Researcher Spotlight: Frank Graziani

HEDS Center Director Frank Graziani poses in the National Ignition Facility visitor's center

At the frontiers of plasma science

"Our problems at Livermore are interdisciplinary." - Frank Graziani

High energy density science (HED) is an integral component of the Laboratory’s national security mission. As director of Livermore’s High Energy Density Science Center, physicist Frank Graziani works to foster academic collaborations in HED research, which often relies on Livermore’s National Ignition Facility, the world’s most energetic laser.

Frank obtained his PhD from UCLA in elementary particle theory, followed by postdoc research in quantum chromodynamics at the University of Colorado and cosmology at the University of Minnesota. He also did research at NASA and FermiLab, Los Alamos, and SLAC national laboratories, and got to appreciate their interdisciplinary programs. As a result, Livermore seemed a natural place to work, and Frank was hired in 1989 as a computational physicist supporting the weapons program.

Over the next decade Frank assumed a number of increasingly responsible positions leading to associate division head. In 2007 he was selected to lead the National Boost Initiative, a multi-national laboratory, multidisciplinary effort aimed at answering important scientific questions underlying nuclear weapons operation. At the same time, Frank led the Cimarron Project, which developed a computational tool using molecular dynamics to simulate HED plasmas at the microscopic level. Typical of many Livermore research efforts, the Cimarron Project was a collaboration that included researchers from other national laboratories and leading universities.

“Livermore has been a wonderful place to work,” he says. “Here you can be a specialist in one field for your entire career or re-invent yourself many times. I’ve had five or six different careers. Our problems at Livermore are interdisciplinary, which forces you to understand a wider variety of science. If you have a problem within a day you can have a group of people—computer scientists, chemists, metallurgists, physicists—available to tap into their expertise. Interacting with these people has made me a better scientist.”