Nuclear Scholars InitiativeClass of 2020

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Alex Bednarek
Alex Bednarek currently serves as a program officer with the International Fuel Cycle Strategies team at the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI). His portfolio includes work on verifiable warhead dismantlement, issues related to the safe and secure management and disposition of spent fuel from nuclear power reactors, and the future of global nuclear safeguards. Bednarek’s prior experience includes work with NTI’s Materials Risk Management team, the Center for Global Security Research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Subcommittee for Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade under the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Brian Benedicks
Bednarek holds a master’s degree in Security Policy Studies from The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, where he focused on transnational security and non-state actors. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Lieutenant Brian Benedicks was born and raised in Howell, New Jersey. He attended the University of San Diego where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry. Upon graduation from the NROTC, Brian earned his commission as a Submarine Officer and continued to attend Naval Nuclear Power School and prototype. His first assignment was to the USS Asheville stationed in Guam, USA where he qualified and managed all nuclear propulsion plant maintenance as the Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW) and drove the ship as a qualified Officer of the Deck (OOD). He also over saw all the Submarines Auxiliary systems as the Damage Control Assistant (DCA) as well as the ships quality assurance program. In 2019, Brian began his second assignment at the Trident Training Facility (TTF) located in Kings Bay, GA where he functions as a tactics instructor. He currently is pursuing a Master Of Science in Engineering Management from Old Dominion University.

Danny Bressler
R. Daniel Bressler is a third year PhD candidate at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University in the City of New York. He is also a Global Priorities Fellow with the Global Priorities Institute at the University of Oxford. His research focuses on transboundary issues including nuclear nonproliferation, emerging technologies, and climate change. His PhD training is in economics with additional training in the natural sciences including nuclear physics, atmospheric physics, and theoretical ecology. Before starting his PhD, he worked as a management consultant for five years where he advised management of large companies. He graduated from Brown University in 2012 magna cum laude and phi beta kappa with a double major in economics and history. Outside of research, he enjoys jazz, weightlifting, backcountry backpacking, and competitive stair climbing. Personal website:

Noelle Camp
Noelle Camp is an Engineering Systems Professional in the Center for Global Security and Cooperation at Sandia National Laboratories. At Sandia, Noelle facilitates international workshops on sanctions enforcement and counterproliferation topics and conducts research on insider threat mitigation in nuclear facilities. Prior to coming to Sandia, Noelle gained experience in public and legislative affairs through internships with the Department of Defense, the Institute for the Study of War, and the Department of State at the U.S. Embassy Beijing. She is a 2019 Robertson Fellow and a recipient of the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) scholarship to pursue Chinese language study at Beijing Normal University. She holds a Master of International Affairs from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University and a Bachelor of Arts in Global Politics from Washington and Lee University.

Alan Cummings
Alan Cummings is a second-year master’s student at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy where his fields of study are International Security and International Business Relations. His particular research interests are focused on nuclear strategy in an era of emerging technology, hypersonic weapons, and missile defense. Prior to Fletcher, Alan earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Jacksonville University and served as an active duty officer in the U.S. Navy where he led Sailors in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Southwest Asia. He is currently an officer in the Naval Reserve and assigned to U.S. Strategic Command.

Cecilia Eiroa-Lledo
Dr. Eiroa-Lledo double majored with a BA in Chemistry and a BA in Biology from Concordia University, Irvine in 2015. Subsequently, she obtain her Ph.D. in Analytical Radio-Chemistry at Washington State University. Her thesis focused on technetium interactions with environmental ligands. During this time, Eiroa-Lledo participated in the Young Professional Nuclear Forums organized by Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), where she focused on a wide range of nuclear issues. In 2018, she received the Seaborg Summer Student Fellowship at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to advanced understanding on radiochemical separations of radioactive elements in the environment. She is currently a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at LANL on the Isotope Production Team. Her research is focused on developing applied technologies and advancing understanding of fundamental separations chemistry. Cecilia hopes to expand her expertise in nuclear forensics, nuclear archeology, environmental radionuclide detection, and their applications to international nuclear policy.

Meg Erkkinen
Meg Erkkinen works at Northrop Grumman as a Systems Engineer on the U.S. Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program. She works as a requirements and system architecture lead, using model based systems engineering to clearly capture and convey design ideas and ensure program success. Previously, Meg worked on modernization and sustainment of the nation’s legacy Minuteman III ICBMs. Meg holds a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Systems Engineering from Johns Hopkins University. Meg resides in Los Angeles, CA.

Jessica Farrell
Jessica Farrell is a general engineer for the Office of Defense Programs at NNSA.

