Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

  www.llnl.gov
  www.llnl.gov

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Reviews

Updated December 16, 2014
Updated December 16, 2014
174 Reviews
3.7
174 Reviews
Rating Trends

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Bill Goldstein
24 Ratings

Review Highlights

Pros
  • The Lab also encourages work/life balance far more than almost any other comparable job (in 28 reviews)

  • There are a lot of smart people working there - lots of higher degrees (masters & Ph (in 15 reviews)


Cons
  • Beware: you will drown in red tape which comes first over science (in 13 reviews)

  • Slow to change because of older employee base but they are changing (in 5 reviews)

More Highlights

27 Employee Reviews Back to all reviews

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  1.  

    Great place to build a career

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    I came hare first as a student, then I was a postdoc for a year, and I've been research staff at LLNL for 4 years now.

    The thing I love most about working here is the people. I work with incredibly smart, motivated people on a daily basis, both in my field (computer science) and out (physicists, chemists, and other scientists). I get to work on some of the largest supercomputers in the world, and I get to have an impact on the design of parallel applications that run on thousands or millions of processors at once. There just aren't that many places you can do that, and there are fewer where the experts in the field are right around the corner.

    The problems LLNL tackles are not only interesting, they're important to national security, which makes them more fulfilling in a lot of ways. Saving the world from asteroid attacks? People here are working on that. Exploring new states of matter and new ways to build predictive simulations for it? That too. Working in High Performance Computing will expose you to new fields and directions you just don't get out of a typical CS degree, and you'll gain valuable experience by working on projects like these. If you're not as interested in mission-driven science, LLNL supports lots of basic science research, too.

    If you are planning to build a career here, you should know that LLNL is a great place for entrepreneurial scientists. If you are interested in building something, and if you have the drive and motivation to stick with it, you can come here, start your own project, and build a team to pursue your vision. As an example: many labs do not allow postdocs to apply for their own funding, but at LLNL it is encouraged. Postdocs can apply for internal Lab-Directed Research and Development funding (LDRD), and once you're staff, you can pursue a number of external competitive proposal calls from the DOE Office of Science. There are also opportunities to get long-term programmatic funding for your project, if it turns out to be successful.

    Cons

    It can be difficult to figure out exactly how the lab works. If you're the type of person who comes in, talks to people, and asks a lot of questions, you'll quickly learn by word of mouth. As far as documentation for new employees, or a road map for your career, well, the lab's not so good at that. It's up to you -- the lab rewards initiative, but if you don't have a lot of it, you may quickly find yourself lost. The lab is working on this with efforts like a recent "Lab 101" course for early career employees. They take you through the funding landscape and the national priorities that drive the lab.

    Everyone at LLNL is busy, and hiring is slow. It's often hard to staff a new project if you get it funded, but the lab is working hard to change this, with more pipeline hires and fewer administrative hurdles to jump through.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    The "Lab 101" course should be mandatory material for new staff and postdocs. Hiring should be accelerated to staff new projects and to reduce the often slow spin-up time. New employees should be made aware of all the opportunities in front of them -- I think a lot of people come to LLNL and miss out.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  2. 5 people found this helpful  

    I really enjoy working at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories; the work is exciting and rewarding - I look forward to solving the new challenges I am sure to be faced with everyday.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Project Engineer in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Project Engineer in Livermore, CA

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (more than 10 years)

    Pros

    One of the great things about working here is getting to work on new science and technology. There is amazing diversity in the work that is conducted at the lab, which gives employees plenty of opportunity to try something or learn something new... All the while working with some of the smartest people you will ever meet. The atmosphere is more collaborative than competitive in most areas of the lab, which is essential to making some of the great things we do everyday possible. The culture at the lab is also very supportive of work life balance, which is important to myself and my family.

    Cons

    The lab has been around for a long time and there is a lot of tribal knowledge that can be hard to understand at first. We are also required to comply with many different mandates from many different organizations, which can fell like a lot of red tape at times (but a good understanding of the system and how it works can make this manageable).

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Walk the floors (on a regular basis) and talk to the individuals working there (some managers do this better than others)... You will learn a lot about employees moral, you will begin to understand their concerns, their questions, and what motivates them.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Response

    Dec 3, 2014

    Great summary of the pros and cons of working here. It’s fantastic to hear that you value the diversity of work here and our culture of supporting work-life balance. Thank you for sharing with ... More

  3. 2 people found this helpful  

    Fantastic Internship Experience

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Computation in Livermore, CA
    Former Employee - Computation in Livermore, CA

    I worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    Work:
    Very interesting and meaningful work
    Mentors are very helpful, intelligent, and invested in you as an intern
    Relaxed dress code
    Your abilities are taken seriously - no "underemployment" feeling
    Great poster symposium

    Area:
    Beautiful weather
    Within an hour of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose
    Newly renovated downtown

    Cons

    Pay isn't that great compared to similar work - then again, it is government and not private industry
    No help with housing

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
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  5. 9 people found this helpful  

    Five years in, still my dream job

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    I'm coming up on the second year after finishing my postdoc. My title is nothing fancier than "Computer Scientist". I have no stock options, no one drops by to give me an in-chair massage, and I have to pay for my own snacks.

    However, when I was talking to my director about how I'd be evaluated going forward, she had a simple answer: what was the impact I had, both on the wider field of computer science and the lab's mission.

