John Yeager wants to know what happens to materials all the way down to the nanoscale, even when they detonate. His curiosity led to three WSU materials science degrees, and a recent award.

Yeager ’06, ’08 MS, ’11 PhD, now works for the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s High Explosives Science and Technology group in New Mexico. He received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in January.

John Yeager
John Yeager (Courtesy John Yeager)

Established in 1996, the Presidential Early Career Award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers. Yeager is among 102 scientists and engineers from 12 government agencies who received this year’s awards.

“It is an incredible honor,” says Yeager. “I believe it means that my work is valued by my institution, Los Alamos National Laboratory.”

Yeager began working at Los Alamos during his doctoral study in 2009 and continued his research at the laboratory as an Agnew National Security Postdoctoral Fellow. He has been a technical staff member since 2013.

Throughout his career, Yeager has studied a variety of materials science problems, ranging from glass formation and corrosion to fuel-cell production and plastic-bonded-explosive performance.

“John is an innovative early career scientist, exemplifying a generation of scientists applying world-class cutting-edge science to pressing national security missions,” says Eric Brown, Los Alamos’ Explosive Science and Shock Physics division leader.

“I try to establish relationships between how the material is made and how it performs in normal use and also under abnormal conditions like a burning building,” says Yeager. “We can never control how the material behaves if we don’t understand how it is made.”