John Fernandez
Captain John Fernandez is an active duty commissioned Nuclear and Missile Operations officer in the United States Air Force. He is currently stationed at Francis E. Warren AFB, Wyoming as the Chief of Training for the 319th Missile Squadron for the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). As Training Chief, he has responsibility for leading a team of 4 instructors to teach and track missile combat crew member training for 52 officers. Additionally, he operates the Minuteman III Rapid Execution and Combat Targeting weapon system as a missile combat crew commander for the 150 dispersed ICBMs and 15 Command and Control (C2) centers across Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska. John received his Bachelors of Science in Systems Engineering from the United States Air Force Academy and subsequently earned his Masters of Science in Engineering from Johns Hopkins University. He was born and raised in Lake Mary, Florida.

Brenna Gautam
Brenna Gautam graduated with honors from Georgetown University Law Center, where she received her Juris Doctor degree. She is interested in the domestic incorporation of international law as it relates to treaties dealing with nonproliferation. In particular, she is interested and has studied legal regimes relating to export controls and economic sanctions. Brenna’s past experiences have involved work and internships with the Stimson Center, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Kosovo Ministry of Trade and Industry, and the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation.

Matthew S. Golub
Matthew S. Golub is a PhD candidate in Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, where he is researching failure and resilience of complex human systems. In 2019 he was a Nuclear Security Working Group Congressional Fellow working in the office of Congressman Chuck Fleischmann, serving as a bridge between STEM and policy. He spent five and a half years in the US Navy as a Surface Warfare Nuclear Propulsion Officer, which equipped him with a strong foundation in nuclear engineering and military operations. Matthew received his B.S. in Water Resources Engineering with Honors in International Affairs from Penn State University, where he also completed a graduate certificate in geospatial intelligence analytics.

Eric Gomez
Eric Gomez is a policy analyst for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. His research focuses on U.S. military strategy in East Asia, missile defense systems and their impact on strategic stability, and nuclear deterrence issues in East Asia. He has presented research on these topics at the 2018 Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) Fall Conference. In the summer of 2019, he attended the Strategic Force Analysis Boot Camp hosted by Georgetown University and Sandia National Laboratories. Eric is the co-editor, with Caroline Dorminey, of America’s Nuclear Crossroads: A Forward Looking Anthology. Released in July 2019, the anthology examines a wide variety of pressing issues in nuclear deterrence and arms control confronting U.S. policymakers at the dawn of a new era of great power competition. Eric received his BA from SUNY Geneseo and his MA from the Bush School at Texas A&M University.

Garrett Hinck
Garrett Hinck is a research assistant with the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His work focuses on U.S. nuclear posture, arms control, and emerging technologies. Previously, he was a 2018-2019 James C. Gaither Junior Fellow with the Nuclear Policy Program and Carnegie’s Cyber Policy Initiative. His work on nuclear and cyber policy has been published by UNIDIR, Lawfare, and the Washington Post, and he is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

Dong-hyeon Kim
Dong-hyeon Kim is a current resident Kelly fellow and former nonresident Korea Foundation fellow at Pacific Forum. Dong-hyeon’s research explores how the DPRK establishes and develops its nuclear doctrine over time, and more broadly what triggers the evolution of nuclear strategy among different nuclear weapon states. He received his MA in Law and Diplomacy from Tufts’ Fletcher School, and BA in English Literature from Korea University. Previously he worked as a coordinator for the Korea Project at Harvard’s Belfer Center, and as a Boston Correspondent of JoongAng Media Group interviewing scholars and practitioners on evolving issues of the Korean Peninsula. He served in the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army as a translator in G5 Future Operations, 2nd Infantry Division, United States Forces Korea and worked at the President’s Office of the ROK.

Phoebe M. Kotlikoff
Lieutenant Kotlikoff was a 2012 Harry S. Truman Scholarship and graduated from the United States Naval Academy with distinction in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Quantitative Economics. She was a Public Service Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and graduated with a Masters in Public Policy in 2015. After completing the arduous nuclear submarine training pipeline, she served onboard USS OHIO (SSGN 726) (GOLD) as the Reactor Control Assistant, Damage Control Assistant, and Special Operations Forces Officer from March 2017 to July 2019. She supported Western Pacific Deployments on both the USS MICHIGAN (SSGN 727) (GOLD) and the USS MISSISSIPPI (SSN 782) from June through August 2018, and November 2018 through February 2019. On shore, LT Kotlikoff has worked at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the Nuclear Power Technology Development Section and the Center for Naval Analyses. She now serves as a Submarine Tactics Instructor at Trident Training Facility, Kings Bay, Georgia.

