Nuclear Scholars InitiativeClass of 2021

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These 33 Scholars represent organizations in the government, military, national labs, nonprofits, private sector, and academia. 

Akshai Vikram
Akshai Vikram is a former Roger L. Hale Fellow at Ploughshares Fund, where he worked on nuclear nonproliferation and arms control issues, publishing a report on the new U.S.-Russia arms race. Akshai worked at the Democratic National Committee for the 2012, 2016, and 2020 presidential elections; he also worked on a U.S. Senate campaign in his native Kentucky in 2014. He holds an M.A from Johns Hopkins University SAIS and a B.A. from Johns Hopkins Baltimore. On a good day, he speaks Spanish, French, and Persian proficiently.

Alexandra Neenan
Alexandra Neenan is a Washington, DC-based military operations analyst at Systems Planning and Analysis. She supports the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (OSD A&S), where she specializes in strategic deterrence and related systems. She holds a B.A. in International Relations from Boston University and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Security Studies at Georgetown University.

April Arnold
April Arnold is a consultant for the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Threat Reduction and Arms Control, where she advises on the Chemical Demilitarization Program and U.S. implementation of its conventional arms control commitments. She previously worked for contractors supporting the Department of the Army’s Center for Treaty Implementation and Compliance and the Department of the Navy’s Naval Treaty Implementation Program. Outside work, she is a member of Foreign Policy 4 America’s NextGen Initiative. She has a BA from the University of Delaware in International Relations.

Austin Mullen
Austin Mullen is a PhD student in nuclear engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also currently serving as the deputy director of the Nuclear Policy Working Group at Berkeley, a multidisciplinary group that pursues research in nuclear weapons policy and nonproliferation. Austin’s research is currently focused on antineutrino detection for nonproliferation purposes, investigating the prospects of using large-scale antineutrino detectors to monitor nuclear reactor operations from a distance. He additionally has research interests in the fields of advanced detectors and arms control policy. Austin received his B.S. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 2018 and his M.S. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2020.

Austin Wright
Austin Wright is currently a Graduate Fellow at the National Nuclear Security Administration, where he supports the Office of Secondary Stage Production Modernization. In his role, Austin leverages his substantial international experience to help facilitate U.S.-.U.K. cooperation efforts under the Mutual Defense Agreement and provides support to the Depleted Uranium Program. Previously, Austin worked on international trade issues as a contractor for the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration and the World Trade Institute. Austin earned his MA in International Security from the Institut d’études politiques de Paris (SciencesPo), and his MSc in International Political Economy from the London School of Economics in 2019. He has also undergone specialized training in nuclear safeguards, nonproliferation, and WMD security at the Lawerence Livermore National Laboratory, DTRA’s Nuclear Weapon School, and the E.U. Nonproliferation and Disarmament Consortium. Originally from Michigan, Austin now resides in the Washington, D.C. area.

Beenish Pervaiz
Beenish Pervaiz is a third year Ph.D candidate in political science at Brown University where her field of study is international security. Her research interests include nuclear strategy and decision making in an era of emerging and disruptive technologies, evolving strategic cultures and international norms with an eye towards regional nuclear powers including issues of security and strategic stability in Southern Asia. She holds a Master’s degree from Stanford University in International Policy Studies and completed her undergraduate studies in Economics and Political Science from Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan. She most recently served as a program associate for Nuclear Threat Initiative where she implemented and coordinated NTI’s efforts to reduce global biological threats and conduct CBRN threat management. Pervaiz has previously served as a youth group coordinator for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and also worked for Global Zero and the United Nations HQ in New York.

Benjamin Linden
Benjamin Linden is a Foreign Affairs Officer at the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, where he works on policy matters related to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and serves as assistant to the Special Representative for Nuclear Nonproliferation. He completed Presidential Management Fellowship rotations at the IAEA section of the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna and the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration and Bureau of Industry and Security. He served as a Rosenthal International Relations Fellow on the Hill and held internships at the Scowcroft Group and the State Department. Previously, he worked at the Asia Society in New York and taught English in South Korea. Benjamin holds an M.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, with a certificate in Diplomatic Studies from Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. He earned his B.A. from George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in 2010.

