Apr 25, 2008

JRO Fellows

Posted anonymously by request. See LANL's Postdoc page for more information on JRO Fellows.

I just saw a graph of the number of Oppenheimer fellows as a function of the calendar year. Three years ago, we had more than 10. Today (and for the past 2 years) we have only one! This is another "metric" of what LANS has done to us. Is it that the best young people have no one to work with, so they are not attracted here? Is it that one can't get anything done at LANL without taking weeks of training that discourages them? Is it that they stay away from an institution that is constantly under scrutiny for everything except science? Is it that they see people like Wallace and Seestrom in charge, and shy away from their demonstrated mediocrity? Or maybe all of the above...

PS - LANL can hire 2 per year, for 3 years. But previous directors would often hire a third candidate if they thought that s/he would be a great asset.


Anonymous said...

OK, I couldn't resist. You've been running such a clean ship here recently, Pinky, er, Frank.

What happened to the bottom-feeder blogette here? What about the big news, Tommy Hook's divorce story in yesterdays Journal? Seems that Tommy's been lured to Cheeks and other Gentlemen's clubs rather often. Surely not another strong-armed beating in the night, for whistleblowing on LANL?


And who can forget how POGO's Peter Stockton took the bait, Hook, line and sinker, so to speak. POGO lowered their "standards" and defended poor Tommy nationwide in the media. Remember that? Fun times at Tommy's expense, I'm 'fraid.

Anonymous said...

I do not understand the numbers on th graph. At most you could have 9 fellows at 3 a year since the appointment is for 3 years.

I know that many of the recent Oppenheimer offers have been turned down as the people choose to go elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

The lab is dead. When's the rif coming?

Frank Young said...

4/25/08 2:19 PM,
Nobody requested I post that story. Do you want it posted?

I did read the story and I'll say this, no matter what really happened to Tommy Hook I still feel compassion for his wife. If there was anything new in the story I might have posted it, but I decided to pass.

Anonymous said...

Does this graph include the Reines and Feynman fellows, which are similar to Oppenheimers? The title implies no, but the graph legend suggests yes.

Anonymous said...

What about Mike Anastacio's wife??

Why do you put him out there to be picked on?

Censor and the blog will die.

Anonymous said...

I predict post-docs will return when we return to research. The lab is a depressing place these days- although it has perked up a little lately. I'm going to guess that potential Oppenheimer candidates see a slow path to their research goal combined with little chance of a permanent job...

However, we're doing well pulling in aging high dollar Bechtelites. What happens to them when Bechtel is done here? Do they stay or leave?

Anonymous said...

Is LANL currently suffering from the Dead Sea effect?


Eweek.com - The Evaporating IT Workforce - April 12, 2008

Located below sea level, water only leaves the Dead Sea by evaporation and what is left is generally unable to support life. This, in short, is the predicament of large IT departments, which work in a similar way. The most talented and effective engineers are the ones most likely to leave -- or "evaporate" -- argues (Bruce) Webster. They're fed up with the "stupidities" that can plague a large organization and with the opportunities out there, they can readily move on.

"What tends to remain behind is the 'residue' -- the least talented and effective IT engineers. They tend to be grateful they have a job and make fewer demands on management; even if they find the workplace unpleasant they are the least likely to be able to find a job elsewhere.

The cycle is self-perpetuating -- the worse an IT shop becomes, the harder it is to get really talented and effective IT folks to join the place.


Does any of this sound familiar?

Anonymous said...

Susan and Terry and Mary have all approved of the cut in Director's Funded PD M&S from $20K to a whopping $10K because they thought they would gain so much money for their own private efforts. Same goes for the Distinguished Fellows (Oppie, Reines, and Feynman) - in fact they got their M&S funding cut to $5K. Why would someone even want to choose LANL with that kind morale booster. Mike is such a f*cking idiot to let these shining stars lead science ...

Frank Young said...

"What about Mike Anastacio's wife??

Why do you put him out there to be picked on?

Censor and the blog will die.

If Mike is getting divorced and it has nothing to do with LANL then I doubt I would mention it on the blog.

If you think I'm too hard on Mike you are welcome to speak up about it. I don't intend to stop until he answers my question and he pretends I don't exist, so I don't see anything changing.