Chris Meskauskas
Chris Meskauskas is a Captain in the United States Air Force serving as a Nuclear and Missile Operations officer. He is the Chief of ICBM Evaluation Scenarios for the 90th Operations Group at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming. In that capacity he is responsible for the evaluation program assessing the combat mission readiness of one-third of the nation’s ICBM force. Captain Meskauskas has accomplished more than 6,200 alert hours on the Minuteman III ICBM weapon system. Captain Meskauskas earned his Bachelor of Science in Physics from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2013. In December 2019, Captain Meskauskas earned his master’s degree in Defense and Strategic Studies from the University of Texas. He has also completed graduate work in nuclear engineering focusing on nuclear weapons effects, policy, and proliferation.

Phillip Miller
Dr. Phillip Miller is a staff member at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the Focused Experiments group within the Integrated Weapons Experiments Division. He performs highly diagnosed experiments studying the behavior of explosively driven materials. Dr. Miller is also the senior project leader for the ‘Explosive Drive and Hydrodynamics of Metals’ project in the DoD/DOE Joint Munitions Program, which conducts research of mutual interest to conventional and nuclear weapons. After finishing his PhD at the University of Washington studying the behavior of laser shocked materials, Dr. Miller joined LANL as a postdoc and has remained since.

Amber Morgan
Amber Morgan is a National Nuclear Security Administration Graduate Fellow in the Office of Nonproliferation and Arms Control, where she works with the Office of International Nuclear Safeguards on international safeguards engagement and United States efforts in the NPT forum. She recently graduated from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey with a M.A. in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies. She also holds a B.A. in International Affairs and Political Science from the University of Georgia. Amber has previously worked on nuclear nonproliferation issues at the International Atomic Energy Agency, U.S. State Department’s Mission to International Organizations in Vienna (UNVIE), James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Harvard Belfer Center, and the Center for International Trade and Security.

Amelia Morgan
Amelia is a doctoral candidate at the Defence Studies Department at King’s College London, where her research is fully-funded by the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom. She is also a Research Assistant at the Center for Science and Security Studies at King’s and teaches on a range of defence and security issues at the Joint Services Command and Staff College in Shrivenham. She previously worked at the Policy Institute at King’s and as an intelligence analyst in the private sector.

Stephen Reid
Stephen Reid is an MA Candidate at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, Security Studies Program, focusing on Unconventional Weapons and Non-Proliferation, and his research interests are nuclear weapons, nuclear strategy, technology, and non-proliferation. Currently, Steve practices law and manages large-scale legal projects, focusing on International Traffic in Arms Regulations, the United States Munition List, the Bureau of Industry and Security’s Entity List, export controls, embargoes, sanctions, and general commercial and financial litigation. Prior to practicing law, Stephen worked in business development and he served as an Interrogation Team Leader for the United States Army. Steve earned his BA in Political Science from DePaul University, his JD from the University at Buffalo School of Law, and his LLM in Corporate and Securities Law from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He lives in Washington, DC, with his two dogs, Milhouse and Yseult.

Ruby Russell
Ruby Russell is a Foreign Affairs Specialist with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) Office of Nuclear Verification (ONV). Her work focuses on efforts to ensure DOE/NNSA is prepared to execute short notice, on-site deployments for fissile material monitoring and verification. Ruby joined DOE/NNSA as a Graduate Fellow (NGFP) in the Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, where she worked on a host of nonproliferation issues ranging from securing nuclear and radioactive materials globally, to building foreign partners’ capacities to implement nuclear safeguards and export control standards. Ruby holds a BA in International Relations from the University of St Andrews, and a MA in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS).

Mike Sharp
Mike Sharp is a Red Cell Intelligence Analyst for PAE at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. In this role, he performs open source intelligence analysis to identify vulnerabilities across the DoD nuclear enterprise from an adversarial perspective. Prior to joining PAE, Mike was a Senior Consultant at Deloitte for two years and a counterterrorism analyst contracted to the FBI for four years. He also interned at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the International Safeguards section, where he coordinated the Gulf Cooperation Council Nuclear Safety, Security, and Safeguards Technical Training Program and participated in the Institute for Nuclear Materials Management annual conference. He has a master’s degree in Applied Intelligence from Mercyhurst University and a bachelor’s degree in International Studies from Ohio State University. Mike is a certified Project Management Professional. Originally from northern Ohio, he and his wife live in Alexandria, Virginia, with their corgi, Trixie.

