Sandia LabNews

Jeff Brinker, Jim Gosler appointed Sandia Fellows

Jeff Brinker, Jim Gosler appointed Sandia Fellows

Jim Gosler (5901) and Jeff Brinker (1846) have been appointed Sandia Fellows by Laboratory Director C. Paul Robinson.

They are the fifth and sixth Sandians so honored since the Laboratories were founded 57 years ago, and they already have plans to use their new positions — which correspond to director of a line organization — and distinctive capabilities to perform work that wouldn’t have occurred to them before their appointments.

Says Jeff, “Maybe Gordon [Osbourn (1001), the only other active Fellow], Jim, and I will come up with a common denominator to find and work critical problems that would be of importance to the Laboratories. Maybe we can do something interesting instead of being disconnected entities.”

Ordinarily, he said, “My world doesn’t intersect with Jim’s at all. But he has major issues he’s identified. Maybe Gordon can provide modeling, I do the materials work, and Jim identifies the threats.”

Jim is a widely recognized expert in areas of information security that are generally classified as “dark” areas. Jeff is an internationally recognized expert in materials science, particularly in the area of sol-gel processing of ceramics and self-assembling nanostructures.

Says Jim, “One of the loves of my life is what has historically been known as blackhatting. In the past, I’ve pulled together a collection of diverse technical people looking for vulnerabilities in weapons components that bad guys might attempt to exploit, with the idea of getting there before they do. Over the last 15 years, I’ve been deeply involved with the operational world and finding novel applications of technology to support that world. I suppose that broadens the definition of Sandia Fellow in the Labs; I don’t fit the Brinker-Osbourn scientist mold. So we agreed that the three of us get together on problems of national interest where the blend of our expertise could be useful in finding solutions to these problems and perhaps provide seed material for others within the lab.”

Gordon, Jim says, was one of the first to e-mail him congratulations and suggest further talks upon learning of his appointment.

Says Pace VanDevender, VP 1000, who supported Jeff’s nomination and saw it through the intensive scrutiny required, “Jeff, who has been a Senior Scientist in Materials & Process Sciences Center 1800, is an internationally recognized materials scientist, and is best known as one of the founding fathers of the field of sol-gel processing. Jeff’s work in the new field of nano-engineering has substantially contributed to establishing Sandia’s credibility as a leader in the National Nanotechnology Initiative.”

Open research vs. classified world

Sandia VP for Nonproliferation and Assessments Al Romig (5000) proposed both Jeff’s and Jim’s nomination.

“This award is given to honor Sandia researchers who have had a significant impact on the nation and their community,” says Al. “While Jeff and Gordon have had a visible impact on the scientific community, Jim has done the same — less visibly, obviously — on national security for the intelligence community. Frankly, it’s easier to measure papers, awards, and citations for scientists. Measuring impact in the classified world is based on our evaluation of the large impact that Jim’s information technology applications have in the nation’s intelligence community. That impact was highlighted in George Tenet’s [Director of Central Intelligence] presentation of a major award to Jim in a private ceremony a few years ago. That was only one of many praises from senior intelligence people. These endorsements were used in supporting Jim’s selection as a Sandia Fellow.”

Jim, an expert in vulnerability assessment, “is mysterious for what he’s done, and boy, has he done it well,” quipped Al, who hired into Sandia on almost the same day as Jim and shared the same uncleared office in 1979.

Re Jeff, Al said, “One of the things Paul [Robinson, Labs President] likes to say is that Jeff almost owns Science and Nature magazines. It’s true that Jeff has been a very prolific author there. In professional journals, he’s one of the most highly cited authors we have at Sandia. He’s almost without peer. He’s also the only Sandian with the rights of a Sandia Fellow and at the University of New Mexico of a full professor. In addition to his extraordinary accomplishments, he is also more than ready, willing, and able to apply his expertise to solve problems that are critical to Sandia. There have been a number of issues critical to the national security enterprise when DOE looked across its labs and Jeff was the only one who could do it, and he did it.”

Exhilarated, honored

Says Jim, “One thing I want to do with the remaining parts of my career is to take all that I have learned technically, programmatically, and operationally and apply that as best I can helping the people back East solve problems relating to the war on terrorism, and help Sandians apply their wonderful technical capabilities in supporting those efforts. The three of us are pretty different in our background, so we may get a lot done.

“I’m really exhilarated and honored to have this opportunity; I had an opportunity to work with Gus Simmons [a retired Sandia Fellow] in my early years. He had a significant impact on me at the Lab. He took the time to provide input and guidance. He helped me along the way. So it’s particularly delightful for me to now hold the same position.”

Says Jeff, more the cautious researcher, “I knew it was in the works, but I wasn’t sure when. I’m not sure yet what it all means, but . . . I’m hoping it means I don’t have to spend as much time digging for money [to support my research]. Then I’ll have huge amounts of time to do more science.” Jeff says it takes probably 30 percent of his time to obtain, maintain, and administer the funding needed to support himself and his research group of 25 undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs.

Both men seem to embody the inverse of Parkinson’s whimsical law that work expands to fill the time available. In their case, the work must obligingly contract, since they do so much of it.

Creativity at the nanoscale

Jeff is a researcher, teacher, editor, patent holder, and prolific article writer. He serves on the editorial board of five technical publications. This year, he has been awarded the 2003 Materials Research Society Medal “for pioneering the application of principles of sol-gel chemistry to the self-assembly of functional nanoscale materials” (Lab News, Sept. 5). In 2002, he won DOE’s E.O. Lawrence Award — the highest, if only the latest, in a string of his DOE awards æ for advances in materials science (Lab News, Oct. 4, 2002). In the same year, he was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering. In his capacity as professor at UNM, he has advised 25 graduate students, one of whom — Dhaval Doshi — won the 2001 “Collegiate Inventors Competition” from the National Inventors Hall of Fame. The award was accompanied by a $30,000 check to (mainly) student and (also) professor. Mostly, though, Jeff is known for his work in sol-gel processing, which has produced a series of innovations in nanotechnology over the last decade that emerged with the logic and excitement and, nearly, the structure of a popular novel. The papers of the Brinker group, appearing regularly in publications like Nature and Science, have been well-chronicled in Lab News as the team went from flat surface coatings to multiple layers to nanospheres and beyond. These stories are available in the online Lab News on the Sandia web site, search “nano.”

Clandestine information technology

While Jim’s work is harder to itemize (imagine a series of blackouts here), it can be said that Jim was Sandia’s first loaned employee to the National Security Agency, beginning a partnership between Labs and Agency that continues to this day. He solved problems there that many considered unsolvable, emerging as perhaps the preeminent expert in vulnerability assessment. In 1995, he was named Sandia Manager of the Year and also received Sandia’s first NOVA award from Lockheed Martin for leadership. In 1996, then-CIA director John Deutsch requested Jim’s support in establishing Information Operations as a core element of the CIA’s clandestine technical collection arsenal. Jim was named Founding Director of the CIA’s Clandestine Information Technology Office. After six months of analysis, Jim reengineered his office to take advantage of available synergies, which enabled CITO to achieve extraordinary impact on US national security. Among his awards are the Director of Central Intelligence Director’s Award, the Intelligence Medal of Merit, the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement, and the Clandestine Service Medallion.

“There were a lot of talented people already there working in these areas and I just brought coherence,” he says, a description that itself speaks for his ability to work with others.

A significant difference between current appointees Jim, Jeff, and Gordon and preceding Sandia Fellows is that recent appointees are active researchers in the middle of their careers. Predecessors Gus Simmons, Walt Herrmann, and Wendell Weart were nearing the end of their tenures before receiving the honor.