Benjamin Silverstein
Benjamin Silverstein is a research analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, working on space security and safety. While his current and past research investigates how counterspace technologies impact interstate relations, his recent experience as an NNSA Graduate Fellow reignited his interest in nuclear weapons topics ranging from industrial manufacturing capabilities to weapons delivery concepts. Benjamin has published analyses of space issues with UNIDIR, the Center for Global Security Research, and at War on the Rocks. He graduated from Syracuse University with an MA in International Relations and received his BA in International Affairs from George Washington University.

Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson is a Los Alamos National Laboratory staff scientist in the Nuclear Engineering for Nonproliferation Division’s Advanced Nuclear Technology group (NEN-2). His work consists primarily of using computational and experimental techniques to design, construct, and characterize radiation detectors that are fielded on pulsed power experiments for nuclear security applications. Chris also instructs LANL staff training and develops university curricula on Nuclear Material Accounting and Control. He received his PhD and MS degrees in physics from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, with his dissertation research conducted at Los Alamos, and his BS in physics from Union College. Before coming to LANL, Chris completed the National Nuclear Security Administration Graduate Fellowship Program with Defense Programs’ Office of Cost Policy and Analysis. Outside of the laboratory setting, Chris enjoys exploring New Mexico’s stunning high desert and alpine terrain on his mountain bike.

Christian Ruhl
Christian Ruhl is a program manager at Perry World House, the University of Pennsylvania’s hub for international policy and global affairs. He manages the research theme on “The Future of the Global Order: Power, Technology, and Governance,” which examines implications of changing global power dynamics, impacts of new and emerging technologies, and contributions of governance institutions for the future of international cooperation. Before joining Perry World House, Christian was on a Herchel Smith Fellowship to the University of Cambridge for two master’s degrees, one in History and Philosophy of Science and one in International Relations and Politics, with dissertations on Early Modern submarines and limited nuclear war theory of the early Cold War, respectively. He received his a B.A. from Williams College in 2017. Christian lives in Philadelphia with his wife Zoë and their dog Georgia and grew up in Regensburg, Germany, and Buffalo, NY.

Courtney Ryan
Courtney Ryan is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Office of National Security and International Studies and the Weapons Infrastructure Planning Office at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Her research focuses on identifying vulnerabilities in the supply chains of strategic materials and the implications for nuclear policy. She holds a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a BS in Chemistry and a BA in French from the University of Kentucky. Her doctoral research explored the structure-function relationships of metalloenzymes through the synthesis of model complexes. Her initial postdoctoral appointment at LANL was in the Chemistry Division, where she synthesized energy dense jet fuel from bio-derived starting materials.

Doreen Horschig
Doreen Horschig is a PhD candidate in Security Studies at the University of Central Florida where she also teaches Strategic Weapons and Arms Control and American Foreign Policy. Her research focuses on norm contestation of nuclear and chemical weapons and counterproliferation. Her dissertation work uses experimental methods to explore causal mechanism of Israeli and U.S. public opinion on the use of nuclear weapons. Her work has been published as scholarly articles in Third World Quarterly and Defense & Security Analysis and as political commentaries in The Conversation, Inkstick Media, and Duck of Minerva. Prior to her doctoral studies, she pursued a master’s degree in International Relations at New York University as German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Fellow and a bachelor’s degree in International Studies from Manhattan College.

Gaurav Kalwani
Gaurav Kalwani is a research assistant with the Nuclear Policy Program and Cyber Policy Initiative at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he previously served as a James C. Gaither Junior Fellow. At Carnegie, Gaurav’s work focuses on U.S. nuclear policy and posture, regulation of cloud services, and the future of arms control. He graduated from the University of Chicago with degrees in public policy studies and South Asian studies.

Gerald Brown
Gerald Brown is an analyst with Valiant Integrated Services, where he supports the Department of Defense nuclear enterprise. There, he conducts research related to nuclear weapons strategy and East Asian security. He also works with inter-agency partners to design and analyze nuclear surety exercises, particularly the Nuclear Weapons Accident Incident Exercise (NUWAIX) program. Previously, he spent six years in the United States Air Force, Global Strike Command, working in nuclear security operations at FE Warren AFB, Wyoming. His primary research interests revolve around nuclear weapons strategy in East Asia, cross-strait security, and conventional-nuclear integration. Gerald is currently completing a Masters degree at Johns Hopkins SAIS and also holds a Masters degree from Webster University.

Halley Posner
Halley Posner is the Program Manager at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, where she curates programs bridging the gap between scientists, policy makers, and the public. She was also a fellow with the N Square Collaborative on the Arts & Sciences team. Previously, she worked as a research intern at the Center for International Policy. Her research interests focus on multilateralism and deterrence theory specifically regarding North Korea and has also published articles at the Bulletin and the Atlantic Council’s EnergySource. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in History from Bates College where she wrote her senior thesis on asymmetric warfare theory.

Jamie Kwong
Jamie Kwong is a Marshall Scholar pursuing her PhD in War Studies at King’s College London, where her research focuses on public opinion of nuclear weapons issues. She serves as a research assistant to Dr. Heather Williams on a project focused on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and previous projects on the P5 Process, transatlantic deterrence, and the impact of social media on conflict escalation. She previously served as a research assistant in the Nuclear Policy Programme at RUSI, working on projects related to strategic stability, disarmament verification, and the UK Project on Nuclear Issues. She interned with the U.S. State Department’s International Security and Nonproliferation Bureau, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Central Intelligence Agency. Jamie holds an MA in Public Diplomacy and BA in International Relations from the University of Southern California where she served as a Korean Studies Institute Fellow.

Jamie Withorne
Jamie Withorne is a Research Assistant at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), an affiliate of the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey. At the CNS Washington DC office, she conducts data analysis on a variety of topics, including machine learning, quantum technology, sanction evasion tactics and trends, and the nuclear fuel cycle. Jamie also works as an independent consultant for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Security Studies Program. She has previous experience at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, the US Department of State, the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, and the American Enterprise Institute. Jamie holds a BA in Political Science from Columbia University in the City of New York.

Jarret Fisher
Jarret Fisher is a proud U.S. Department of State Exchange alumna; she was selected for a legislative exchange in South Korea and the ALLI Indo-Pacific Summit in Japan. She participated in several safeguards courses, and received the United Nations Scholarship for Peace and Security, which brought her to Vienna for training on “Arms Control, Disarmament, and Nonproliferation.” Jarret serves on the inaugural Board of the British American Security Information Council’s Emerging Voices Network. She is devoted to a values-based U.S. foreign policy, and has studied finance, economic policy, international business, and international relations at the graduate level.

1st Lieutenant Jesse Lubove
1st Lieutenant Jesse Lubove is a member of the 22nd Surveillance Squadron at the Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) on Patrick Space Force Base, Florida. 1st Lt Lubove is a Mission Director who leads an operations floor that monitors a worldwide network of seismic, hydroacoustic, and infrasound sensors to obtain and evaluate technical data for nuclear treaty monitoring. In this position, 1st Lt Lubove also supports international efforts to limit nuclear testing and proliferation. 1st Lt Lubove is originally from Los Angeles, CA. He was a 2017 Distinguished Graduate of the Air Force Academy where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science. In 2019, he graduated from the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy with a Masters in International Security and Economic Policy and International Development Policy. He completed Air Force intelligence officer training in January 2020. Previously, he has held internships with U.S. Senator Michael Bennet’s Colorado Springs office and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller.

John Krzyzaniak
John Krzyzaniak is a research analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, where he focuses primarily on Iran and North Korea. Prior to that, he was an editor at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. He holds a master’s degree from the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech and is fluent in Persian.

Julia Masterson
Julia Masterson is a Research Assistant at the Arms Control Association, where she supports the Nonproliferation Policy team and conducts research on nuclear diplomacy with Iran, North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and Syria’s chemical weapons program. Prior to her work at the Arms Control Association, Julia was an intern at the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre (VERTIC), the National Defense University’s Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the National Security Archive. She is also a member of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC)’s Emerging Voices Network. Julia holds an MA in Non-Proliferation and International Security from King’s College London and a BA in International Affairs from the George Washington University.

Julian Gluck
Julian Gluck is a captain and bomber pilot in the United States Air Force and an international non-profit leader. He was a 2012 Distinguished Graduate of the United States Air Force Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and earned his pilot wings from Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training in 2014. Following graduation, Julian flew combat missions in the B-52 in Operations INHERENT RESOLVE and FREEDOM’S SENTINEL and deployed to the Indo-Pacific region. He was selected as the 2018 Air Force Times Airman of the Year, received the 2019 Secretary of the Air Force Leadership Award, and was named to the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 as a standout honoree for Law and Policy in North America. Julian additionally serves as the National Chairman and Executive Director of the Company Grade Officers’ Council, representing the more than 47,000 captains and lieutenants of the Air and Space Forces. He is a Young Leader in the Pacific Forum, Carnegie New Leader, and member of the USAF Language Enabled Airman Program for Japanese and the Program for Emerging Leaders at National Defense University.

Julie Thompson-Gomez
Julie Thompson-Gomez is a graduate student in Political Science at the George Washington University. She is a Rumsfeld Foundation Graduate Fellow and a Mercatus Center Bastiat Fellow for the 2020 to 2021 academic year. Her primary research interests are American foreign policy and nuclear strategy. Julie earned 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 International Studies from the University of North Texas. Prior to her studies at GWU, Julie worked at the Charles Koch Institute as a foreign policy analyst and in various roles at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency as a defense contractor with SAIC (previously Engility).

Marlene Bencomo
Marlene Bencomo is a Nuclear Engineer at Sandia National Laboratories (SNL). Her work focuses on the development of radiation sensors for gamma and neutron detection. In addition, she is a spectral analyst and works on the development of algorithms for on board sensor data analysis. Marlene was part of the first SNL sponsored Nuclear Command, Control and Communications (NC3) Innovation Challenge where she briefed staff across the laboratories on some of the problems and questions involving the country’s next generation NC3 capabilities. Before her work at SNL, Marlene was a staff member at Los Alamos National Laboratory where her work focused on criticality safety. Marlene earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Nuclear Engineering from the University of New Mexico and Texas A&M University, respectively. As a graduate student at Texas A&M University she was part of the Center for Nuclear Security Science & Policy Initiatives (NSSPI) where her research focused on the optimization of Molybdenum-99 production.

Matt Gilbert
Matt Gilbert is a systems analyst in the Homeland Security and Defense Systems Center at Sandia National Laboratories (CA). Matt conducts research and analyses on a wide range of topics including safeguards for emerging nuclear fuel cycles and strategic stability & risk in evolving technological landscapes. Prior to starting at Sandia in late 2019, Matt completed his Ph.D. in Physics at the University of California, Berkeley where he was a Kavli ENSI and NSF graduate fellow. His dissertation focused on the development of new patterning and manufacturing techniques for single atom thick nanomaterials. Matt received a B.S. in Physics from the University of Florida and was a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge.

Matthew Giza
Matthew Giza is a Systems Engineer at Northrop Grumman Corporation, currently supporting the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) Program as the Physical Security Thread Lead. He is responsible for ensuring the design is compliant to the weapon system specification in the area of physical security. This includes requirements decomposition, systems architecture development, and capabilities assessment. Prior to GBSD, Matthew was a Mechanical Engineer for the MMIII Ground Subsystems Support Contract. He graduated from University of Nevada, Las Vegas with a Bachelor’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering and is currently pursuing a Master’s of Science in Systems Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. During his college career, Matthew competed in Division I Track and Field as a high jumper.