Michelle Shevin-Coetzee
Michelle Shevin-Coetzee is an M.A. Candidate in Security Studies at Georgetown University. Before beginning her graduate studies, Michelle spent four years working on European defense policy in the think tank community, both in Europe and in Washington, D.C. She was most recently a 2018-2019 Fulbright Schuman Fellow at Chatham House in London and the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) in Berlin. Michelle had worked previously at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and the Center for a New American Security. Michelle is the president of the Women in International Security Washington, D.C. chapter and has been actively involved with WIIS since founding and serving as the president of the George Washington University chapter. She graduated summa cum laude from GWU’s Elliott School of International Affairs with a B.A. in International Affairs and a minor in Arabic. She has also studied at the University of Cambridge.

Vickram Singh
Dr. Vickram Singh is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Center for Global Security Research (CGSR) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. His research focuses on international nuclear energy development and its impacts on nonproliferation policy. His areas of interest also include Generation IV nuclear reactor technology, safeguards and verification, nuclear counterterrorism, and energy security. He was a student participant in the Plutonium Technology Demonstration Project at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in 2012-2015. His work at ORNL focused on the optimization of neptunium fuel target properties used to produce Pu-238 in support of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) deep space missions. Vickram holds a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Nevada – Reno and a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville. His doctoral dissertation investigated the deployment of electroanalytical and spectroscopic techniques for nuclear material monitoring in molten salt systems utilized in the domestic nuclear weapons complex and Generation IV nuclear fuel cycles. During his doctoral studies, he was a Nuclear Power Fellow funded by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Mercedes Trent
Mercedes Trent is a Research Assistant for the Defense Posture Project at the Federation of American Scientists, where her work covers security strategy in Northeast Asia. Previously, she worked for Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA and the Japan Center for International Exchange. She received her BA in Asian Studies and is currently completing her MA in Security Policy Studies at the George Washington University. She spent four years working in Japan and Taiwan before returning to the U.S. in 2018. She speaks Japanese and Mandarin. Mercedes’s research interests focus on alliance structure, nuclear deterrence, U.S. strategy in the Indo-Pacific, and evolving force posture with regional concentrations on Northeast Asia.

Stephan Varga
MAJ Stephan Varga graduated with a BS in Chemistry from North Georgia College and State University in 2003. He commissioned in the US Army as a 2LT in the Chemical Corps. In 2011, Steph became a Functional Area 52 (Nuclear and Counterproliferation) Officer. He served in the 20th Support Command as a Nuclear Research Officer, supporting national and combatant command-level exercises. Steph graduated from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 2016 with dual Masters Degrees in Nuclear Engineering and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction. Steph is currently assigned to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Technical Reachback Division. In this capacity, he oversees predictive modeling for hazardous releases and provides chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear subject-matter expertise to a variety of US Government agencies.

Anna Wagner
Anna Wagner is a project lead on the Nuclear Security team at CRDF Global, where she supports the implementation of a diverse portfolio of nuclear security and nonproliferation projects. Her responsibilities include developing, managing and implementing nuclear security grants and workshops. Previously, she completed research projects on arms control in U.S.-Russia relations at the Nonproliferation and National Security Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and interned at the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs in New York. She also completed the 17th ESARDA Course at the European Commission’s Research Center, the 2019 PPNT course at UC San Diego, and nonproliferation courses at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory. She has an M.A. in International Affairs from The City University of New York – Brooklyn College and a B.A. in English from Moscow City Pedagogical University.

Paul Warnke
Paul Warnke currently serves as a Congressional Nuclear Security Fellow in the office of Senator Chris Van Hollen(D-MD), where he focuses on arms control, nonproliferation, and civilian nuclear cooperation issues. Previously, Paul was a graduate student at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, earning a M.A. in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies and serving as a graduate research assistant for the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS). At CNS, Paul contributed two chapters to an edited volume on U.S.-Soviet nonproliferation cooperation published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Over the course of his graduate studies, he held internships at the State Department, United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Zack Ziegler
Captain Zack L. Ziegler is a B-2 Evaluator Pilot in the 393rd Bomb Squadron at Whiteman Air Force Base, MO. He is responsible for the training of 40 pilots and the synchronization of a 3,900 flight hour program that is dedicated to making the low-observable $2.2B B-2 bomber a viable nuclear deterrent and the nation’s top choice for global strike. Captain Ziegler is a 2010 Distinguished Graduate of the Air Force Academy. As a KC-135R/T air refueling pilot in the United Kingdom. Capt Ziegler flew 103 combat missions across Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. During the same time, he attended the University of Cambridge’s International Relations Master of Studies program and earned the school’s prize for best thesis. In 2015, Capt Ziegler was selected to join the B-2 Program where he has deployed on multiple Bomber Task Forces, executed seven long duration missions and tested both conventional and nuclear-inert payloads.