Sandia Labs News Releases

Award-winning Sandia Labs engineer trods global path of nonproliferation

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Adam Williams of Sandia National Laboratories won a 2012 Black Engineer of the Year Award for his work in international security and nonproliferation.

Williams was named Most Promising Engineer-Government in the prestigious BEYA program, which recognizes some of the nation’s best and brightest engineers, scientists and technology experts. The awards are sponsored by the national Career Communications Group, an advocate for corporate diversity, as part of its national Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) achievement program.

Sandia's Adam Williams took s spin on a camel near the Pyramids in Egypt on a work-related trip to the Mideast in November 2009. (Photo courtesy of Sandia National Laboratories) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

Williams was nominated by Rodney Wilson, director of Sandia’s Nonproliferation and Cooperative Threat Reduction Center. Williams joined the center’s International Nuclear Security Engineering Group in early 2008.

“Adam’s name jumped right to mind. I didn’t think twice about it,” Wilson said. “He demonstrates an immediate sense of leadership. I traveled to the Mideast with him and observed his ability to become a leader in complex cultural, technical situations.”

Williams said, “Honestly, it was an honor to be nominated. I measure success by being able to come home, look in the mirror and say I did all I could to do my best at the tasks in front of me. To have my efforts acknowledged by my colleagues and management is encouraging and inspiring.”

The Fort Hood, Texas, native was a freshman in the mechanical engineering program at Texas A&M University (TAMU) when he heard a talk by James Olson of TAMU’s Bush School of Government and Public Service. Olson had recently retired from the CIA. “His talk was like something out of a Jason Bourne movie, but real,” Williams said. “It was interesting and engaging to say the least.”

Olson became a mentor to Williams and guided him to a career in international relations. “He opened my eyes to this big thing called the world and its complex geopolitical interactions,” Williams said. “There are many events going on all over the world, and they all matter.”

Williams completed his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and enrolled in the master’s program in international affairs at the Bush school. “I realized my interests revolved around big, global problems,” he said. “Graduate school was a way to see if international relations was where I really wanted to be.”

Williams came across the concept of nonproliferation, and a light went on. “Learning about nuclear nonproliferation was akin to digging in the sand and hitting something solid,” he said. “I wanted to keep digging to find out more. Peeling back its layers and complexities and intricacies is fascinating. I got my master’s and decided that nonproliferation was the direction I wanted to go.”

Williams was hired by Sandia after completing his master’s degree. He is an international security technical systems analyst for the Labs. “My job is to help develop creative solutions to the vast array of nonproliferation problems,” said Williams, whose work takes him to countries around the world.

He said he loves having a job that “will ultimately make the world a safer, more secure place.”

Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness.

Sandia news media contact: Nancy Salem,, (505) 844-2739