Los Alamos National Labs with logo 2021

A challenging year with promise for the future

Laboratory Director Thom Mason looks back on 2020
December 21, 2020
In what has been an unprecedented year for all of us, I wanted to give you an update on the Laboratory's work and community efforts in 2020 and our vision for 2021.

Laboratory Director Thom Mason.


  • Director, Community Partnerships Office
  • Kathy Keith
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"The Laboratory is poised for growth with projected budget increases and continued hiring "- Thom Mason

In what has been an unprecedented year for all of us, I wanted to give you an update on the Laboratory's work and community efforts in 2020 and our vision for 2021.

Responding to COVID-19

Our first priority has been to protect employees, families, and the wider community while carrying out our important work on behalf of the nation. Around 65% of our employees have been teleworking since March, and we have been staggering shifts, allowing flexible hours, and using in-house capability to test onsite employees.

Laboratory scientists are also playing a leadership role in responding to the pandemic; our COVID model is used by the CDC and the State of New Mexico. We have made $18M in investments to respond to the virus, and LANL is leading the COVID-19 testing team for the DOE’s National Virtual Biotechnology Lab.

Helping with community needs brought about by the pandemic has also been important. In the past year, Laboratory operator Triad has focused its giving on COVID-19. Triad issued grants of $40,000 to regional foundations and $10,000 to the Pueblo Relief Fund. Laboratory employees donated more than $135,000 to The Food Depot and over 2,200 holiday gift kits for young people in need, seniors, and those facing homelessness in the region.

Employees also donated more than $2 million to other nonprofits in the region through our annual Employee Giving Campaign, and raised $360,000 for the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund to provide scholarships for students from Northern New Mexico.

Supporting Education

School looked very different for students this year, but we found ways to provide educational opportunities for young people, including virtual summer camps and science festivals.

LANL employees volunteered 4,330 service hours to nonprofit and educational organizations across the region in the last year, and the State is investing $321,000 in a teacher residency program to train new teachers in the Laboratory-supported Regional Partnership School in Pojoaque and additional school districts.

The Los Alamos Employees Scholarship Fund awarded 115 scholarships in 2020 and the Laboratory virtually hosted more than 1,100 summer students.

Impacting the economy

The Laboratory continues to support the economy in the region both through our operations and through our programs and initiatives. Of the 1,152 new hires who joined the Laboratory this year, around 75% of them are from New Mexico. The Laboratory's budget for FY20 was $3B, and contracts with New Mexico businesses were worth $494 million.

The Laboratory also expanded its regional pipeline programs to address critical skills for a growing workforce. In addition to the existing degree in radiation protection with Northern New Mexico College, this year we launched a partnership with Santa Fe Community College to offer an engineering machining degree for students who will also intern at LANL.

In conjunction with the NM Building & Construction Trades Council, the Laboratory established programs at Taos and Questa high schools to prepare seniors for construction trades.

Looking to the future

This year has presented all of us with challenges we never anticipated, but as we look forward to 2021, there are reasons for optimism that go beyond the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Laboratory is poised for growth, with projected budget increases and continued hiring. The national need for research and development remains a priority.

The pandemic has defined a new way of working for many of us, and the Laboratory is no exception. We're conducting a teleworking pilot for more than 1,000 employees that provides more flexible arrangements while freeing up scarce space onsite for those who need to be physically at the Laboratory. Efforts to improve facilities and execute new construction will also continue. 

The Laboratory and its employees are committed to our Northern New Mexico community.  I send you all my best wishes for a healthy and happy holiday season and a good year to come.

Thom Mason
Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory