Materials Challenges in Nuclear Security

Hosted by Dr. James Baciak

Department of Materials Science and Engineering Seminar Series

Tuesday, November 15, 2016                 4:05 – 4:55 p.m.                Rhines Hall, 125



Dr. Michael A. Kuliasha

Director of Nuclear Technologies

J9 Research and Development

Defense Threat Reduction Agency



Materials Challenges in Nuclear Security



The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) is the U.S. Department of Defense’s combat support agency for weapons of mass destruction including chemical, biological, and nuclear threats.  One of DTRA’s key missions is to provide support to the U.S. strategic nuclear deterrent ensuring that U.S. nuclear weapons continue to be safe, secure, and effective.  Materials science and engineering plays a critical role in the current and future nuclear stockpile.  Materials research primarily involves the interaction of materials and radiation including materials to make radiation, the effects of radiation on materials, the effects of radiation on electronics, materials to detect radiation, and analyzing materials to infer nuclear weapon design and origin.  The seminar will discuss the role of the U.S. nuclear arsenal in post-Cold War strategy, describe the technical challenges in each of the above materials research areas, and provide examples of the current research portfolio.  In addition, the seminar will discuss DTRA processes for funding basic research at universities, its interns and fellowship programs, and conclude with advice on navigating the federal employment process.



Dr. Kuliasha, a member of the Senior Executive Service, currently serves as the Director, Nuclear Technologies Department, J9, Research and Development Directorate, Fort Belvoir, VA.  Dr. Kuliasha leads DTRA’s nuclear science and technology program to deliver technologies to:  characterize the full spectrum of nuclear weapons effects including targeting, consequences of execution, and survivability; ensure that critical DoD nuclear weapons, systems and national infrastructure can accomplish their designated missions in a nuclear weapons effects environment; rapidly and reliably conduct post-detonation nuclear forensics; locate and identify nuclear and radiological threats; and develop verification and monitoring technologies to support current and future treaties and detect low-yield and deceptive nuclear testing.  He serves as the DTRA lead for nuclear standards and policies, vulnerability assessments, and testing that is within the scope of the Agency’s mission. He is instrumental in determining the survivability and surety requirements of nuclear weapon life extension programs and strategic platform acquisitions.  Dr. Kuliasha also serves as the DoD principal on the Weapons Effects Strategic Collaboration and coordinates nuclear weapons effects issues and programs with the National Nuclear Security Administration, U.S. Strategic Command, and Allies.


From 2007 to 2010, Dr. Kuliasha served as the Chief Technologist of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.  As the senior science and technology leader at AFRL, he had primary responsibility for the technical content and quality of AFRL’s $4.5 billion per year S&T portfolio and workforce of over 10,800.  Responsibilities included strengthening S&T planning and execution; increasing innovation; recruiting, retaining, and developing a world-class science and engineering staff; advocate for world-class laboratory infrastructure; and transitioning science and technology into warfighting capabilities.  He served as a Senior Advisor to the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, was a member of the Air Force/NASA Executive Research Committee, and was the corporate interface between AFRL and the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board.  Dr. Kuliasha served under an Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignment to AFRL from Oak Ridge National Laboratory.


Prior to 2007, Dr. Kuliasha held a variety of leadership positions over his 30-year career at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, including Associate Laboratory Director for Computing, Robotics, and Education (Acting); Director of the Computational Physics and Engineering Division; Associate Director of the Energy Division; Chief Scientist for National Security; and Director for Homeland Security.


Dr. Kuliasha has Doctorate and Master of Science degrees in Nuclear Engineering and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from the University of New Mexico.  He is a graduate of The Executive Program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.