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Community Spotlight - Samantha Lawrence

Article Date: 
22 June, 2012 (All day)

Ever since she was a young girl, Samantha Lawrence knew she would be involved in the sciences. In fifth grade, her science teacher decided to have the class participate in a science fair. Having helped her parents build their home in Morgan, she had always wondered why nails turned orange in exposed stud walls, so she decided to investigate that phenomenon for her science fair project.  Through that project she discovered corrosion and has been fascinated by the processes and mitigation of corrosion from then on.  Samantha continued to nurture these interests and eventually graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at Colorado School of Mines. She is currently a candidate for a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering at Washington State University.
Within Samantha’s academic program, her current area of emphasis is stewardship science. Samantha explains that, “stewardship science relates specifically to stewardship of our nuclear stockpile.” Nuclear stewardship science comes in a variety of forms. Samantha’s involvement with stewardship science entails understanding material properties in nuclear environments while designing materials to withstand the extreme conditions encountered there. Her diligence and academic excellence qualified her for an exclusive fellowship opportunity.
Each year the Department of Energy awards a small number of fellowships to students pursuing a Ph.D. in various fields of study.  Within this department, the National Nuclear Security Administration has created a program which provides excellent financial benefits and professional development opportunities to select students. Samantha Lawrence was one of five students across the country selected to receive the Stewardship Science Graduate Fellowship. The program provides each fellow with a generous yearly stipend, full tuition and payment of fees, an annual academic allowance to be used for research or professional development expenses, and a research practicum at a national laboratory contracted with the National Nuclear Security Administration. 
In conjunction with this fellowship, Samantha is currently working at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California. Sandia’s primary mission is ensuring the U.S. nuclear arsenal is safe, secure, reliable, and can fully support our nation’s deterrence policy. Her current research focuses on testing industrially relevant engineering alloys and substrate-oxide film systems at very small scales in order to isolate the effects of specific phases or defects on the interaction between the environment and mechanical response which lead to large scale problems such as wear, stress corrosion cracking, and ultimately, failure.
Samantha believes in dreaming big. Ultimately she would love to own her own corrosion mitigation consulting firm. In the meantime, she sees herself serving her community and country as a corrosion engineer for the Department of Defense or Department of Energy. She shares this advice to others pursuing their big dreams, “don’t give up—it’s okay if an experiment doesn’t work, an idea doesn’t pan out, or your hypothesis is wrong.  All of these experiences help you learn and understand the complexities of a given problem more fully.”
On a personal note, Samantha is the daughter of Dora and Terry Lawrence in Morgan. She spent 15 years growing up here. Samantha has one older sister currently living in Colorado with her husband and kids. When she is not in the lab, she loves to enjoy the outdoors. Samantha maintains a strong sense of adventure, and is an avid skier. She has also taken up rock climbing, hiking, spelunking, and even kayaking. Indoors, she enjoys painting, playing the guitar, and experimenting with recipes.
Throughout high school Samantha volunteered at the Hill Aerospace Museum as a tour guide. While there she undertook two major projects. The first allowed her to put her interest in corrosion to use by evaluating a specific corrosion problem afflicting the B-47 Stratojet which had been recently acquired for restoration.  The second allowed her to immerse herself in another interest—the literature of war and remembrance.  Together with English teacher, Debbie Davis, and a professor from Weber State, she developed a program called “The Writing Workshop for Military Veterans.”  Each week veterans meet together at the museum with the goal of writing their memoirs. By the conclusion of the workshop all of the veterans had written at least a portion of their memoirs, thus preserving invaluable personal histories surrounding armed conflict.  One veteran, John Kelly, a B-17 ball turret gunner during WWII, with the help of his daughter, had his memoirs published shortly thereafter. “This experience continues to impact my life.  As my graduate research takes me further into the realm of materials for defense applications, I look back on my experiences at the museum and my interactions with servicemen and women to influence my perspective on ethical research.”
Samantha’s success truly reflects one of her favorite quotes by Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never quit.”