES funding (nearly a $M which was quite a lot of funding back in the day) that still carries the inorganic chemistry effort today.