News

A passion for exploring

By Mollie Rappe

Friday, November 10, 2017

A peek into Associate Labs Director Doug Bruder’s life and travels

Doug Bruder

ASSOCIATE LABS DIRECTOR DOUG BRUDER leads Sandia’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Div. 6000. In that capacity, he manages everything from cooperative international programs to robotics research.  ( Photo by Randy Montoya)

When Doug Bruder was a little boy, August was for road trips.

His father taught geology at the junior college in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and every August the family would pack up and drive across the US, camping along the way. Doug’s father would point out interesting geological features and took more photos of mountains than of the family. By the time Doug was 15, he’d been to all 48 contiguous states. It would take decades for him to hit Hawaii and Alaska.

As Doug grew up, running around his suburban dead-end street barefoot, collecting grasshoppers and bees for a “zoo,” and competing with his neighbors at tree-climbing and hedge-hurdling became working at a sporting goods store after school, hiking and fishing, and participating in a table-tennis league.

By the time Doug was 16, he was in charge of opening the sporting goods store by himself on Saturdays. He’d answer questions on a wide variety of sports and gear, sell fishing and hunting gear, and even rent out cross-country skis. He made $2 per hour and got an employee discount on the fishing and hunting gear. He says, “Looking back at it, it’s amazing to me how much authority I was given as a high school kid.”

FAMILY MATTERS – Doug, bottom left, and his parents and siblings.

Technical work with a touch of exploration

His dad’s impromptu geology lessons sparked Doug’s interest in all things technical. He’d always been good at math so when he learned about engineering in late high school, he thought that would be something he could succeed at.

However, engineering wasn’t a passion for Doug. If he could do it all over again, and finances weren’t a concern, he would probably go into archaeology. It’s still technical work, but it involves exploring and is primarily outside — two of his passions. Of course, Doug admits, there’s plenty of exploring the unknown in research and his current position.

After his wedding day, and the days his children were born, the happiest day of Doug’s life was the day he got his first engineering position. Even though he had a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Michigan, it was very hard to find a job due to the recession in the early ’80s. His last semester, Doug received 50 or 60 rejection letters and his roommate, another engineering student, received about the same number.

Doug recalls, “My roommate and I would put our rejection letters up on the wall of our bedroom. It was a race to see who could get around the whole room first. I was at about 3 ½ walls when I finally got my first offer. When I got that first offer, it was a huge deal.”

That’s when Doug moved from small-town Michigan to bustling Washington, D.C.

LET’S GO BLUE – Doug, left, with wife Linda, their three children, Steve, Allison, and Katherine, and son-in-law, Jerry.

‘Let's Go Blue!’

After the move, it took Doug about a decade to accept the Washington Redskins as a preferred team along with his life-long favorite, the Detroit Lions. Now he says the two teams are equal in his favor. It doesn’t hurt, Doug admits, that the Lions have been “consistently the most mediocre team in the last 40 years.”

As a University of Michigan alumnus, Doug is a Wolverines fan. He rather enjoys the banter that goes on between scientists and engineers comparing their alma mater’s football teams, though he finds it a bit peculiar too.

Not only is Doug a football fan on weekends, but he also uses a lot of football analogies during the week. Doug says, “I’m constantly using sports analogies to describe work because I think sports are a great analogue to real life in many, many ways. My people better get used to me using a lot of football analogies.”

Family across half the globe

Doug met his wife Linda on the same suburban, dead-end street he grew up on. She moved into the neighborhood during high school and they met while she was babysitting his sister’s children. By this time Doug had moved about a mile away, but the proximity allowed the then-shy Doug to get to know her during low-risk activities like walks to the nearby park.

As of this September, Doug and Linda have been married for 34 years. They have three children — one son and two daughters.

Their eldest daughter is expecting her second child — their second grandchild — and lives in Virginia. Their son recently moved to Hawaii for a job at US Pacific Command. Their youngest daughter is going to college in Munich, Germany. With such a far-flung family, Doug and Linda Skype regularly and fly out to visit whenever they can.

New adventure in Albuquerque

When their children could support themselves, Doug decided to retire from his government job. “We suddenly felt like life was open,” he says.

About a year after his retirement as the director of research and development for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the position to help manage Sandia opened up.

Doug Bruder, at right, his wife Linda, and their three children on a family vacation.

Linda had never visited Albuquerque before, but she embraced the adventure and moved sight unseen. So far it’s been a good move for them, Doug says. They’re enjoying getting to know the Southwestern architectural style and getting to redecorate their house to fit. However, they’re not big green chile fans. Doug says, “I like the taste of green chile, but it’s just too hot. We just did not grow up with it.”

At Sandia, Doug hopes to continue to enhance the Labs’ reputation among both the scientific community and national security community. When he’s ready to retire again, he wants to leave the Labs strong, full of excellent people and unique capabilities.

He is most proud when the people under him accomplish great things without him even being aware of them beforehand. Doug adds, “That just means that you have set the culture and the conditions so the people are succeeding without you even having to be involved in the details.”

Weekend road trips

Another thing about Sandia Doug has enjoyed is the Labs’ 9/80 schedule. At first he was hesitant, as he wasn’t used to it, but now he loves it and how it supports a healthy work-life balance. Doug says, “Weekend getaways are a big deal for us right now. After 34 years of living in the D.C. area we had kind of run out of places to visit.”

So far Doug and Linda have hiked a little bit around Albuquerque, walked around Santa Fe, and visited Durango, Colorado. They like Durango quite a bit and have ridden the train on the Durango and Silverton narrow-gauge railroad.

They plan to visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park and other nearby national parks. They also want to hike Sandia Peak and visit some pueblo feast days to explore the rich heritage of their new home. “We’re not just looking forward to exploring the mountains and the beauty, but also the people and the cultures,” says Doug.

For trips further afield, visiting their children in Hawaii and Germany is high on Doug and Linda’s list. Also, Doug would love to experience Europe with Linda. He’s seen quite a bit of Europe on business travel but she has only made limited trips, mostly to visit their daughter. In particular, he’d like for them to get the chance to explore southern Europe — especially Italy and Greece — and perhaps even take a Mediterranean cruise.

This August, Doug finally visited Alaska as part of business trip for Sandia. Through his work at the Labs, he got to check off his 50th state.