Collaborative research helps Alexis Kaplan pursue her interest in nuclear engineering
Alexis Kaplan takes full advantage of the Lab's collaborative research
Alexis Kaplan, a graduate research assistant, relocates to the small town of Los Alamos to finish her PhD thesis research with the Safeguards Science and Technology group. Alexis and her team of nuclear, mechanical, and electrical engineers are designing and building a prototype for a system that will measure the used fuel that comes out of nuclear reactors. Alexis explains, “When fuel comes out of the reactor, there is often concern that material could be stolen.” The system will measure the fuel to make sure nothing has been stolen, and also verify the amounts of different radioactive materials in the fuel. This process could monitor spent nuclear fuel worldwide and even aid the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in facility inspections.
Currently Alexis lives in Michigan where she studies her PhD in Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences at the University of Michigan. Alexis travels to the Lab to work on her project and moves to Los Alamos in October, expressing enthusiastically, “I can’t get out here soon enough!” Los Alamos is located at the base of the Jemez Mountains, and Alexis plans to live tucked in the mountains of the Jemez Springs. She loves the mountain landscape and all the endless activities of hiking, rock climbing and snowboarding.
She first visited Los Alamos with a friend and took full advantage of the high-altitude activities including hiking and camping. During her visit, Alexis really enjoyed the small-town feel and the outdoor activities, so she began to explore plans to internship at the Lab. She completed her first internship last summer and “fell in love with my project and the town.” Alexis goes on the say, “Some people think it’s bad that there are only one or two places to hang out at night, but I think it’s great. You get to see everyone and you’re always likely to run into friends.”
Alexis is from California and graduated with an undergraduate degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. While starting out in her undergraduate degree, Alexis knew she was interested in science and math, but she ended up taking an introductory course on nuclear engineering and became fascinated with the subject, stating, “I grew up in California during the energy crisis and I couldn’t understand why we had a shortage of energy when so much power could come from nuclear fission.” She continues with her graduate studies in the same field.
Alexis hopes to continue her research in nuclear engineering by staying at the Lab as a postdoc and eventually a staff member, explaining, “I love this lab. I like the research environment and can learn so much from my mentors.” Alexis has one official mentor but states, “I feel like I have 4 or 5 mentors. That is one of my favorite things about the Lab; so many people are interested in my project and are all willing to help. They are also very knowledgeable.”The Lab promotes collaborative research and is the perfect location for students like Alexis to collaborate with and learn from mentors in all fields of science and technology.