Accelerator Initiative

The Accelerator Initiative offers a unique mentorship and career development opportunity to a small cohort of early-career women working in nuclear, international security, or technology policy.

2020 Accelerators

The Stanley Center for Peace and Security’s belief in the necessity of diverse perspectives for policy solutions led to the creation of the Accelerator Initiative in 2019. The initiative offers a mentorship and career development opportunity for early-career women working in nuclear, international security, or technology policy.

More on our work

Participants chosen to be part of the Accelerator Initiative join our policy dialogues, hone and demonstrate their expertise, expand their networks, elevate their profiles, and deepen their interest in issues at the intersection of emerging technologies and nuclear weapons policy. Each “accelerator” develops a research question over the course of the year, to be expanded into a policy paper with support and feedback from an expert adviser of her choice. Accelerators are chosen through a rigorous application process each December.

About the Policy Paper and Expert Adviser

Accelerators develop an original policy paper for publication. The paper examines issues that enhance understanding and awareness of the risks or opportunities associated with the effects of emerging technologies on nuclear weapons policy and is 4,000 to 6,000 words.

As they take part in our events related to nuclear policy, accelerators keep an eye out for interesting subject matter, potential research questions, and relevant experts who could serve as their adviser in researching and writing a policy paper. Each participant chooses her own adviser, with Stanley Center staff facilitating the initial conversations as needed.

Advisers work with accelerators in a role similar to a thesis adviser: holding regular meetings (or phone calls), discussing and developing research questions, providing feedback on a research prospectus, and reviewing drafts of the paper produced. At our discretion, the Stanley Center publishes and promotes the policy papers written by the accelerators.

2020 Accelerators

The 2020 cohort of accelerators was announced in early 2020. We are so pleased to work with these women on the valuable contributions they bring to the field.

Ashley Curtis is a National Nuclear Security Administration graduate fellow and will join the US Department of Energy working on international nuclear safeguards in June 2020. She is currently a research associate at the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, where she focuses on developments in Iran’s nuclear program. Previously, Curtis worked on arms control issues at the US State Department and at the Nuclear Threat Initiative. She earned a BA from Brigham Young University and an MA in economics and international relations from the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies, where she focused her research on the impact of open-source intelligence on nuclear negotiation strategies.

Marie Kirkegaard is a program officer at the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine for the Committee on International Security and Arms Control (CISAC). Previously, Kirkegaard was a postdoctoral fellow with the National Strategic Research Institute, supporting the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. Kirkegaard earned a PhD in energy science and engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a BS in chemical physics from Harvey Mudd College. Her dissertation research, conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, characterized the chemical reactions that solid-state uranium compounds undergo in humid environments. Kirkegaard has also conducted nuclear policy research as a PONI Nuclear Scholar and participated in the US-Russia Young Professional Nuclear Forum.

Sulgiye Park is a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University. She earned her PhD in geological sciences from Stanford investigating the structural response of nuclear waste forms under extreme conditions. Park’s current research focuses on the front end of North Korea’s uranium pathway. She uses her knowledge in earth sciences to analyze uranium mining and milling processes–two major rate-limiting steps in the indigenous production of nuclear weapons. Park’s research was published in Jane’s Intelligence Review in 2019.

Lindsay Rand is a PhD student at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and a graduate research assistant at the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland. Rand’s research focuses on issues at the intersection of science and policy in the field of international security. Her doctoral research will examine verification theory and application in nuclear arms control agreements. Rand is also researching the different diffusion pathways for emerging/disruptive technologies and plans to apply findings from her doctoral research to determine innovative options for arms control agreements on new technologies. Rand received an MS in nuclear health physics from Georgetown University, where her technical research included assessments of radiation detectors for the US Navy and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as the development of a lightweight radiation-detection robot. Rand has a BA in physics and classical history from Carleton College. On Twitter @LRand11

Jamie Withorne is a research assistant for the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, an affiliate of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. In this position, Withorne conducts extensive research on emerging functions and applications of new technologies and communicates her findings to policy-oriented audiences. She also analyzes data to better understand North Korean sanctions-evasion tactics and trends. Withorne is a contributing author for Inkstick Media, a publication dedicated to “de-jargoning” national security issues. Independently, Withorne has developed and manages learnwmd.com, a website dedicated to creating a learning commons for weapons-of-mass-destruction education. Withorne has previous experience at the US Department of State, the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, the American Enterprise Institute, and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. On Twitter @jamiewithorne

Eligibility Criteria

Applicants for the Accelerator Initiative meet the following requirements:

  • Identify as a woman working (or seeking work) in nuclear, international security, or technology policy, or a related field.
  • Are within the first seven years of a career in the relevant fields.
  • Hold at least a bachelor’s degree.

Participants are not required to attend every center event but are expected to attend as many as their schedules permit. Please check back in November for more information on eligibility and how to apply.

2019 Accelerators

Catch up with our 2019 cohort of Accelerators in this article, from the farewell edition of the center’s Courier magazine. Jen Spindel, Kathryn Dura, Grace Liu, Sylvia Mishra, and Chantell Murphy share details of their experience in the initiative, outline their research, and offer some advice to those setting out into the field. A full transcript of the interviews is also available.

read more about them

Questions?

Contact us for more information.