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Each year, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a bipartisan policy-focused non-profit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. runs a Nuclear Scholars program through its Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI). The mission of this initiative is to find rising young professionals in the nuclear field and grant them the opportunity to meet and discuss the latest developments in nuclear weapons policy with seasoned experts. This work goes towards serving the central goal of developing the next generation of nuclear professionals. 

NNSA is excited to announce that two of its own were selected to join the program as part of the class of 2024.

Anna Pluff, who supports the Office of Strategic Planning and Analysis’s Industrial Base Monitoring efforts, and Polly Keim, who works on production-specific multi-tail workload at seven different NNSA sites, have joined the CSIS’s Nuclear Scholars Initiative. Academic pursuits lead both to pursue a career in nuclear security, but in vastly different ways. Pluff studied the intersection of social justice, nuclear weapons, and climate change while authoring a thesis on inter-ethnic activism across anti-nuclear activists in the Black Hills. Keim pursued a master’s in public policy with graduate work that led to presentations at the Pentagon. 

For Pluff, the CSIS Nuclear Scholars Initiative was an opportunity to grow her community and gain insights from subject matter experts and pragmatic practitioners. Participating in this program has granted her access to aspects of the nuclear apparatus that she would not normally get through her day-to-day work within NNSA, such as scientific problems presented by technical experts. 

“It’s so important to know how to translate the technical into policy and I am open to learning all I can,” said Pluff.

Keim’s first impressions of the program centered on her fellow participants. “I have been struck by the breadth of backgrounds that the PONI team has coalesced,” she said when reflecting on her first few days in the program. According to Keim, the backgrounds of her peers alone have given her a wider range of perspectives more than ever before. Not only is her expertise growing from exposure to these equally experienced individuals, but she is also building bridges and new connections with the people who will make up the future of the Nuclear Security Enterprise.

Pluff and Keim both entered the Nuclear Scholars Initiative with clear goals. Pluff seeks to become an effective and collegial leader in nuclear security, willing to challenge the status quo when necessary. Keim aims to continue learning about the full breadth of career paths available within the enterprise and eagerly awaits the upcoming panels and speakers so she can continue asking and learning.

A true interdisciplinary program, the Nuclear Scholars Initiative will continue introducing participants to leaders in the Department of Defense, NNSA, academia, think tanks, and more.

The program will also task participants with a research project that will end in publication. Pluff has already started, searching the Library of Congress and National Archives for materials pertaining to nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands. Her planned topic is to use historical perspectives to explore how contemporary coastal storage sites may face similar infrastructure challenges to that era. 

Pluff and Keim will be poised to use the professional growth achieved through the program to better serve American nuclear security interests.