J’Tia TaylorBy Kathryn E. Jandeska • April 24, 2013
J’Tia Taylor is a nonproliferation technical specialist in Argonne’s Nuclear Engineering division.
What is your background and how did you come to work at Argonne?
I did my undergraduate work at Florida State University in industrial engineering, and I was in Navy ROTC. I wanted to work on submarines, but at the time, Navy women weren’t allowed to do that, so instead of joining the Navy after graduation, I decided to go on to graduate school and study nuclear engineering.
In graduate school, I interned at three or four labs and I did a research assistantship at Argonne. I really loved Argonne and its proximity to the city. Argonne is collegial and academic in nature, so it really reminded me of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I earned my PhD. I really like Argonne. There are some very smart people here.
What role do you play at Argonne?
I work mainly in the area of export control, assessing technologies for their nonproliferation implications. I look at a lot of the emerging technologies presented to the U.S. government that are not necessarily on the market. My job is to analyze what the technology does and what it’s used for, assess how it can be used and determine its implications for weapons of mass destruction.
What do you like best about your work?
Hands down, it’s getting to work with people who are experts in their field. Just learning from these smart people and interacting with them is, by far, the best thing about my job.
Travel is one of my hobbies, and I get to travel to some really nice places for my work. Last October I went to Moscow for an international workshop on proliferation and physical protection at nuclear installations. Soon, some colleagues and I will travel to Peru as guests of the government. We’ll teach officials about how we identify commodities that are associated with weapons of mass destruction, showing them how the United States trains people in this area. Our goal is to encourage them to start a similar program of their own.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
I’m usually answering emails, collaborating with others on papers we’re working on, doing research and analysis. I read a lot of journal articles and papers, trying to stay on top of the technology. I’m always building my knowledge base, talking to colleagues about what’s going on, discussing what they’re working on and learning what they think is important in our field.
What do you like about working at Argonne?
I’m proud of the big science that’s going on here. President Obama came to visit because Argonne is doing such spectacular things. I know some of the people who work in fuel cell technology…to think that one day I was having lunch with those people and the next, they were briefing the President. It makes you very proud when someone asks where you work and you can say, “I work at Argonne.” Argonne has a really great reputation in the world. There are so many opportunities here — so many things a person can do.
What would you say to students thinking about a science or engineering career?
I encourage students to consider a career in science, technology, engineering or math. For example, engineering is really about using science to do things that make the world better. I don’t think many people think about that, but if you want to go into a career to make the world a better place, there’s no better way to do that than with a career in science.