    Within that remit, I've been given as much freedom as I can handle and significant, ongoing support in competing for resources. When I'm able to acquire resources (and that's not been a problem so far), I'm able to hire brilliant student interns and postdocs, buy equipment, and get significant time on some of the largest supercomputers in the world. I have access to research staff at Intel, AMD, IBM and Cray, as well as to the physicists who are trying to squeeze as much performance as they can out of our systems. I can attend the conferences I need to, whether foreign or domestic. And best of all, I can see the results of my research percolating back out into the community.

    If I were at a largish company in Silicon Valley, I expect my research would be far more practical (and much more aligned with corporate goals). If I was in academia, my work would necessarily be far more theoretical, as I wouldn't have ready access to the big machines. At the lab, I have the best of both worlds.

    On a more personal note: the people I work with are generally world-class researches in their area, and really nice. While there's the usual stress of competing for funding, we don't tend to compete against each other, so there's far more camaraderie than most academic departments. I'm finding out that the phrase "no one has tried that before" tends to follow me around, but I've never had a good idea dismissed out of hand.

    In short, I bump up against my own limitations much more than limitations imposed by the lab. As a scientist, I'm not sure I could ask for a better employer.

    Cons

    "Nimble" is not a word I would use to describe the lab. There is quite a bit of process in place, and trying novel approaches tends to run headlong into that process. I'm learning, though, that being persistent, friendly, persistent, responsive and persistent does eventually allow new science to be done, and subsequent ideas do tend to get implemented faster.

    The support staff we have tends to get cut first during downturns, as it's difficult to quantify how much time the scientific staff lose in dealing with budgets, travel, etc. That said, when I've asked for help, I've gotten it.

    I'm mostly supported by "soft money" and that's not going to change anytime soon. This does constrain how far out I can plan things like hiring, and it does focus my efforts more on winning the next grant rather than making software people will actually use.

    At a higher level, the Department of Energy is currently favoring fewer, larger projects over many smaller ones, which makes it difficult for younger scientists to get the experience they need to eventually run large projects.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Increasing the administrative staff would be a huge help.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Response

    Sep 15, 2014

    Thank you for offering up such a thoughtful review. It’s great to hear that you’re expected to make an impact, and given the freedom and support to make it happen. We will share your advice with ... More

  6. 4 people found this helpful  

    No better place to do high performance scientific computing in the world.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Livermore, CA

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (more than 10 years)

    Pros

    For a scientist who wants to do research involving parallel simulation, the Lab is an amazing place to be. Some of the best computer scientists in the world work in Livermore Computing, and will help you write or optimize your codes to run efficiently on the biggest supercomputers using the latest technology. Very strong scientific culture, with frequent seminars from both local researchers and invited guests. The salaries are quite good, with much better job security than you'll find in industry. (Not absolute, but far less uncertainty.)

    The Lab also encourages work/life balance far more than almost any other comparable job. People exercise, leave at a reasonable hour to spend time with their families and have generous vacation and sick leave (including family sick leave) benefits.

    Cons

    The bureaucracy can be annoying at times, particularly surrounding travel. There's less academic freedom than at a university, as most research has to tie in to the Lab's mission in some way.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    The funding structure and high overhead rates impose what I view as unnecessary limitations on collaboration and innovation. If I discover that someone in another organization has expertise that can significantly contribute to my project, getting a significant fraction of their time to work with me can be difficult or impossible, due to the high effort cost and long time frame of most funding opportunities. It would be great if we had some freedom to pursue useful and interesting research across the Lab with 10-20% of our time.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  7. 1 person found this helpful  

    Mechanical Engineer

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Mechanical Engineer in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Mechanical Engineer in Livermore, CA

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (more than 8 years)

    Pros

    Work-life balance is very good, there are a lot of opportunities fro personal growth, Livermore is a great place to live!

    Cons

    Inconsistent work schedules across departments.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    I would like to stress to management that the one lab approach would be better than the current way of doing business. Right now there is not a consistent work schedule, i.e. some departments are on a 9/80 work schedules and some are not.

    Recommends
  8. 1 person found this helpful  

    LLNL is a place where you can chart your own career course.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (more than 10 years)

    Pros

    There are few arbitrary limitations on what you can do with your career. You don't have to have a PhD to achieve leadership roles or to seek independent project funding. It is possible to make major changes in your career, switching application domains or scientific disciplines. You are judged on the quality and timeliness of what you deliver, not where you went to school. There is a lot of flexibility in working hours and it is possible to achieve a wide range of work/life balance.

    Cons

    Funding is very dependent upon government agencies (DOE, DoD, DHS, etc.) that have had major internal turmoil lately. That, coupled with general federal government dysfunction in recent years, can lead to stressful funding fluctuations. LLNL is still trying to determine what its role should be in the 21st century as the emphasis on nuclear weapons continues to wane. This year the first ever non-nukie director was forced out because he didn't kowtow sufficiently to the weapons and lasers crowd that calls the shots here.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Reduce the paperwork and red tape to get anything accomplished. There are too many people on overhead in aspects of "program development" that accomplish little, while lower-level management builds the trust relationships that really bring in the business.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  9.  

    lllnl

    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    Pros

    great place to work so far. Very free to do what you like once you get past the training

    Cons

    lots of training for safety and security

  10. 1 person found this helpful  

    Great place to work

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Engineer in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Engineer in Livermore, CA

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a contractor (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    Good respectful working environment. Grea for R&D work. Perfect for engineers and scientists.

    Cons

    Somewhat inflexible sometimes: Too much red tape.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Seek and consider new ideas.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  11. 1 person found this helpful  

    Great Place!

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time

    Pros

    The people, management and opportunities

    Cons

    Compensation, culture, flexibility, work-life balance, Education opportunities

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook

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