The role that nuclear weapons play in international security has changed since the end of the Cold War, but the need to maintain the human infrastructure for supporting nuclear capabilities and dealing with the multitude of nuclear challenges remains the same. For a number of reasons, including the diminished emphasis on nuclear weapons post-Cold War, expertise on nuclear issues – particularly within young generations – has declined. Unless the nuclear community makes a concerted effort to engage young talent now, cultivating the expertise critical to meeting the nuclear challenges of the future will become increasingly difficult. The 21st century’s complex geopolitical and budgetary environment demands a solid foundation of high-quality human capital across the nuclear enterprise. For this reason, in 2003, CSIS launched the Project on Nuclear Issues – to develop the next generation of policy, technical and operational nuclear professionals through outreach, mentorship, research and debate.

For the upcoming year, PONI has set four priorities for engaging the next generation:

  • Promote 21st-Century Research for 21st-Century Scholars
  • Engage the Full Next Generation Pipeline
  • Build a Big Tent by Convening and Promoting New and Diverse Voices
  • Demand and Provide Excellence

Contact Information

Phone: 202-775-3132
Address: 1616 Rhode Island Avenue Washington, DC 20036

Key Staff Members

Rebecca Hersman


Rebecca Hersman is the director of the Project on Nuclear Issues and senior adviser for the International Security Program. Ms. Hersman joined CSIS in April 2015 from the Department of Defense (DOD), where she served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for countering weapons of mass destruction (WMD) since 2009. In this capacity, she led DOD policy and strategy to prevent WMD proliferation and use, reduce and eliminate WMD risks and respond to WMD dangers. Ms. Hersman was a key leader on issues ranging from the nuclear security summit to the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons to the global health security agenda. She served as DOD’s principal policy advocate on issues pertaining to the Biological Weapons Convention, Chemical Weapons Convention, Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. Prior to joining DOD, Ms. Hersman was a senior research fellow with the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction at the National Defense University from 1998 to 2009. Her primary projects focused on the role of DOD in mitigating the effects of chemical and biological weapons attack, concepts and strategies for eliminating an adversary’s WMD programs, as well as proliferation issues facing the United States. Ms. Hersman also founded and directed the WMD Center’s Program for Emerging Leaders, an initiative designed to shape and support the next generation of leaders from across the U.S. government with interest in countering weapons of mass destruction. Ms. Hersman previously held positions as an international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a special assistant to the undersecretary of defense for policy, and a member of the House Armed Services Committee professional staff. She holds an M.A. in Arab studies from Georgetown University and a B.A. from Duke University.
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Sarah Minot

Associate Director

Sarah Minot is the associate director with the Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) at CSIS. She is responsible for leading PONI’s many programs and initiatives, including the yearly conference series, the Nuclear Scholars Initiative, PONI speaker series, and PONI Live Debates. She also serves as the lead editor for PONI’s print publications. She holds an M.A. in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University, and a B.A. in Political Science and International Relations from the College of Wooster.


Will Pittinos headshot

Will Pittinos

Program Manager and Research Associate

Will Pittinos is a program coordinator and research associate with the Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) at CSIS, where he helps manage the annual conference series and outreach efforts. Also at CSIS, he was on the editorial board for New Perspectives in Foreign Policy. Prior to joining CSIS, he served as a leader in digital communications and as a copy editor at the Miami Herald. He holds an M.A. in U.S. foreign policy from American University and a B.A. in English and Spanish from Lake Forest College.


William Caplan headshot

William Caplan

Program Coordinator and Research Assistant

William Caplan is a program coordinator and research assistant with the Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) at CSIS. Prior to joining CSIS, he worked at the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction at the National Defense University and at TradeSecure, LLC. His work on nonproliferation and deterrence has been featured in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and the Georgetown Security Studies Review. He is pursuing his M.A. in security studies from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and holds B.A. degrees in political science and international affairs from the University of Georgia.


Bernadette Stadler headshot

Bernadette Stadler

Program Coordinator and Research Assistant

Bernadette Stadler is a program coordinator and research assistant with the Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) at CSIS. Prior to joining CSIS, she worked at the Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation as a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow. Her work on nuclear issues has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Defense One, and Politico. She holds a B.A. in International Relations from Brown University.


Development Team

The Next Generation Nuclear Network is a product of the Andreas C. Dracopoulos iDeas Lab, the in-house digital, multimedia, and design agency at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.