And finally, reread what I wrote. I said I decided not to post the Hook divorce story and nobody had requested it. That isn't censorship. I still have no requests to post it.

Anonymous said...

"What about Mike Anastacio's wife??

Ewoks marry? Damn, that's news to me!

Anonymous said...

Of course we have dropped the funding of Oppenheimer Fellows. The expense of each Oppie Fellow one can be used to fund a Bechtel construction engineer. It's clear what LANS values.

When Bechtel, BWXT, and Washington Group were added to the LANS LLC, it was clear that the emphasis at LANL would quickly shift to construction (Bechtel), production management (BWXT), and clean up (Washington Group). Who needs Oppie Fellows in this type of environment? Hiring Oppie Fellows means you believe science has a future at LANL. It does not.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a review of one of the old LTRS blog posts is in order. This one shown below was one of my favorites (and I did not write it). It was posted on Feb 26, 2005.

Parts of it ring more true today than when it was composed back in early 2005 during the time Nanos was terrorizing the workforce. That this poster remembered the infamous affair Director Don Kerr supposedly had with his executive secretary, Rosemary Harris, tells me that this poster was a true old timer. There are some gems of wisdom in this old timer's advice.


What Would Feynman Do?

From Anonymous:

From the number and the passion of the blogs on this website it is clear that there are a lot of people who care very deeply for the laboratory. While that's very commendable, it's also a mistake. Why? Because the lab doesn't care very deeply for you. Anyone who thinks that TSMs at the lab have effective tenure is woefully mistaken. LANL hires and fires by division, not as a laboratory. If the money dries up for your project, you are in deep doo-doo. It doesn't matter how well you have performed your job or how hard you've worked, you are vulnerable. During my time at LANL (25 years) I have participated in firing multiple people on two occasions. None of these people were “underperformers”. In fact, those who were most vulnerable tended to be successful scientists in their 40s and 50s who were or had been middle managers.

That being said, how should people react to the present situation? First of all, for those who are near retirement now is the time to bail. Don't worry that your departure and your colleagues departures might leave the lab too short-staffed to do our missions. That situation isn't of your making and it's not your responsibility to put yourself at risk. That problem belongs to Nanos, the NNSA and the politicians. So far, they haven't gone out of their way to give you any incentives to stay so you should extend to them the same courtesy.

For young staff people, if you have an opportunity to go somewhere else which has a decent environment for science, take it. The older you get the fewer opportunities will arise. Also, if you wait until you are older your financial risk will increase. The climate for doing science isn't going to get any better here. I think Tom Bowles is sincerely trying to improve it, but he doesn't have the resources to make much impact. The reality is that the climate for doing science at LANL has been monotonically decreasing ever since WWII. After the war, LANL received block funding and pretty much had the latitude to work on what we wanted to. Over the years that situation has steadily eroded to the point where most of the meaningful decisions are made in Washington. The present group of upper managers are control freaks who think that science is measured by pert charts and milestones. Most of them have never done any science and they don't have a clue as to what science is.

For those who would like to stay at LANL, realize that times of turmoil are also times of opportunity. This might be a good time to get funding for that project that you haven't been able to get funded. However, don't lull yourself into thinking that the long-term prognosis for science at the lab (particularly small science) is good. The ER side of DOE is facing flat or declining budgets and there is no way that people are going to be able to keep up with the increasing costs that the new safety/security culture will engender.

However, there is some good news. The costs of computing have dropped enormously over the past several years to where one can do significant computing on a box that costs less that $2k. Projects that 10 years ago had to be done in a large laboratory setting now can be done at home. People should consider taking their small science outside of the laboratory. Since small science is where the real breakthroughs and advancements come from, why bother to share this with the laboratory if they don’t appreciate it?

Finally, what do we need to do about Nanos and his entourage? There seems to be a mentality here that if we all band together we can get rid of this guy. That’s bullshit. Anyone who has ever managed at the lab has had the experience of a group of “concerned employees” going behind their back to their superiors to have them removed. It always happens and it never works. Why? Because the people they are complaining to have had the same thing done to them and they resent it. It makes it easy to be labeled as whiners and therefore dismissed.

