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Research Associate in Modeling and Data Analysis for Proliferation Detection

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Date: Nov 20, 2020

Location: Oak Ridge, TN, US, 37830

Company: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Requisition Id 4306 




The Collection Science and Engineering Group (CSE) of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Division (NND) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) seeks applicants for a full-time associate staff scientist position that will focus on the development, testing, and deployment of data analysis methods for a variety of national security, proliferation detection, and nuclear forensics applications.  CSE members combine expertise in multiple aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, collector development and deployment, radiation detection, atmospheric transport and dispersion, applied mathematics, and data analytics to provide the research and development (R&D) and associated technical and operational support that enables a conduct of nuclear nonproliferation missions for numerous US Government agencies. The successful applicant will work with these multidisciplinary teams to identify, develop, and implement solutions for national security challenges. In particular, this position will focus on application of data science and advanced modeling to processes and signals of interest to the nonproliferation community.


The NND is a division operating within the National Security Sciences Directorate at ORNL. A key mission of the NND is delivery of R&D needed to improve the protection of nuclear materials and fuel cycle technology and prevent the theft, diversion, and illicit use of those materials or technologies, while at the same time allowing for their peaceful use in the global arena. The division is responsible for a range of expertise, facilities, and equipment and applies these combined assets to address R&D and operational challenges related to nonproliferation, safeguards, treaty verification, counterproliferation, and global nuclear security. The division activities also play a vital role in implementation of national policy issues that strive to ensure global nuclear security.


The mission of the Collection Science and Engineering Group is to apply scientific and engineering principles to conceptualize, design, fabricate, deploy, and validate advanced collection systems.   Collection system development will be coupled with high-confidence planning and operational knowledge to enable effective validation and deployment in real-world scenarios.   The group interfaces and collaborates with facility, process, and research staff across ORNL and with elements of the chemistry and materials science missions within NND and across the broader ORNL and DOE community.  The group will collaborate strongly with analytical expertise and experimental capabilities within ORNL to ensure collection planning and execution to maximize the analytical value of the development. 


The individual selected for this position will be responsible for interacting with division staff members inside and outside CSE, working on projects in a team environment. The successful candidate is expected to be able to participate in the development of research proposals, and report results of their work in peer-reviewed journal publications, conference papers and technical reports.



Major Duties/Responsibilities


The responsibilities of this position include conceptualizing and performing research on the variables associated with nuclear fuel-cycle processes; the transport, collection, and measurement of such variables; and the analysis of these data to more clearly understand the original processes involved.


  • Familiarity is expected in the following areas:
    • uranium enrichment
    • reactor production of plutonium
    • material weaponization
    • radiation detection
    • applied statistics
    • numerical optimization
    • data analytics
    • data fusion.


  • The focus of this position will be on modeling and simulation of fuel cycle processes and developing and testing novel data analysis methods to identify and characterize these processes in applications relevant to nuclear nonproliferation. The successful candidate will be expected to
    • develop, test, and maintain codes for these analyses
    • validate their use on simulated data generated with new state-of-the-art modeling and simulation capabilities at ORNL
    • validate code applicability to empirical data collected at DOE testbed facilities
  • The successful candidate will be expected to engage programmatically and technically across the division, directorate, and laboratory to help sustain and grow ORNL impact on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear security missions.
  • The candidate is expected to work well both in a team environment and independently and to fully document work performed in technical reports, papers, and presentations. The candidate will be responsible for contributing to and expanding CSE’s capabilities and scientific impact through proposals and other program development. .
  • The researcher will support senior staff in the development and execution of projects that provide valued and timely deliverables supporting the National Security Sciences Directorate (NSSD) and nonproliferation customers.
  • The successful candidate will maintain a strong commitment to the implementation and perpetuation of the institution values and ethics, and bide by all environmental, safety, health and quality requirements and implement practices per ORNL’s Standards-based Management System (SBMS).




  • Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering, Physics, or related field
  • Recent experience in nuclear fuel cycle analysis, proliferation detection and/or nuclear forensics, with demonstrated accomplishments in the solution of a variety of real-world problems.
  • Firm understanding of the physics and chemistry of nuclear fuel-cycle processes, backed by demonstrated recent and relevant research and development in the field
  • Experience in multivariate statistics and data analytics with an emphasis on
    • multimodal data
    • uncertainty quantification
    • developing and characterizing approaches for noncanonical settings including such as rare events, heterogeneous sensor networks and associated data, asymmetrical misclassification costs, analysis of nonstationary behavior, and adversarial scenarios.
  • Command of underlying physical processes, data generation mechanisms, and limitations of standard, existing data analysis methods
  • General approaches to solving the inverse problems, e.g., parameter estimation, optimization, and applied statistics
  • Experience in advanced multivariate techniques
  • Demonstrated problem-solving skills, a willingness to apply those skills to a variety of problems, and the ability to determine and understand the broader context of his or her research.




  • Experience with parallel programming for scientific computing
  • Proficiency in multiple modern coding languages is preferred; experience using Python is highly desirable
  • Excellent verbal, presentation and writing skills are required to enable effective interaction and communication with technical peers, program managers, and sponsors.
  • Ability to understand and adapt to the unique challenges associated with national security problems



Special Requirement

This position requires the ability to obtain and maintain a clearance from the Department of Energy. As such, this position is a Workplace Substance Abuse (WSAP) testing designated position. WSAP positions require passing a pre-placement drug test and participation in an ongoing random drug testing program.


This position will remain open for a minimum of 5 days after which it will close when a qualified candidate is identified and/or hired.

We accept Word (.doc, .docx), Adobe (unsecured .pdf), Rich Text Format (.rtf), and HTML (.htm, .html) up to 5MB in size. Resumes from third party vendors will not be accepted; these resumes will be deleted and the candidates submitted will not be considered for employment.

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ORNL is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants, including individuals with disabilities and protected veterans, are encouraged to apply.  UT-Battelle is an E-Verify employer.

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