Community Connections - 2023

Partnering with our neighbors through science education and charitable giving

The Laboratory is an active member of local communities, offering a wide variety of programs to enhance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Many more students visited LLNL in FY 2023 with the post-COVID reopening of the Discovery Center. This year LLNL staff and LLNS donated more than $4.1 million to local nonprofits, while hundreds of employees donated their time to local service agencies.

Discovery Center Reopened

Students attending the SAGE camp enjoy some free time in the newly refurbished Discovery Center.
Students attending the SAGE camp enjoy some free time in the newly refurbished Discovery Center.

On February 1, 2023, LLNL’s Discovery Center reopened after a nearly three-year closure due to COVID-19. The fully renovated facility includes a host of new hands-on exhibits related to the Laboratory’s research programs, institutional history, and role in the community. Exhibits are designed to excite the next generation of researchers about new innovations and work performed at LLNL. They showcase state-of-the-art research ranging from high-performance computing and bioscience to advanced materials and manufacturing. Visitors can step inside a replica of the National Ignition Facility (NIF) target chamber. The Discovery Center is open from noon to 4 p.m. on weekdays.

Promoting STEM Education

The resumption of onsite visits and programs brought many enthusiastic faces to the Laboratory. The pre-pandemic field-trip program resumed, with fifth-grade students from local elementary schools visiting the Discovery Center and enjoying interactive Fun with Science performances. This year, more than 1,600 fifth graders participated, and they learned about NIF and the concepts of light, lasers, optics and physics through demonstrations, hands-on activities, and science displays. In addition, more than 300 high-school students came to LLNL for the Day at the Lab program, which included tours of the National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center, NIF, and the Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory (AML).

Other in-person STEM outreach activities also resumed in FY 2023. In February, the Science on Saturday lecture series opened at the Las Positas College campus. More than 2,000 middle- and high-school students heard from Laboratory researchers about biology, computing, additive manufacturing, and fusion science. The Teacher Research Academy program also restarted, with three workshops for middle- and high-school teachers. In addition, in June, nearly 30 high-school students performed science experiments with their smartphones at the STEM with Phones workshop. The summer boasted a variety of programs and events with the arrival of more than 800 undergraduate and graduate student interns. At the Biotech Summer Experience, local high-school students participated in immersive research projects in molecular biology and bioinformatics. Science Accelerating Girls Engagement (SAGE) in STEM returned for its second year. At the weeklong camp, 28 participants learned about scientific research and careers at the national labs.

Strong Ties with the City of Livermore

For more than 70 years, the Laboratory and the City of Livermore have grown together, and events throughout 2023 highlighted the strong working relationship. In April, LLNL hosted more than 40 managers from the City of Livermore. At the Livermore Valley Open Campus (LVOC), they met with Director Kimberly Budil, who observed that the many amenities in the community help the Laboratory attract top talent. Following a presentation on ignition, the visitors toured the AML and Discovery Center. May 30 brought the celebration of Livermorium Day at the city’s Livermorium Park. In June, at the invitation of the Livermore Rotary Club, Director Budil and members of the NIF fusion team served as Grand Marshals at the 2023 Rodeo Parade. The 105th Livermore Rodeo provided an opportune venue for LLNL to celebrate achieving ignition with the local community.

High-school students work against the clock to decipher a PIN code to unlock a safe deposit box at a Girls Who Code event.
High-school students from Livermore and Tracy work against the clock to decipher a PIN code to unlock a safe deposit box at the “Altamont Connection” Girls Who Code event.

Hands-on, Practical Experience in Data Science

On International Women’s Day in March, the annual Women in Data Science (WiDS) regional event was held at LVOC, in conjunction with the global WiDS conference. Attendees met online and in-person for the forum. Students engaged with Laboratory mentors in small groups to discuss career paths and some of the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated field. In May, high-school students from Livermore and Tracy jointly attended a collaborative “Altamont Connection” Girls Who Code (GWC) event. Students from the two school districts toured research facilities at LLNL, engaged in hands-on activities, and interacted face-to-face with Laboratory computer scientists who had been their mentors in the GWC after-school program throughout the year.

In July, 35 undergraduate and graduate students from the University of California (UC) at Riverside and UC Merced joined forces for the Laboratory’s two-week Data Science Challenge. Hosted in the newly renovated University of California Livermore Collaboration Center at LVOC, the event focused on a real-world problem in machine-learning assisted heart modeling. The Data Science Summer Institute brought to the Laboratory students from all over the country—and from Japan.

Exploration at Open House

In October 2023, the Laboratory hosted nearly 19,000 employees and guests for tours, activities, and fun on campus. Every corner of LLNL was packed with information, with volunteers encouraging participants to experience the Open House’s theme: “Explore, Discover, Innovate.” To that end, children created elephant toothpaste using chemical reactions, lines of people snaked through NIF to get a glimpse of the target chamber, and staff members showed off their normally secluded offices. For many employees, Open House was their first opportunity to bring friends and family to LLNL. The event allowed them to share a part of their lives, show off the incredible work done at the Laboratory, and inspire the next-generation workforce.

At the Open House, an LLNL employee and guests pose by a poster thanking all employees for their contributions that enabled achievement of ignition.
At the Open House, a Laboratory employee and guests pose by a poster thanking all employees for their contributions to LLNL, which enabled successful achievement of ignition.

Annual Gift Giving

In 2023, the 49th year of the Laboratory’s Helping Others More Effectively (HOME) campaign, employees and LLNS raised over $4 million. This year marks the first time the campaign has surpassed the $4 million mark. Employees pledged over $2.8 million, while LLNS matched $1.3 million. The donations will benefit more than 1,500 community nonprofit agencies selected by LLNL employees. In January 2024, LLNS announced the recipients of the 2023 Community Gift Program, with funds totaling $220,000. Many of the awards serve children in the Tri-Valley area as well as Contra Costa, San Francisco, and San Joaquin counties, and focus on literacy, STEM education, and cultural arts. Other recipients focus their charitable efforts toward individuals and families in need of assistance.