Los Alamos National Labs with logo 2021

5 Under 35

Weapons Programs isn’t just for baby boomers.
October 1, 2018
Photo portraits of four men and one woman.

Clockwise from left: Andrew Ford, Jessica Baumgaertel, Bill Peach, Peter Schulze, Casey Spawn.


“What I do every day has a direct impact on our country’s national security.” - Andrew Ford

By Sierra Sweeney

Approximately one-third of the Los Alamos workforce is millennials—and that number is growing, according to the Laboratory Human Resources. “Millennials bring a new perspective, new ideas, and level of enthusiasm critical to the ongoing and long-term success of the nuclear weapons program,” says Jon Ventura, Weapons Programs advisor. “With proper mentoring from experienced designers and engineers, they will ensure the safety, security, and reliability of the Nation’s deterrent for decades to come.”

Here, five millennials share their thoughts about working for Los Alamos.

Jessica Ann Baumgaertel, staff scientist

After studying at the University of Washington and Princeton’s Plasma Physics Laboratory, Baumgaertel knew she wanted a career at a national laboratory. “I graduated in 2012 with my Ph.D. and headed straight to Los Alamos,” she says, noting she was hooked by the “breadth of research at the Lab, the opportunities for career growth, the strong identity and history of the town, and the beautiful mountains.” Baumgaertel works in the Primary Physics group in the Theoretical Design division where she underwrites the performance of nuclear weapons through the use of simulations and experiments.

Andrew Ford, pit production worker

“What I do every day has a direct impact on our country’s national security,” says Ford, who is originally from Tacoma, Washington. Ford was introduced to nuclear weapons in the Air Force, where he helped maintain them. He was later drawn to Los Alamos by its vital national defense work. “I wanted to work here because I thought it would be important and interesting work, which it very much is,” he says. “As long as you’re willing to learn, people are willing to teach.”

Bill Peach, foundry engineer

Born in Rolla, Missouri, Peach attended the University of Missouri and now enjoys the cross-disciplinary collaboration at the Laboratory. “The exposure and opportunity to try out different tasks is here if you are willing to take them on,” he says, noting the keys to success at the Lab are: take ownership, don’t wait around, and admit when you are wrong. “It can be intimidating, there are so many great people here with such a vast breadth and depth of knowledge,” he says. “It can be like trying to drink from a fire hose!” 

Peter Schulze, researcher

A Los Alamos native, Schulze completed graduate school in Utah and then returned home to focus on the care and performance of the high explosive pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN). “I am a firm believer in the effectiveness of the deterrent,” Schulze says, “so the fact that my work directly contributes to ensuring the viability of the stockpile is exciting and incredibly motivating.” Schulze also states that his enthusiasm has helped him succeed as a young employee at the Lab, allowing him to participate in various projects and receive funding to lead a research project of his own.

Casey Spawn, R&D engineer

After graduating from Montana State University, Spawn was drawn to the Laboratory while completing his capstone project and became hooked after building relationships and discovering opportunities in Los Alamos. “As an early career person, the Lab is a place with many opportunities ranging from continuing education to exposure to some of the world’s foremost experts in their fields,” Spawn says. “You aren’t limited to a single career type here at the Lab. There are 600-plus groups, so there’s always another option out there to switch things up!”