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ABSTRACTS ~ notes and news from around the Lab Ask Me Anything Explosive scientists answer questions on Reddit ? On March 21, eight Los Alamos scientists took to the interwebs to participate in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything.” For more than two hours, these explosives experts fielded questions from the public about their careers, the Lab, and living in Los Alamos. Here’s just a snippet of the conversation. How does one get into the explosives science field? Virginia Manner: There are a few universities in the United States that have master’s and PhD programs in explosives, but many of us came to Los Alamos with advanced degrees in chemistry and physics and moved to the explosives division later on. As long as you get a degree in the hard sciences, with a little persistence, at Los Alamos you have the option to move from one field to another. Would you recommend a national laboratory or academia for a postdoc position? Shawn McGrane: I would recommend a postdoc at a national lab. The benefit of a national lab is that there is typically a group of experts working on any given topic. You can always find someone who can help you make progress. Also, work in explosives or other global security fields can have a positive societal impact, whereas university research might be more academic. What’s the best part of the job? Dana Dattelbaum: Learning something new about explosives that has never been known before. It is exciting to apply cutting-edge experimental tools to make in situ, time-resolved measurements on complex explosives assemblies. Our teams are well-trained, creative, and have diverse backgrounds to bring to a single problem. What’s the gender distribution of explosives scientists at Los Alamos? Margo Greenfield: As a woman in this field, I am always pleased at how many female scientists I see here at Los Alamos, as well as at external conferences. In the areas where I work (explosive chemistry and explosive shock physics) the distribution is typically one-third to one-half women. Want even more on high explosives? In 60 seconds, Virginia Manner explains the science behind homemade bombs at And be sure to revisit the April 2016 issue of NSS to learn how Los Alamos leads explosives-science research: Do you have any ethical qualms about your work? Virginia Manner: Much of our explosives research is based on explosives detection and defeat, or finding ways to make explosives safer to handle. These are the projects that I am most proud of working on. How often do you blow things up outside? Dana Dattelbaum: We typically fire large shots outdoors at the Laboratory or at one of our partner labs or sites. Some of our scientists fire shots outdoors every week, several times a week. I mostly work on smaller shots performed in vessels or in indoor chambers and only fire outdoors maybe once a year. Have you ever experienced an explosives accident in the lab? Dan Hooks: No. The work is highly controlled, and most times I feel very safe. However, you can never, ever forget that you are working with explosives. You have to remember that you don’t know everything. 48 Los Alamos National Laboratory