Los Alamos National Labs with logo 2021

On the road to Los Alamos

Students at Northern New Mexico College now have a path to careers as radiation control technicians at the Laboratory.
December 12, 2019
View of a courtyard at Northern New Mexico College.

Northern New Mexico College works with Los Alamos National Laboratory to train the next generation of men and women who will become radiological control technicians.CREDIT: NNMC


“This partnership is a win-win—for Los Alamos in meeting its workforce needs and for our students in finding meaningful local employment.”- Joaquin Gallegos

By Sierra Sweeney

As the Laboratory expands and takes on new responsibilities to support its national security mission, the demand for qualified employees is rising. The Lab’s Plutonium Facility, in particular, needs radiation control technicians (RCTs), who play a role in all Laboratory activities above a certain hazard level. RCTs actively monitor contamination levels, verify dose rates for areas and people, ensure compliance with federal and Laboratory policies and procedures, and complete the associated documentation. 

This is where Northern New Mexico College (NNMC) comes in. Working closely with the Laboratory, NNMC, about 30 minutes away in Española, recently launched a two-year program that will train students to become RCTs. After graduating with an associate degree in radiation protection, these students will be ready for an entry-level position at the Laboratory. 

The curriculum will follow Los Alamos and U.S. Department of Energy training requirements for RCTs, with the Laboratory providing technical staff to take part in instruction. The Laboratory, which is funding the program, will also offer internships for students to work at the Laboratory while they are pursuing their degrees.

“Student response has been wonderful,” says Joaquin Gallegos, who chairs NNMC’s Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Sciences departments. “The Laboratory is often these students’ first choice for employment. We are excited that this partnership is a win-win—for Los Alamos in meeting its workforce needs and for our students in finding meaningful local employment.”

Two women and a man pose for a photo; they are flanked by the United States and New Mexico flags.

In March 2019, Los Alamos and NNMC announced a collaborative effort to expand a pipeline training program for RCTs. From left: Nan Sauer, director of LANL’s Pipeline and Partnerships Office; Kate O’Neill, New Mexico Secretary of Higher Education; and Rick Bailey, Northern New Mexico College President.