Sandia Labs News Releases

Sandia researcher wins high-voltage award

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Awards arrive at different levels of intensity, but no one can deny that Sandia National Laboratories researcher Mark Savage has won the highest voltage prize of all — the IEEE William G. Dunbar Award — for work achieved at extremely high voltage.

Mark Savage

Sandia National Laboratories researcher Mark Savage, winner of the IEEE William G. Dunbar Award, has made major electrical design contributions to pulsed power machines. (Photo by Lonnie Anderson). Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

Asked why he was selected for the honor, Savage quipped, “Maybe it was for 30-plus years of high-voltage testing without getting electrocuted.”

A broader assessment of Savage’s worth was offered by Keith LeChien, director of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Inertial Confinement Fusion program. “It would be difficult to find someone who has had a greater influence than Savage on the design and improvement of large-scale, high-current, high-voltage accelerators,” he wrote in his letter of recommendation for the award.

He also used terms like “unparalleled” and “revolutionary” to describe Savage’s technical contributions, and said Savage, employed at Sandia’s Pulsed Power Sciences Center, “sets the example of what it means to be a great pulsed power scientist.”

Among other achievements, Savage led the electrical redesign and prototype testing for the $90 million refurbishment of Sandia’s 6 million-volt Z machine, completed in 2007. He also made major electrical design contributions to improve the operation of emerging pulsed power machines like Thor. Outside of Sandia, he helped improve high-voltage technology at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Megajoule Laser Facility in France. He has authored or coauthored nearly 150 publications and conference proceedings.

Savage holds four patents on devices and diagnostics for pulsed power systems, and his name has appeared on six Defense Programs Awards of Excellence and four Sandia Employee Recognition Awards.

The award recognizes individuals “for continuing contributions to high voltage research, development, or testing technology and for transferring that technology to the engineering and scientific community,” according to an announcement accompanying notification of the award.

Savage received the prize on July 7 at the IEEE International Power Modulator and High Voltage Conference in San Francisco.

Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corp., 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: Neal Singer,, (505) 845-7078