Topics of Inquiry

Although LDRD projects frequently invoke more than one scientific discipline, each project is assigned to one of twelve general categories aligned with the Laboratory’s science-and-technology investment strategy.

These categories consist of seven core competencies, which are areas of scientific and technological expertise the Laboratory must command to meet its mission needs, and five mission-focus areas, which represent the arenas in which the competencies are applied.

The seven core competencies are as follows:

  1. Advanced materials and manufacturing. LLNL strives to meet NNSA and broader national needs for the rapid, cost-effective development of advanced materials and manufacturing processes and systems.
  2. Bioscience and bioengineering. Researchers work at the interface of biology, engineering, and the physical sciences to address national challenges in biosecurity, chemical security, bioenergy, and human health. 
  3. Earth and atmospheric science. Scientists and engineers provide expertise in earth and atmospheric science with high-performance computing to meet national security, energy security, and environmental security needs.
  4. High-energy-density science. LLNL provides international leadership in studying and controlling matter under extreme conditions of temperature and pressure.
  5. High-performance computing, simulation, and data science. Scientists and engineers support mission needs by advancing high-performance computing to understand and predict the behavior of complex systems, which includes providing leadership in the technically challenging drive toward exascale-class computing; developing and applying higher fidelity and increasingly realistic and reliable science and engineering simulations; and creating scalable capabilities to manage and recognize patterns in big data.
  6. Lasers and optical science and technology. This competency entails designing, building, and reliably operating complex laser systems that dramatically advance the state of the art to meet important national needs. 
  7. Nuclear, chemical, and isotopic science and technology. To support stockpile stewardship and nuclear threat reduction, researchers develop innovative capabilities for nuclear measurements and rare-event detection, and they provide unique resources for chemical and isotopic analysis of samples for wide-ranging research activities.

The five mission-focus areas are as follows:

  1. Stockpile-stewardship science. LLNL’s foremost responsibility is to ensure the safety, security, reliability, and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
  2. Chemical and biological security. Researchers develop innovative systems and capabilities to rapidly detect and effectively respond to intentional use of pathogens (or chemical agents) or natural outbreaks of pandemic diseases.
  3. Cybersecurity, space, and intelligence. Advancing cyber and network science to support U.S. cyber superiority and ensure the resilience of the complex cyber–physical systems throughout the nation’s critical infrastructure. Developing new capabilities to meet national challenges in space situational awareness and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
  4. Energy and climate security. Programs at LLNL apply innovative cross-cutting energy technologies and climate change adaptation to assure national energy and resource security. 
  5. Inertial fusion science and technology. A primary scientific challenge for LLNL is laser-driven fusion. From innovative design concepts to target fabrication, and beyond to novel NIF diagnostics, creativity coupled to disciplined scientific execution is sought to further our understanding of this regime.