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Dr. Robert C. O'Brien is the Director of the Center for Space Nuclear Research (CSNR).  Dr. O'Brien returned to the CSNR following several years leading special reactor concept projects, advanced nuclear instrumentation, nuclear fuels, national and international programs, and initiatives at Idaho National Laboratory for NASA, the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense. Dr. O'Brien led the development of Advanced Manufacturing capabilities for Idaho National Laboratory including world-class,  first-of-a-kind capabilities to utilize electric Field Assisted Sintering Techniques (eFAST) or Spark Plasma Sintering (SPS). Dr. O'Brien was responsible for the development of nuclear fuel fabrication capabilities via eFAST/ SPS, supporting glovebox facilities and was principal investigator and architect of capabilities at INL's Materials and Fuels Complex for the first experiments and production of Nuclear reactor fuels using 3D Printing techniques, as well as leading the advanced Fuels Fabrication group and their build-out of the INL's Advanced Fuels Facility. As Principal Investigator for the DOE Transient Testing program, Dr. O'Brien served as part of the TREAT Reactor Restart project (2012-2018) and led some of the first experiments in TREAT following its restart as proposer and Principal Investigator of the NASA SIRIUS Testing campaign (testing space nuclear propulsion fuels under hydrogen at temperatures up to 3000 K). Prior to his work at Idaho National Laboratory, Dr. O'Brien served as a Senior Scientist at CSNR leading nuclear fuel and radioisotope technology development, and as a researcher at the University of Leicester Space Research Center where he initiated assessments for a UK - European Space Agency solution for radioisotope power and the use of 241-Am as a heat source fuel with Prof. Richard Ambrosi (Executive Director, Space Park Leicester and member of USRA Board of Trustees), performing early americium oxide-cermet encapsulation experiments at Idaho National Laboratory as a visiting researcher. Dr. O'Brien serves as the NASA Space Nuclear Propulsion Nuclear Testing lead and consultant for advanced manufacturing and advanced nuclear material processing and purification.
Dr. O'Brien holds a Masters of Physics with Space Science & Technology from the University of Leicester (2006), and a PhD in Physics/Engineering Research "Radioisotope & Nuclear Technologies for Space Exploration" from the University of Leicester (2010).  He was nominated Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society 2008. Dr. O'Brien holds multiple patents and patents pending in advanced nuclear fuel, ceramic processing, ballistic materials, nuclear and non-nuclear feedstock processing, directed energy, and nuclear pumped laser technologies.
CSNR Director
Dr. Robert C. O'Brien
[email protected]

As the Center for Space Nuclear Research Deputy Director, Elizabeth Barker brings space mission and programmatic experience together to advance the mission of the Center.  Elizabeth served as the Associate Director of NASA's Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Science Mission Operations during the mission's operational and closeout years.  She has also provided engineering leadership in NASA's Artemis Gateway Power and Propulsion Element development and NASA's JWST development.  Her operations experience includes infrared science calibration on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the DoD Midcourse Space eXperiment satellite.  Elizabeth holds a Masters of Physics from the University of California Santa Cruz and a current PMP certification.

CSNR Deputy Director
Elizabeth Barker
[email protected]
Human Resources
Cheryl Jensen
[email protected]

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