Professor Prinja Receives 2009 NNSA Defense Programs Award of Excellence

October 4, 2010

Anil K. Prinja, Professor and Associate Chair of the Chemical and Nuclear Engineering Department, has been awarded a National Nuclear Security Administration 2009 Defense Programs Award of Excellence for “Bell-Longmire-Mercer Theory Revisited.” The award was presented at the Los Alamos National Laboratory where Prinja was working with scientists on a special project.

At UNM, Prinja is the associate director at the Center for Nuclear Nonproliferation Science & Technology. His research areas involve the study of random neutron populations in nuclear systems, development of computationally efficient models and solution algorithms for high-energy charged particle transport in amorphous media, and application of stochastic uncertainty quantification techniques to radiation transport computations.

Prinja works in the area of probability theory. For the Los Alamos project he investigated the probability that the neutron population in a nuclear weapon in storage can grow very rapidly under various accident scenarios. In his work at UNM he is more likely to model stochastic neutron distributions in nuclear reactors and is also applying these ideas to passive interrogation techniques for identification of clandestinely transported nuclear material.

Prinja says one analogy for the theoretical work he does can be found in the possible extinction of species. There is a small but important possibility that chance alone can cause a species to disappear. “When you have a small number of members in a species it’s so random,” Prinja says. “Just think, one chain of members can go on for a long time, another chain could just die very quickly. You get these huge statistical variations.” His job is to tell what the probability is that one outcome or another will happen.

Donald Cook, Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs, NNSA, presented Prinja with the award. Prinja says he was asked to participate in this project because of his extensive familiarity and experience with the mathematics needed to formulate and solve random population problems. He received his Ph.D. from Queen Mary College, University of London and has been with UNM since 1987.

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