Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Delivering science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability

From the Director

Los Alamos National Laboratory was born in 1943 to use interdisciplinary scientific discovery and creative engineering—what we today call “big science”—to end World War II. That same spirit of innovation continues today and guides all of our work.


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“As we look to the future, we see no shortage of threats to our nation’s security—but we also see no shortage of innovative ways to combat those threats.”- Terry Wallace, Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory

Director’s message

Terry Wallace
Terry Wallace
, Laboratory Director

In 1943 Los Alamos Laboratory was founded with a single and urgent purpose: build an atomic bomb.  This goal required extraordinary innovation driven by interdisciplinary scientific discovery and creative engineering—what today we call “big science.” It was the beginning of a new way of approaching national security: not as a single response to a single problem, but as a collaborative effort across disciplines to anticipate threats and develop technologies to counter them. Today, this same spirit of innovation is the defining character of the Laboratory. Our mission is to provide solutions to the toughest national security challenges the nation faces, and we do that on a daily basis.

We do it by…

Ensuring the safety, reliability and effectiveness of our nation’s nuclear stockpile. Every year, the president asks us to certify that the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal is ready to deploy if ever needed. Since the United States’ last nuclear test in 1992, we have used our expertise in physics, chemistry, and high-performance computing to do just that. It’s the cornerstone of our country’s strategic deterrent and the thrust of the Laboratory’s work.

Developing tools for nuclear nonproliferation. A key to keeping the nation and the world safe is to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. How do we know when a country is diverting nuclear materials from peaceful uses (such as medicine and energy) to a weapons program? Los Alamos’ expertise in nuclear weapons and their design has put us on the forefront of developing tools to monitor for nefarious nuclear activity both from the ground and from space.

Providing expertise in counterproliferation. The other side of the nonproliferation coin is counterproliferation: Being able to disarm an improvised nuclear device and provide forensics to determine where the device came from and who built it. This requires a cross-functional team from all disciplines of the Laboratory and relies once again on our unique position as the nation’s premier nuclear weapons lab.

Tackling emerging threats. The extraordinary changes in technology in the last 20 years pose new and complex national security challenges to the nation. Among these changes are scientific advances that provide new pathways to proliferation, the dominant role cyber and information technology play in our everyday lives, and the tremendous advances in human health.  These “new” frontiers require a creative and vibrant science and technology workforce.

Looking ahead

To continue to do this work, we must continue to push the frontiers of science and engineering. That means not only developing new materials and new computational algorithms, it means understanding the uncertainties and fluctuations of our natural systems and how those influence national security. It means anticipating cyber threats and developing the tools to counter them. And it means recognizing that the future of warfare is as much about the ability of nefarious actors to control and manipulate information as it is about their ability to control territory and weapons.

As we look to the future, we see no shortage of threats to our nation’s security—but we also see no shortage of innovative ways to combat those threats.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is known globally as being home to some of the brightest minds in the world. While this is true, I don’t think it’s what makes us exceptional. What makes us exceptional is the dedication and integrity of the people who work here—many of whom do work that will never be known to the outside world. National security work is not about glory of the individual; it’s about a commitment to the ideals of our nation. That commitment is something that is exhibited every day at Los Alamos. It is what cemented our place in history 75 years ago, and it is what will propel us into the future. We’re ready for the challenge before us.