CU Boulder’s second annual Sandia Day drew over 160 registered attendees for a packed agenda highlighting the strong partnership between the university and Sandia National Laboratories, potential future avenues for collaborative, globally impactful research, and job and internship opportunities.
Since 1949, Sandia National Laboratories, a federally-funded research and development center, has focused on science-based technologies to support U.S. national security objectives. Sandia is a contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and supports numerous federal, state, and local government agencies, companies and organizations.
“To succeed in their missions, national laboratories need to employ and collaborate with the brightest minds and events like Sandia Day help to foster interactions to expand partnerships and help CU Boulder fulfill that need,” said Gijs de Boer, director for national laboratory partnerships, senior research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and associate director for science for the Integrated Remote and In Situ Sensing initiative.
CU Boulder launched a pilot partnership with Sandia in 2022 with roughly $400,000 in seed grants to fund five interdisciplinary programs over three years, according to Mike Gooseff, associate dean for research in the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS). Sandia scientists matched that with their own internal project funds to advance the initiative.
Growing the CU-Sandia relationship is critical for both entities and to “benefit the country more broadly,” said Basil Hassan, Sandia’s director and deputy chief research officer. “We know we have to invest in ourselves but we also have to invest in partners outside of the laboratory because that helps us build collaborative research and the talent pipeline into the lab,” he said.
Exploring mutually beneficial interests
Sandia Day, hosted by the Research & Innovation Office and CEAS, invited all campus community members to learn about Sandia and its growing partnership with the university.
Sandia representatives launched the day at the Ann and HJ Smead Aerospace Engineering Sciences Building sharing details about the scope of the lab’s research missions and its interest in attracting, developing and retaining a world-class workforce to solve some of society’s most intractable issues.
“CU can bring to Sandia cutting-edge ideas and top-notch science and engineering, in the form of collaborative projects as well as in the form of students who come to Sandia as interns, postdocs or employees.” said Mike Descour, senior manager and Sandia National Laboratories’ University of Colorado campus executive. “The regional proximity is a very helpful factor in fostering this relationship as well.”
Principal investigators of joint projects already underway then gave “lightning talks” on topics ranging from ‘metamaterials for impact mitigation’ and ‘constraining methane release’ to ‘electromagnetic pulse effects in microelectronics’ and the ‘integration of nanostructures in micro and macro worlds’.
Following that was a lively lunchtime information session on job and internship opportunities and breakout sessions exploring potential research collaborations in climate, quantum, artificial intelligence and national security.
Fostering overlapping interests between Sandia and the university is mutually beneficial, said de Boer. “Showcasing the amazing research undertaken at CU Boulder will only help to elevate our reputation as a leading research university and further foster collaboration to support the laboratories in their work,” he said.
Later in the day, more than two dozen students and postdocs took part in an early-career poster session highlighting their work and networking with Sandia team members. “Putting all of this into a single day puts focus on the partnership, generates energy to help the partnership grow and allows the university an opportunity to showcase all of the great things we have to offer as a campus,” said de Boer.
The event also highlighted how the partnership offers CU Boulder students and researchers unique access to funding and job opportunities that result in real-world impacts. “The national laboratories perform critical work to support our nation and the world,” said de Boer. “The growth of partnerships being developed with the national laboratories speaks to the lasting value that CU Boulder employees and alumni bring to helping the world solve some of its biggest problems.”