Hazuki Teshima: What it’s like operating the world’s highest-powered magnet in MagLab

As lead operator on the motor generator, she has ‘one of the most challenging jobs’

July 5, 2022

Teshima Opt

Growing up in Japan as part of a family that tended rice fields, Hazuki Teshima never imagined having a career in science. “I only ever saw scientists on TV!” she says. As a lover of music and the visual arts, Teshima chose biology as her college major because the cover of the textbook was “so beautiful.”

Now, as a generator operator at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory-Pulsed Field Facility (or MagLab) at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Teshima is a maestro at directing complex works of engineering used to produce cutting-edge science with high magnetic fields.

With unique pulsed magnets and experimental capabilities, the facility draws international users who need the highest possible magnetic field intensity for fundamental and national security science. Thanks to funding from the National Science Foundation, the powerful pulsed magnets at Los Alamos are open to all scientists for free through a competitive process.

“Human creativity at the MagLab is a form of art,” Teshima says, referring to the inquisitiveness and inventiveness of the facility’s staff and its users. The results of these efforts are “beautiful in their own way, too,” she adds.

A masterful conductor

As a research technologist on the Power Team, Teshima ensures that the facility’s massive 1.4-megawatt motorgenerator system performs seamlessly when commanded. “Our magnet pulse test methods are unique and the generator is operated in a very particular way for that purpose,” she says. “Knowing the right operation method and maintenance for this unusual system is challenging.”

The stakes are high. With high-intensity magnetic fields pulsing through magnet components in mere microseconds, most experiments are over in a heartbeat. Yet the work conducted at the MagLab can have long-lasting scientific impact.

To ensure these results, Teshima maintains a constant vigilance — from analyzing computer-generated instrument stats to physically inspecting the facility’s infrastructure and environmental conditions.

“As the lead operator on the LANL motor generator, Hazuki has one of the most challenging jobs I know of,” said Team Leader Josiah Srock. “Her position requires consistent attention to detail, visualization of the interconnected effects in a system that spans five buildings, technical expertise, and complex problem solving every day. She consistently delivers in all these areas and more.”

Currently, Teshima and her team members are working on several projects modernizing the MagLab’s infrastructure, enabling it to deliver the power needed to stay atop a highly competitive international scientific arena. These include collaborating with industry subcontractors from General Electric on the generator and motor stator and the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Cooling and Heating Asset Management Program for the generator’s cooling system.

Thriving in a creative, learning environment

Teshima joined the Laboratory as a postbaccalaureate student performing genome studies in the bioscience division and transitioned to staff before joining the magnet lab in 2014. She credits prior operators and teammates with teaching her the ropes.

“My strength is that I don’t hesitate to ask questions. I want to be learning all the time,” Teshima says, adding that she is proud to be part of a team of continuous learners. The Lab “is a unique place, open to all types of people and backgrounds,” she says.

Teshima considers herself lucky to work with “true professionals who enjoy their work to improve the world of their interest” and who generously share their knowledge with her.

“I am in the world of great creativity and ask myself all the time what I can do for this world,” she says.

About the MagLab

The MagLab is a partnership among Florida State University, the University of Florida and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Seven facilities offer a variety of tools and techniques for exploring physics, chemistry, biology and engineering in an interdisciplinary, collaborative environment.