Walter Pettus

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Walter Pettus already knew a few things about national laboratories before joining the DOE NNSA SSGF. The University of Wisconsin, Madison, doctoral candidate had already worked at Argonne National Laboratory and at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, both near Chicago.

But his summer 2012 practicum at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was his first at one of the labs under the NNSA umbrella. The trip west broadened his experience, Pettus says. The lab is “a stimulating environment to be in, and it demonstrates how other scientists balance and combine the programmatic goals with the desire to do basic science.”

Fellows also visit with lab scientists at the annual program review, which Pettus calls “the single most important (benefit) for building the community this fellowship has.” Reconnecting with other fellows and sharing their graduate work is a highlight of his year.

Pettus is part DM-Ice, an experiment buried beneath Antarctic ice to measure the expected annual modulation in the dark matter signal. After graduation, he’s hoping to continue working on detectors for rare event searches, perhaps as a postdoctoral fellow.

The DOE NNSA SSGF is the best fellowship available, Pettus says. “No question. I recommend it without reservation to anyone in the fields of study.”