By Mollie Rappe

Photography By Randy Montoya

Friday, March 03, 2017

Dan Sinars represents Sandia in first energy leadership class

DOE Oppenheimer Science and Energy Leadership Program group explores Sandia’s National Solar Thermal Test Facility during a site visit in early February.      (Photo by Randy Montoya)

Dan Sinars (1680), a senior manager in Sandia’s pulsed power center, is the sole representative from a nuclear weapons lab in a DOE leadership cohort that recently visited Sandia.

Members of the Oppenheimer Science and Energy Leadership Program (OSELP) are up-and-coming leaders from the 17 DOE labs selected to learn about the DOE complex and how it fits within the national research landscape.

DOE chose Dan for the inaugural OSELP class after Sandia leadership nominated him. His research focuses on z-pinch phenomena and high energy density physics, which could lead to useable fusion-based energy. The nominations went to an advisory committee of former laboratory directors, which chose him and 13 others from a pool of internal leaders and external collaborators proposed by each of the labs.

Dan is the only participant from an NNSA lab. The first class includes researchers from Brookhaven, Pacific Northwest, and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories; SLAC and Fermi national accelerator laboratories; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory; Nova Photonics; and Stony Brook University, Iowa State University, and the University of Washington.

The OSELP gives Dan a good opportunity to learn about the other DOE labs from site visits and the other members. “It’s enlightening to talk to people from different labs and find out how they do things there. As an NNSA lab, Sandia is pretty different, but it’s the same too,” he says.

Dan is no stranger to national recognition. He has received a DOE Early Career investigator award and Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) award in addition to American Physical Society awards.

Visiting academic, industry, and DOE labs

A major component of the OSELP program is site visits where the leaders get a chance to talk with laboratory executives about their experiences and leadership challenges. The first was to the San Francisco Bay Area last June, which included conversations with leaders and tours of Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, and SLAC as well as Stanford and Google. One highlight was a presentation by Paul Alivisatos, former director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who discussed the spectrum of missions and approaches at DOE laboratories ranging from the academic and to more applied, recalls Dan.

Of course, the group went to Washington, D.C., to meet with leaders at DOE and other federal agencies, and later to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.

Recently, the OSELP visited Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories. At Sandia, the group toured CINT, MESA, the solar tower, battery lab, and the Z machine facility, where Dan works. They also got a chance to talk with Sandia leaders, including Labs Director Jill Hruby.

“The most interesting thing about Sandia is the diversity of programs and people. All this research grew from one core mission to many different areas,” says Amy Marschilok, a researcher focusing on developing better batteries and OSELP participant from Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University.

In March, the OSELP plans to attend DOE’s Big Ideas Summit. There, participants will present “think pieces” developed over the past year about DOE’s challenges and role in the research landscape. Dan is writing about attracting and retaining the best researchers. His group surveyed previous DOE Early Career award winners to learn what the DOE is doing well to attract and keep these top performers, and will use the results to make recommendations for future DOE recruiting efforts, Dan says.