Acting assertively, being in the right place at the right time, and having valuable skills led recent Arizona State University honors graduate Connor Morse to a job at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).
Morse, who was a student at the ASU Polytechnic campus, graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing engineering from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering with honors from Barrett, The Honors College. He completed an honors thesis titled “Co-Bot Integration for High Volume Manufacturing of Aerospace Components.”
On Aug. 21, he will start a full-time job as a research and development engineer in the Weapons Production Directorate at LANL, located in Los Alamos, a town in the high desert of northern New Mexico, about 35 miles from Santa Fe.
As Morse tells it, how he landed at LANL was pretty fortuitous. He and a fellow student were heading to lunch one day last spring when they saw Timothy Beatty, business development director for the Business Engagement Catalyst in the Fulton Schools, giving LANL representatives a tour of the Simulator Building at the Poly campus.
Morse convinced his companion to skip lunch and head into their automation lab to catch the LANL representatives as they walked through and speak with them.
The students talked about their lab work, club involvement, manufacturing project class and senior capstone project with Raytheon Missiles and Defense, a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies. The LANL representatives talked about their connection to ASU through six student capstone projects and their search for talented young engineers. Morse made sure to get their contact information and later sent them emails thanking them for their time and expressing interest in employment with LANL. He then applied to several LANL positions.
Morse and his friend kept in contact with the LANL representatives until they returned to ASU Poly several weeks later for a lunch-and-learn session with students.
“After the lunch-and-learn, we were asked to stay back and talk to some reps. We discussed our future plans and outlook relating to continuing our education with the 4+1 program or starting a full-time career. At the end of the discussion the (LANL) chief scientist, Bob Putnam, said, ‘Well, should we show them what’s in the folder?’ as he pulled out spot offers, signed them and gave them to us in front of the other LANL reps, two of our friends and (ASU Teaching Professor) Jerry Gintz, which shocked the whole room. I swear you could hear a pin drop,” Morse said.
Morse had three weeks to decide whether he would pursue the LANL opportunity further by completing background check paperwork and other requirements before securing a final job offer.
He fulfilled LANL’s requirements and received a final job offer on May 8, the same day he attended Barrett Honors College’s convocation. His friend decided to stay on at ASU to pursue a 4+1 master’s degree program.
Morse said his offer letter stated he would be working on "delivering breakthrough research with a focus on safe, efficient, and effective operations in service to our nation and in support of our mission of stewarding the U.S. nuclear deterrent and reducing global danger.”
This summer, Morse worked as a tooling engineering intern with Haas Automation in California. The internship wrapped up earlier this month, and he is now in the process of moving to New Mexico.
Morse said he feels very gratified that his assertiveness paid off with a job at LANL.
“My biggest drive has been contributing to a tangible impact on humanity with my engineering career and I believe this is it,” he said.
Morse said his knowledge about LANL was scant before he met with the lab’s representatives during their campus visits.
“You hear the stories in history class and in the news about the U.S. nuclear deterrent, but you never really know who's responsible for the upkeep. As I began to learn more and more about LANL I began to see its true impact on the nation ever since its founding in 1943,” Morse said.
Morse will join fellow ASU engineering and Barrett Honors graduate Bryan Carton in the ranks of LANL employees.
Carlton received a bachelor’s degree in engineering with an emphasis in robotics in 2022 and a master’s degree in robotics and autonomous systems in 2023.
In 2021, he completed an internship with the Additive Manufacturing Group at LANL. He now works full time as a research and development engineer for the LANL Robotics and Automation Group.
“ASU and Barrett helped prepare me for the challenges and projects that I’m involved with now. Specifically, my Barrett honors thesis that focused on the design of an exoskeleton elbow — a brace with a motorized robotic elbow designed for people who have nerve damage,” said Carlton, who collaborated with Mayo Clinic on the project and had Thomas Sugar, associate dean of Barrett at the Poly campus, as his mentor.
“The thesis helped bring attention from people at Los Alamos who are always looking for experience in research and development. It was an impressive project that I got to be a part of and acquire experience that they really liked,” such as advanced prototyping skills and the ability to work with various tools including CAD, Carlton added.
As for working at LANL, “It’s great. It’s a real team-oriented environment and you get a sense of patriotism because you’re working on projects for the country,” said Carlton, adding that he may pursue a doctorate degree using his employee tuition assistance benefit.
Carlton said he enjoys being in Los Alamos, the town nearest to the lab, because it is nestled in the mountains where the weather is cool and the hiking trails are many.
“The town itself is filled with a lot of history, from its Indigenous roots to the Second World War, the establishment of LANL in the 1940s, the Cold War and up to now. I’m proud of it," Carlton said. "There is a significant history to this place and I’m able to be a part of continuing that legacy."
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