Los Alamos National LaboratoryBradbury Science Museum
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Bradbury Science Museum

Meet the Bradbury’s Guides

Introducing Jennifer Olsen.
April 30, 2020
Chris and Jennifer Olsen.

Chris and Jennifer Olsen.


  • Stacy Baker
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If you’ve ever been to the Bradbury, you’ve no doubt been welcomed by one of our eight Museum guides and given a quick orientation. Our guides are integral to your positive experience at the Bradbury, and we rely on them not only to prepare the galleries for guests, but also to greet our guests; to engage with them; to answer their many, many questions; and to ensure their well-being (as well as that of the Museum) during their visit.

While our guides are social distancing, and not able to enjoy the up-close and personal side of their jobs, we thought it might be nice to share a bit about them in our new, eight-part series: “Meet the Guides”

Without further ado, please meet Jennifer Olsen—

Tell us, Jennifer, where are you from, and where do you live in now?
My childhood home was Northborough, MA, where my dad was a prototype machinist for Digital Equipment Corporation. He had learned his trade in the Navy. In 1978, the Lab went on a nationwide search for machinists and next thing I knew, we’d moved to White Rock, New Mexico. We actually stayed at the Lamplighter Hotel in Santa Fe at first, then moved to a hotel in White Rock for a month, followed by a rental in town for about a year. There were only seven houses on the market when we moved to Los Alamos, rather like today. At last, my parents found a house to buy—they found it through the Avon lady, of all people—and we really settled into life in Los Alamos. Today, I live in Los Alamos with my own family.

How many places have you lived, and which were your favorites?
I've lived in just six places, including Los Alamos.  In 1991, between high school and college, I was an exchange student with Rotary International in Liege, Belgium, and lived with three different families. That was the year the wall fell in Berlin, a very exciting time to be in Europe. I even have a piece of the Berlin Wall. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit England, Germany, Holland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Greece, Yugoslavia, France, Austria, and Italy and enjoyed each of them.

Can you tell us a little about your family life or hobbies?
I've homeschooled both my children. One is a sophomore, and one just graduated high school and will attend New Mexico State University this fall. I love animals, and we have two dogs, two cats, and three fish.  Over the years we’ve had guinea pigs, chickens, and hermit crabs, as well. I enjoy walking, hiking, and biking—Los Alamos is a great place for those activities. I love to read and generally have two or three books going at any given time. I also consider myself a lifelong learner.

Tell us a bit about your career and educational background.
Currently, I’m a guide at the Bradbury Science Museum, a homeschool teacher, and a teacher at UNM-LA.  I graduated from New Mexico State University with dual degrees in business computing systems and accounting and a minor in French. After graduation, I worked at the Lab for 10 years, writing software for the business side of the house, where I had a hand in writing the Lab’s pre-Oracle time and effort, travel, and training systems. When I had my first child, I decided to stay at home full-time until five years ago, when I came back to work part-time at the Bradbury. 

What experiences from your career and education seem to come in really handy when you’re working at the Museum?
Being a guide at the Museum is all about customer service. It’s about providing an environment where people from around the world can learn, ask questions, and deepen their understanding of the Laboratory's past, current, and future mission. A large part of providing that experience includes being able to answer all kinds of questions from all kinds of visitors. My love of learning, especially about the Manhattan Project and current Lab research, makes these customer interactions fun, as well as informative. In fact, I can often be found researching some of the more unusual questions we receive by browsing the library in the guides’ office.

What are some of your favorite things about working at the Museum?
My favorite things about working at the Museum are the people I work with and the stories I get to hear, without a doubt! So many of our visitors have had Los Alamos on their bucket list for a number of years and for some of the most interesting reasons. Often, that reason is tied to a friend or family member being associated with the Manhattan Project or World War II. For example, a man came in the other day who’d been born and raised in Japan but attended the University of California (UC) for his graduate degree. It turned out that one of his UC professors had worked at Los Alamos during the war, which piqued the man’s early interest in the Lab. Then, while he was planning a trip home to Japan, his mother called and asked him to buy and bring home two saddles.  At that point, he asked his mom where she learned to ride and when her passion for horses started.  To his surprise, his mother shared with him that his great-uncle had been a general in the Japanese army during WWII, that she had lived with him in Japan during that time, and that she had learned to ride horses during her stay with him.

Now a physicist, this visitor said that his relationship with his professor and his family’s wartime history had created a strong emotional connection to Los Alamos and the Lab. Although he had no direct link with the Manhattan Project or to Los Alamos, both had influenced his life in large and small ways.

Working at the Museum, we get to hear stories like this all the time. And I feel that part of our job as guides is to listen to these stories, to empathize with those who come to share them, and to learn from them. Getting to be part of a visitor’s experience—to share that connection they feel with Los Alamos—is definitely one of my favorite things about working at the Bradbury.

What is your favorite exhibit and why?
I basically grew up in Los Alamos and have been visiting the Museum since the early 80s. My favorite exhibit was on the floor during the 80s but now comes out only for special events, such as High-Tech Halloween, the Museum’s largest annual event.      When I was growing up, my friends always called this exhibit the popcorn machine. It is the machine that is loaded up with ping pong balls and shows how a nuclear chain reaction occurs.      Dubbed “Pinocchio” because it really wants to be a “real” reactor, it’s a blast to watch!

children watching "Pinocchio"