In order to understand how to properly deal with this, you first of all have to understand the purpose of upper management. They don’t bring in any money. Since they don’t control the money, they can’t provide any meaningful strategic planning or anything else for the lab. Their first job is to be a pain in the butt. Our job is to get the job done in spite of all the obstacles they put in our way. This can require a lot of creativity, but we have a long history of accomplishing that at LANL.

Their second function is to provide entertainment. We also have a long history of that at LANL. Remember Don Kerr and Rosemary Harris with the infamous “quit talking about the director and me” memo? How about the exploits of Big Al Tiedman? If you want to deal with Nanos then you need to exploit his biggest weakness: he’s a stuffed shirt with a really short fuse who takes himself seriously. The one thing people like that can’t stand is to have everybody laughing at them. Pushing his buttons ought to be real easy. So easy you can even do it anonymously. Face it, anyone who gets bent out of shape about bumper stickers and cowboy hats is just begging to have his chain yanked. With even a modest amount of effort we ought to be able to get him and his minions popping Prozac like they are M&Ms. If we can get him to spend all of his time chasing his tail, then he won’t have enough time to continue damaging the laboratory. We need to take a tip from our fundamentalist brethren and consider WWFD (What Would Feynman Do?) in dealing with this guy.

# posted by Doug Roberts : 2/26/2005 02:17:00 PM


Anonymous said...

"What Would Feynman Do?" was one of my all time favorites, too. I wish the current blog had more high quality posts like this one.

Alas, the quality is declining at Los Alamos. Regardless of what LANS and the politicians may say, it is clear that NNSA and LANS have plans to direct LANL toward a strong emphasis on engineering and production activities. Science will take a back seat. Things at LANL have only become worse since this article was posted in 2005. Back in 2005, the main problem was Pete Nanos. Today, the whole upper management hierarchy has become corrupted with poor performers, not that it seems to have any effect on their high salaries.

Anonymous said...

I don't know where this data came from. At the start of 2008 the Lab had 3Oppys and 1 Reines.

In May '06, per the old UPTE salary lists, there were 3 Oppys, 2 Reines and 1 Feynman.

October '03 there were 5 Oppys, 6 Reines and 4 Feynmans.

So the graph appears to get it right (as a measure of ALL named Fellows, not just JROs) up until the LANS transition.

Anonymous said...

To 3:38, this is distributed as a monthly report by HR. I have seen it too.

Anonymous said...

Is another law suit brewing over the issue of women pay scales at LANL? Maybe the last one which was settled last year was just the beginning.

Lt. Gov. calls for more resources to address pay equity gap - BusinessWeekly, April 22, 2008


Los Alamos might be the wealthiest county in New Mexico, but it has the biggest pay gap between men and women in the state.

That's according to a new analysis of the earnings gap completed by the Southwest Women's Law Center in Albuquerque. Women in Los Alamos County earned only 57 percent of what men earned there. Santa Fe had the narrowest gap at 91 percent.

Anonymous said...

Fewer women who live in Los Alamos work at LANL than men who live in Los Alamos. Pay for women living in Los Alamos and not working at LANL is much lower than for men living in Los Alamos and working at LANL. Why exclusively focus on LANL?

Anonymous said...

3:38 PM wrote, "I don't know where this data came from. At the start of 2008 the Lab had 3Oppys and 1 Reines."

Hmmm. I work with 2 Reines Fellows myself and so the data seem to be as they say .. f*cked.

Anonymous said...

Why exclusively focus on LANL?

... why not? My guess is you will find some sort of wrong-doing with the pay of the boys-club versus the women. Is Neu paid the same as Gibbs or Bishop?

Anonymous said...

Most of the women working at LANL do not live in Los Alamos, and work in much lower-paying job categories than the men at LANL, most of whom live in Los Alamos. What's the big deal?

Anonymous said...

If you'll actually chase down a copy of the wage gap report, you'll see that the reporting on it is a bit less than, um, scientific.

For example the 91% figure that's being quoted for Santa Fe County comes from 2006 data, while the 57% figure for Los Alamos is based on 1999 data. Santa Fe's figure gap was ~83% in 1999.

The report also says that Los Alamos has the LOWEST disparity of poverty rates between men and women. In all other counties except one, there is a higher poverty rate for women than men.

