‘Creative muscle’ carries intern to LLNL career

Many people take their office whiteboards for granted. But not Joel Martinez, a new employee hired in January 2010, who unfortunately was whiteboard-less when he moved into his office. It was important enough to him that he came up with an unconventional way of acquiring one when he arrived at the Lab.

From procuring office furnishings to working on Geographical Information System (GIS) applications, Martinez exudes a sense of competence, confidence and enthusiasm. Problem-solving is his strong suit.

Martinez first came to the Lab as an intern in the summer of 2009, after he graduated from the University of Nevada at Reno (UNR) with a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

“I was brought in to research what they called a ‘deadbanding’ technique,” Martinez explained. Scientists could not efficiently collate the immense data gathered by the Lab’s treatment unit monitors. Martinez developed an algorithm to sort through and clearly arrange the collected data.

“I enjoy practical applications of my knowledge,” said Martinez, who works in the Applications, Simulations, and Quality Division of the Computation Directorate. “It’s all about bringing data together.”

The Lab’s internship program offers students a thriving environment to utilize the skills they learn in school. A professor from his alma mater encouraged him to get information on internships and introduced Martinez to Juan Quiroz, a UNR graduate student.

Quiroz told Martinez about the Tapia Conference, a gathering devoted to encouraging minority students to pursue careers in mathematics, and Martinez attended. There, he met Tony Baylis, the assistant department manager in the Computing and Applications Research Department at LLNL.

“I ended up giving him my resume and he called me back,” Martinez said. “And the rest is history, I guess you could say.”

That fall, Martinez started working on his master’s degree in computer science at Washington State University. He decided to put school on hold and, in January 2010, returned to LLNL as a full-time employee.

He came equipped with knowledge of the Lab’s modus operandi and good restaurants in the surrounding area. As for his favorites, he said, “Well, it’s a toss up between Los Vaqueros and Sansar.”

Martinez also enjoys going to San Francisco, and, in the arena of sports, he is a football fan.

“Steelers all the way since I started having independent thoughts,” he said emphatically.

At the Lab, Martinez continues to apply his analytical skills to countless problems. He is currently working on linking information, such as theconcentration of harmful chemicals at certain geological areas within the Lab and Site 300, to a Web-based GIS application, which would allow scientists to visualize information on specific areas within a geographical context.

He also is working to give Taurus Environmental Information Management System (TEIMS), the ERD’s Web application tool suite, a more responsive and modern feel. Martinez has helped set the visual and infrastructural foundation, and now the sites are more manipulatable and adaptable to new information. This summer, Martinez is mentoring interns who are working to convert everything to the more modernized display.

Working at the Lab presents employees with the opportunity to decide how to solve a problem, and apply their skills accordingly. Martinez recognizes and appreciates that such flexibility is not often afforded in industry.

“Here, I can flex my creative muscles,” Martinez said.

The future holds even more opportunities for Martinez to develop and learn. He plans to return to graduate school and finish his master’s degree.