As group leader and application developer in the Global Security Computing Applications Division (GS-CAD), Jarom Nelson works with software developers and security system technicians in the Security and Protection (S&P) program. The S&P team supports the operation and maintenance of Argus, the intrusion detection and access control software and hardware used by LLNL and the Department of Energy (DOE) complex. They also collaborate with Sandia and Idaho national labs on the next-generation security system called Caerus.

“If our project is successful, most people at these labs won’t realize that much has changed,” Jarom states. “Staff will still access secure areas with their badges, and security officers will still monitor this activity. But on the backend, we’re migrating the system to modern development practices, technologies, platforms, and hardware. This work extends to several other DOE sites across the nation, each one unique in how the security system is used.”

Jarom joined the Lab in 2004 after completing his bachelor’s in Computer Engineering and Computer Science at Brigham Young University. Initially he developed code for target diagnostics to configure and acquire data from the National Ignition Facility’s (NIF’s) scientific instruments. Under an academic plan funded by LLNL’s Education Assistance Program, he completed his master’s in Computing Engineering at UC Davis with a focus on computer architecture and compiler optimization. He also pursued graduate-level courses in supercomputing.

Like many employees, Jarom has pursued new opportunities in different areas of Computing. Before moving to GS-CAD in 2021, he worked in the NIF Computing Division on the VBL++ (Virtual Beamline) code. The laser simulation code models the optical physics involved in the design optimization, commissioning, and operation of a wide range of laser systems. During his tenure with the team, Jarom helped rebuild the code base from Java to C++, and from a desktop application to a high performance computing simulation code, and is glad for the experience. “I enjoyed working on the VBL code because it makes sure the laser has the right energy and pulse shape when delivered to the target, so laser experiments can produce quality data,” he says.

Jarom’s career also includes the important role of group leader. “First-line managers can be critical for the success and satisfaction of employees, especially at key moments in their careers,” he notes. “I like being a resource for employees to understand how the Lab works, how to progress in their careers in meaningful ways, and to bring in new people.”

Jarom is married and has six children, ages 8 to 18. Activities with his family occupy most of his time away from work, but he also finds time to nurture his creative outlet: participating in musical theater productions and choral singing, which he has done since high school. His recent roles include the apostle John in Lamb of God and Levi in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (see photo above). Before the pandemic, he and a few coworkers gathered during lunch to sing, play guitar, and pretend they are a rock band known as “Granite Room Gang.”

Jarom says that singing and musical theater give his brain variety in terms of how it’s used. He explains, “Sometimes when I’m approaching a problem at work, my mind can get kind of stuck, but singing and performing changes things up. I find that when I come back to a problem, I tend to see it differently, and often the solution becomes obvious, or whatever was blocking me becomes unlocked.”

—Holly Auten