Sandia Labs FY21 LDRD Annual Report


Fellow Highlights Sandia also reserves a special recognition for an elite group of individuals—Sandia Fellows— recognized for careers of significant technical accomplishment for the Labs and for the nation. In Sandia’s history, only 15 individuals have held this title. In FY2021, six of these Fellows were on staff, and all six had been involved with LDRD in their careers. The LDRD Program’s Strategic Partnerships pillar funds a set of projects selected and managed by Sandia Fellows. The Fellow projects enable the Labs’ most stellar R&D staff to mentor promising staff as they pursue leading-edge, potentially high- impact R&D. Three Fellows projects are featured in this year’s Annual Report:

Kathy Simonson, Sandia Fellow Dr. Katherine Simonson is a Laboratories Fellow in Sandia’s

Global Security division. She has served as Sandia’s project lead or PI for a wide range of research, development, and transition programs in airborne and space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). Her teams developed numerous statistical algorithms that enable robust, real-time processing and exploitation of data from a diverse

collection of sensors and platforms. Many of the techniques she developed for automated and semi-automated data exploitation are employed in operational ISR programs, enabling system operators to rapidly identify, interpret, and act on signatures of interest. Kathy has a long history with LDRD, leading and contributing to numerous projects since 1998. Simonson reflects on the role of LDRD in her career: “LDRD has been pivotal in my career at Sandia! Three of the projects for which I served as PI have resulted in significant enhancements to mission performance for deployed, operational systems. In each case, the LDRD research was motivated by a realization that new research could ultimately open the door to new system capabilities with great benefit to the national security enterprise. Our teams took the work from mathematical derivations with pencil and paper through proof of concept (under LDRD funding) and on to operational transition (under sponsor funding). These were the most satisfying experiences of my career at Sandia. And each of these developments was generalizable enough that they continue to be applied in novel applications unforeseen at the time that the LDRD work was underway.“ Simonson is also a champion and mentor for early career PIs and those new to the LDRD process. She helped stand up Research Clubs at Sandia, which assists new researchers in honing their skills as they submit their ideas to the LDRD program. She is currently overseeing one Fellow’s project on novel detection mechanisms assess aerosol-cloud interactions . Regarding the genesis and outcome of the project, Simonson explained, “The project resulted from a brainstorming session involving



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