Sullivan wins ANS Oestmann Achievement Award
NPRE Assistant Prof. Clair J. Sullivan is the 2015 winner of the national American Nuclear Society (ANS) Mary Jane Oestmann Professional Women’s Achievement Award.
The ANS award cites Sullivan “for contributions in the areas of radiation detection, homeland security, nuclear nonproliferation, new course development; and for being an excellent teacher in the classroom.”
Sullivan has gained considerable national recognition since joining the NPRE faculty in 2012. She is a member of two multi-institutional efforts:
- the Consortium for Verification Technology (CVT), for research and development in nuclear arms control verification technologies, including nuclear safeguards effectiveness;
- and the Consortium for Nonproliferation Enabling Capabilities (CNEC), to provide the U.S. government with cutting edge research and development to identify and address multi-disciplinary and cross-functional technology, and research needs that are critical to detecting foreign nuclear weapon proliferation activities.
Sullivan’s research at the interface of radiation detection and big data analytics and new algorithms led to her selection as a winner of the 2014 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Young Faculty Award. The honor is used to identify and engage rising research stars in junior faculty positions at U.S. academic institutions and expose them to Department of Defense needs as well as DARPA’s program development process.
Embracing the means of harvesting information through data analytics, Sullivan spent six weeks over the summer in rigorous instruction through The Data Incubator. The program’s mission guides researchers with doctorates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines through understanding and using data analytics, cloud computing and machine learning. Sullivan plans to bring those lessons back to her own students, and possibly develop new courses.
Since joining NPRE, Sullivan has been an invaluable faculty member, significantly strengthening the Radiological Sciences path. Her approach to teaching the Nuclear Radiation Lab class is an example. While students are required to write extensive reports for most of the labs they conduct, Sullivan has modified the format to include in‐class presentations instead of lab reports for some of the labs. NPRE students have responded appreciatively at the opportunity to develop their oral communication and presentation skills.
In addition, Sullivan has taken the initiative to create a new course on detector development. Probably among the first of its kind, this unique, hands‐on class, modeled after a “maker‐lab concept,” was offered in Spring 2015. Students in the class used a Raspberry Pi (computer) to develop a radiation detector, and were required to write the software and build the electronics to accomplish the goal. The course was extremely popular among the students.
Those efforts and others led the ANS student chapter to choose Sullivan for the department’s Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award both in 2013 and 2015.
Sullivan earned all her degrees from the University of Michigan: a bachelor’s in astronomy and a bachelor’s in physics in 1997; and a master’s and PhD in nuclear engineering in 1998 and 2002, respectively. She was part of the university’s premier group in radiation detection, then joined Los Alamos National Laboratory, working with the Department of Homeland Security.
Her work on detector development and deployment in the days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack earned for her the lab’s Distinguished Performance Award in 2004. With her contributions, and technical and leadership skills, Sullivan quickly rose through the ranks to become the Senior Project Leader supporting the intelligence community.
From 2008-2012, she worked for the federal government on nuclear and cyber-related matters. Her research and excellent communication skills also led to her being selected to brief members of Congress on Capitol Hill.