Nicholas Blanchette
Nicholas Blanchette is a PhD in Political Science student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), specializing in security studies and international relations. His research focuses on the implications of emerging military capabilities for strategic stability and deterrence, looking particularly at inadvertent escalation risks and nuclear command-and-control. Nick’s broader interests include signaling and misperception in international relations, European and Arctic Security, wargaming methodology, and civil-military relations. Before starting his PhD at MIT, Nick worked in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C., researching nuclear security and arms control policy. Nick also holds an MPhil in International Relations with Distinction from the University of Oxford, where he studied the origins and evolution of American strategic airpower and air-atomic strategy, and a BA in Political Science from Colorado College.

Patty-Jane Geller
Patty-Jane Geller is the Policy Analyst for Nuclear Deterrence and Missile Defense at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense, where she conducts research, writes, and engages audiences on a variety of issues related to strategic forces. Before joining Heritage in 2020, Patty-Jane worked at the Senate Armed Services Committee as a Staff Assistant for the Strategic Forces and Cybersecurity Subcommittees. Previously, she worked in the Office of Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21). She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government at Georgetown University and received a Master of Arts degree in Military Operational Art and Science from the Air Command and Staff College.

Rose Rodgers
Rose Rodgers is a Foreign Service Officer in the United States Department of State. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, she worked as an Associate Research Analyst for the Center for Naval Analyses in the China and Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Division. Her research focus ranges from Chinese economic statecraft, overseas foreign direct investment, export control laws, to China’s nuclear weapons program. Rose Rodgers has a Masters in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. She studied Mandarin at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China as a Boren Fellow.

Ross Jones
Ross Jones is a B-2 Instructor Pilot and T-38 pilot currently stationed at Whiteman AFB, Missouri. Additionally, he is the 509th Bomb Wing Commander’s executive officer. Previous to the B-2, Ross flew the MC-12W as well as the RC-135 family of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance aircraft. In those roles, Ross spent over two years deployed to the Central and Pacific Command Areas of Responsibility. In addition to locations across the United States, he lived in England and Italy before leaving home to attend the United States Air Force Academy. Ross is interested in all facets of the Nuclear Triad, but especially in the future of arms control beyond New START.

Tenzin Thargay
Tenzin Thargay is a first-generation Tibetan American from Boston, MA. He graduates this spring from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) with an MA in International Affairs concentrating in Energy and Environment and a Weatherhead East Asian Institute Certificate in Chinese Studies. Tenzin is a research assistant for Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy where he supports projects on nuclear energy issues. As a 2019 U.S. State Department Rangel Fellow, Tenzin enters the Foreign Service as an economics track Foreign Service Officer this summer. Before SIPA, Tenzin was a Fulbright Scholar in Seoul, South Korea and received dual B.A. in political science and Chinese, Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2018; he served as undergraduate student commencement speaker. His favorite sport is tennis and the most interesting place he played was inside a Taiwanese nuclear facility.

Victoria (Tori) Velasquez
Victoria (Tori) Velasquez is a Systems Engineer at Northrop Grumman, working on the U.S. Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program. She works as a requirements verification architecture modeling lead for flight and ground testing, using model based systems engineering and agile methodology to develop detailed test plans leading to program success. Also the Test Infrastructure lead, she works with the customer to ensure all sites to be used on the program meet their requirements. Tori has gone through Northrop Grumman’s Leadership Development Program, as well as their Pathways Program, designed to build the companies next generation of leaders. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science Engineering and a minor in Geological Science from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

William Szymanski
William Szymanski is a Seattle-based Nonproliferation Policy Analyst at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). At PNNL, William works on projects relating to strategic trade controls, international nuclear safeguards and counter-proliferation financing. Previously, he held graduate research positions at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR); the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies; and began his career as a financial crime researcher at a New York-based risk consultancy. William holds dual master’s degrees through a nonproliferation-focused graduate program between the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO). He received a bachelor’s degree in international studies from Johns Hopkins University and is a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist. He has co-authored publications that have appeared on War on the Rocks and WorldECR.