Los Alamos County also had the highest median income for women, $40.2K. The next closest was Santa Fe at $28.8K. For men, the respective median incomes for LA and SF counties were %70.0K and and $33.2K in 1999. In other words, the wage gap is closed in SF by men earning less, not by women earning more.

Finally, the wage gap is not calculated by comparing e.g. Mary Neu and Sue Seestrom's salaries with Scott Gibbs and Alan Bishop's salaries for equivalent job classifications. It compares the medians of all women's wages and all men's wages in the county.

Anonymous said...

Anyone have the numbers of JRO Fellows that have stayed at LANL? I know of several (including myself) who have left.

Anonymous said...

Not publishing the story about Tommy Hook makes us very suspicious of the motives of this blog.

There was certainly no hesitation on publishing the story about sexual predation by Trujillo.

The following statement is interesting:

"Last month, U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera ordered Hook and MontaƱo to pay $3,037.79 in court costs to a defendant who was granted summary judgments in her favor."

Hook and Montano are clearly discredited as whistleblowers.

Anonymous said...

9:01 AM "Anyone have the numbers of JRO Fellows that have stayed at LANL? I know of several (including myself) who have left."

I worked in DX and left as well - I know of a chemist and a physicist (both Reines) who are getting offers and thinking of leaving.

This is exactly what Terry and his gang want!

Anonymous said...

Is this blog in some kind of collusion with Hook and Montano?

Anonymous said...

So there are three JRO fellows and I think three Reines fellows (the two I know are chemists, and the DX person says there's a physicist Reines).

So what does HR gain by distributing graphs that claim LANL currently has only one distinguished PD fellow?

I can't follow the money on this one.

Anonymous said...


Below are some excerpts of an interview by the Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor newsletter with Mike Anastasio. As you might expect, Mike say morale is going up, WFO work in increasing, and LANS LLC has been a great success and a benefit for LANL. Your mileage may vary from Mike's. You can read the complete interview at the following link:



Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor - April 28, 2008

Interview with Michael Anastasio


Q - The budget issues the labs are facing have resulted in workforce restructuring that’s happening to various degrees at each of the labs. What are the challenges of managing a workforce that is enduring these kinds of changes?

Mike - Yes, that’s been a huge problem, and of course we’re almost two years into the new contract at Los Alamos, and there’s a lot of change going on. Of course, the laboratory was facing lots of challenges and was under lots of pressure for the perceived issues around security and so forth, and then we bring in a new contract and a new approach to doing things, and that causes a lot of anxiety amongst people. Managing change is always difficult, but I’m feeling better that the morale at the laboratory has gone up, that the people are starting to focus, and I’m trying to get us all focused on the real exciting science that we are doing and the opportunities we have to help solve some really important plans for the country.

Q - Of all the labs, Sandia seems to have done the best with expanding its mission and increasing its Work for Others repertoire. How can that be applied at Los Alamos?

Mike - Of course we’re pursuing it vigorously. One way to deal with some of these issues is to grow other parts of your budget. And, so, in fact we are actually being very effective at that. Some of our Work for Others areas are growing by over 20 percent this year already. We’ve done a good job of that and will continue to do that. But, at the same time, if you look at what NNSA’s approach is, they’re starting to concentrate some of the capability they want nationally at Los Alamos. So, we’re trying to manage through taking that set of missions on and at the same time grow. That’s part of the way they keep the science at the lab vital — you have a variety of things to do so that the scientists can all get enthused about a variety of different missions and the way they can apply their science.

Q - Much was made during the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations hearing April 16 about the issues facing Lawrence Livermore and the economic shortfall that lab faces — particularly in light of increased fees paid at a time when the workforce is shrinking. Los Alamos National Security is further along in the process, so with that in mind, has the transition from public to private been worth it?

Mike - As we near the second year of LANS management, it’s clear that the corporate partnership has benefited the laboratory. We’re seeing outstanding performance built on great science at the lab. We’re performing exceptionally well in our key mission areas of science, nuclear weapons and threat reduction, and are making demonstrable improvement in safety, security, business practices and overall management.

Frank Young said...

Thanks! I was just reading that myself.