Bernadette Kafwimbi

Research Scientist, Department of Physics, Virginia Tech University

Bernadette Cogswell is a research scientist at the Virginia Tech University Center for Neutrino Physics. She was previously a Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw Fellow at the University of Manchester’s School of Physics and Astronomy and a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security. She works on technical and policy issues at the intersection of particle physics and nuclear nonproliferation. Bernadette is also an associate editor for the journal Science & Global Security. Her current research focuses on antineutrino detectors for treaty verification and safeguards and issues surrounding plutonium disposition.

Biggest untapped opportunity to help advance a world safe from nuclear threat →
The area where I still see too little change in nuclear security work is in the lack of cross-disciplinary research teams doing nuclear threat reduction projects—teams made up of social and physical scientists along with great communicators and visualizers partnering on key issues related to nuclear threat reduction. Nuclear weapons are inherently technical but, I believe, at heart a social problem. We can’t “science away” nuclear weapons as they touch on value systems and fundamental beliefs about power and security that are personal, not technical. So a cross-team approach is a must to really understand why certain things work the way they do (or are proposed, such as nuclear monitoring schemes) and how to go about improving them. I think N Square, because it sits outside the traditional funding and dialogue silos of government, academia, and national labs, has an opportunity to really promote this kind of interdisciplinary work as the gold standard, rather than the quirky one off.