SARA becomes SARRA

The Lab’s SARRA program expands to bring service academy and now ROTC students to Los Alamos for summer internships.

March 19, 2020

Sara Feature Opt
SARRA students at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Los Alamos National Laboratory

For more than a decade, the Laboratory’s Service Academies Research Associates (SARA) program brought approximately 30 students annually from the United States Military Academy at West Point, the United States Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy, and the Merchant Marine Academy to Los Alamos for summer internships.

In 2018, Jon Zimak, an Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts was admitted to the program. The chemical engineering major dedicated his summer to developing a Lab database that tracks fire safety issues. “He aced it,” says Mike Port, who oversees the program.

Because of Zimak’s success, Port, in coordination with leadership from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), decided to make ROTC students a regular part of SARA. Which means that SARA is now SARRA: Service Academies & ROTC Research Associates.

In 2020, as in past years, SARRA students—who are funded by DTRA and have security clearances—will spend four to eight weeks working with Lab mentors on projects that have real national security implications. The program provides these future military officers with their first exposure to innovative-edge scientific, engineering, and computational tools—and to the people who enable the Laboratory to answer the most difficult national security problems.

“We believe it’s important for these students to understand the science, engineering, and technology available at the Lab because these are the tools that can help them deal with problems they’ll face as military officers,” Port says. “Our program also provides each of these cadets and midshipmen with future reachback capability, if and when they need assistance resolving issues encountered while on active duty.”

Potential SARRA students are encouraged to apply at The majority of SARRA students plan to major in STEM fields, although one or two students every year are pursuing liberal arts degrees. This year’s students will begin arriving in early May and cycle in and out until the first week of August. Most service academy students stay for four weeks; ROTC students may be able to stay longer (four to eight weeks).