April 17, 2014
Sarah Chinn, a 2013 graduate of the National Security Leadership Program (NSLP) at Texas A&M, is part of a Nobel Peace Prize-winning international team of scientists, some of whom are at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Another member of this team, Deon Anex, is also an NSLP student and will graduate in May 2014.
Representatives of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) accepted the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize in December in recognition of the contributions and efforts of LLNL and other scientific laboratories around the world to eliminate chemical weapons. The Chemical Weapons Convention, agreed to by 190 nations in 1997, bans the production, stockpiling, and use of such weapons. The Convention is implemented through the OPCW, a multinational organization headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands. LLNL has been a certified OPCW laboratory since 2003 and supports the OPCW’s broad mission by analyzing samples when called upon.
“We were thrilled to learn that the OCPW would receive the Nobel Prize, and are happy to be able to contribute to their program,” said Chinn.
The NLSP is a collaboration among several Texas A&M organizations and Lawrence Livermore to provide key Livermore personnel with advanced education in national security issues as part of a continuous workforce improvement and leadership enhancement initiative. It is a joint program among Lawrence Livermore, the Bush School, and the Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M. The year-long program leads to a graduate Certificate in National Security Affairs and includes a range of courses and seminars. While enrolled in the program, the participants are designated Fellows of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at the Bush School.
Chinn said that the LLNL Forensic Science Center (FSC), founded in 1991, has a rich history in forensic analysis of CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive) materials. In 2003, it became one of the fewer than twenty worldwide laboratories in the larger OPCW Designated Laboratory network, and one of two US Designated Laboratories. As such, it is certified to accept samples obtained from a formal OPCW challenge inspection.
“This designation has been the foundation of much of our work in the FSC, as it provides the authority and the need to maintain state-of-the-art research and development capabilities in chemical agent synthesis and analysis. As a result, numerous other agencies reach out to us to support their individual research programs,” Chinn said. She has been a member of the Forensic Science Center’s OPCW analysis team for ten years as a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopist.
Chinn believes her time spent studying at Texas A&M and the Bush School has increased her knowledge of policy implications in her field.
“The NSLP provided an enhanced understanding of the policy aspects of the technical work being performed at LLNL,” Chinn said. “Through the coursework and classroom discussions, I gained a new perspective on the critical mission drivers of our major lab programs, both historical and current. I specifically chose my project topics based on my current research projects as a way of digging deeper into the projects than I normally would. I hope to translate this perspective to new program development efforts by coupling the broader national security impacts with the technical challenges and goals of new projects.”
Chinn joined the LLNL in 2002, after completing her PhD at UC Davis. Since that time, she has led multiple projects in the area of chemical warfare.
Anex has worked in the Forensic Science Center at LLNL since August 2010. His work has focused on liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) for the analysis of chemical-warfare-related chemicals.