Distinguished lecture to feature former ambassador Laura S.H. Holgate

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering and the School of International Affairs will host Laura S.H. Holgate, retired ambassador and former special assistant to former U.S. President Barack Obama, and senior director on the National Security Council, for a distinguished lecture titled “Nuclear Security After the Summits” on Feb. 27.

The event will begin with a meet-and-greet session with refreshments at 3:30 p.m. in the E-Knowledge Commons. Holgate’s lecture will begin at 4 p.m. in the same venue.

Holgate's topic is of crucial importance, as the risk of international nuclear war appears to be rising and the potential for a terrorist nuclear attack remains a major global threat. The accumulation of large stockpiles of weapons-usable nuclear materials, and the associated imperative to prevent their theft or diversion for malicious uses, animated international dialogue before the first Nuclear Security Summit in 2010, and persists after the fourth and final Summit in 2016. The 2016 Summit set forth a vision for how to continue the Summits’ important work, which is yet to be fully realized.

Nuclear security demands some difficult and sometimes expensive choices from governments, but it also requires the participation of civil society and the nuclear energy industry, according to Holgate. While current understandings of nuclear security developed after the deployment of most existing nuclear power plants around the world, the development of a next generation of nuclear energy technologies offers an opportunity to incorporate nuclear security into the design of these new facilities that could significantly improve the future of nuclear security.

Holgate is currently a consultant to the Third Way’s project on advanced nuclear reactors and national security and to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. From 2016 to 2017, Holgate represented the United States at the International Atomic Energy Agency and U.N. offices in Vienna. In this role, she advanced U.S. priorities in nonproliferation, nuclear security, and verification of the Iran nuclear deal. From 2009 to 2016, Ambassador Holgate was the special assistant to the president and senior director on the National Security Council, where she coordinated the development of national policies and programs to thwart terrorist access to and use of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. She was the U.S. Sherpa to the Nuclear Security Summits and co-led the Global Health Security Agenda. Holgate held senior positions at the non-profit Nuclear Threat Initiative as well as the Departments of Energy and Defense, in which she designed and implemented innovative approaches to reducing the weapons of mass destruction threats posed by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Holgate holds degrees from Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Media Contacts: 

Erin Cassidy Hendrick

Communications Strategist, Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering

Last Updated February 22, 2018