Meet the 2022 Engineering Award Recipients

By Hailey Hamilton

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Engineering Awards are presented to recognize distinguished contributions to the Laboratory's engineering and computing objectives. The 2022 recipients are:

David Gassner, Electron-Ion Collider

David Gassner is a senior research electrical engineer and recognized expert in the field of beam instrumentation and components. More than 30 years ago, he joined Brookhaven National Laboratory as an operations specialist. In less than three years, he became an operations coordinator, supervising a crew responsible for shift operations for the entire Accelerator Division complex.

Gassner developed extensive knowledge of accelerator physics, overseeing operations for programs with polarized protons, high intensity protons, and heavy ions. He contributed to the development of specialized beam instrumentation during downtime at the Alternating Gradient Synchrotron (AGS) and his off hours.

Gassner later joined the Beam Instrumentation group. In 2010, he became leader of the Accelerator Components and Instrumentation group and oversaw the maintenance and upgrade of existing beam instrumentation. He also continued to work on the design and construction of many new, unique systems.

In 2020, after developing the conceptual design of the beam instrumentation needed for Electron-Ion Collider (EIC), David took on his current role as group leader for EIC Beam Instrumentation.

James 'Jim' Mills, Collider-Accelerator Department

James "Jim" Mills  has been the chief project engineer for the sPHENIX experiment at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory since 2014.

sPHENIX is the first major detector to be built at RHIC in more than twenty years. It was completed in 2023 and is the first project at Brookhaven to be managed in accordance with the U.S. Department of Energy's directive for mid-sized projects. Its completion and operation were high priorities in the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee's 2015 Long Range Plan as well as a key motivation for RHIC operations from 2023 to 2025.

Mills helped guide every aspect of the design and construction. He had key roles in designing the detector's supporting carriage, hadronic calorimeters, and time-projection chamber. He successfully navigated challenging sub-projects, each with tight physical and schedule constraints, and with very few rework or change orders.

These efforts illustrate Mills' accurate planning and engineering as well as his ability to select and build an excellent team.

Chris Ogeka, Modernization Project Office

Chris Ogeka is a resourceful, results-driven, best-in-class project manager who has significantly strengthened Brookhaven National Laboratory’s reputation for project execution.

Starting as a field engineer in the Lab's Environmental Restoration Division, Ogeka’s drive and determination helped him achieve the role of lead field engineer, in which he was responsible for the long-term operation of groundwater treatment systems.

In the Modernization Project Office, the first projects under Ogeka’s leadership were construction associated with the Interdisciplinary Science Building and second phase of the Renovate Science Labs project. His contributions directly resulted in these projects being recognized with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Secretary’s Achievement Awards.

Today Ogeka leads a team of 10 and a number of projects to enable science at Brookhaven. He mentors early career engineers. His contributions and leadership have reduced liabilities, saved millions of dollars, and attracted recognition for Brookhaven throughout the DOE complex.

Dan Padrazo, National Synchrotron Light Source II

Dan Padrazo is an electrical engineer who has made remarkable impacts during his nearly four decades at Brookhaven National Laboratory. His expertise and diligence have led him to roles of increasing importance and responsibility, benefiting science programs at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), its successor NSLS-II, and the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) and its detectors.

After supporting the Multiple Particle Spectrometer group in the mid 1980s, Padrazo joined NSLS, contributing to the development of electrical subsystems. He moved to the STAR detector for RHIC, where he focused on the design, manufacturing, testing, and integration of electronics systems.

Under his leadership at NSLS-II, tens of miles of diagnostics cables were installed and terminated; 220 beam position monitors were manufactured, tested, and integrated with controls; x-ray and visible light diagnostics were delivered and installed; and bunch-by-bunch feedback systems were integrated with timing, controls, and equipment protection interlocks.

Padrazo has made exceptional contributions in the field of instrumentation and diagnostics. His continuous efforts are paving the way for rapid development of advanced electronics for the premier U.S. projects at Brookhaven and beyond.

Rahul Sharma, Physics Department

Rahul Sharma is being recognized for his leadership on the integration and installation of a major upgrade to the STAR detector’s inner time projection chamber (iTPC); for the recent integration and installation of STAR’s forward upgrade, which consists of four major new subsystems; and operation and maintenance of the STAR detector.

Sharma joined the Electronic Detector Group in Brookhaven National Laboratory's Physics Department in 2009. In 2015, he joined the STAR collaboration, where he has taken on an immense array of challenging engineering efforts and been successful across the board.

Sharma overcame many engineering challenges, ranging from normal to exceptionally challenging. He has worked tirelessly—with scientists, engineers, technicians, and students—to develop sensible resolutions and keep projects on schedule. Upgrades at STAR will bridge Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider physics today to science at the Electron-Ion Collider in the future.

Sharma's contributions have provided immense benefit to Brookhaven.

Dan Allan, Stuart Campbell, Tom Caswell, and Maksim Rakitin of NSLS-II

The BlueSky team at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II)—comprising Dan Allan, Stuart Campbell, Tom Caswell, and Maksim Rakitin—created, installed, commissioned, and operates an entirely new data acquisition software stack for beamlines. The team's approach enabled the successful startup of science at NSLS-II and revolutionized data-taking at light sources in the U.S. and, increasingly, worldwide. It is a shining example of software engineering at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

The BlueSky team solved one of the biggest challenges facing NSLS-II: handling very high data velocities and volumes produced by its instruments with diverse detector sets and requirements.

The group built a software stack—a single package for NSLS-II users that integrates hardware, experiment specifications and orchestration, online analysis, data visualization, exports, and access. The team's members built the software from the ground-up in an incredibly short period of time and rolled it out onto beamlines. The python-based code utilizes existing libraries and can easily take advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Meet all the staff members at Brookhaven Lab who were recognized for distinguished contributions to the Laboratory's mission in 2022.

2023-21601  |  INT/EXT  |  Newsroom