Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

July 2018 - July 2019

The Stanton Nuclear Security Fellows program allows young scholars to pursue policy relevant research for twelve months in the CEIP Nuclear Policy Program. While in residencefull-time at CEIP, selected fellows will be expected to lead a project of their own design,conduct original research, and write at least one policy relevant document. 

Dr. Robinson Snowden's research interests focus on nuclear arms control verification,nonproliferation, and modernization.


Graduate Fellow, Defense Programs, National Nuclear Security Administration

June 2017 - June 2018

Currently Dr. Robinson Snowden serves at the intersection of science, policy and politics as an NNSA Graduate Fellow in the Office of Major Modernization Programs (NA-19).  In this role, she provides programmatic support to both the NA-19 Front Office and the Uranium Program. As a fellow, she is able to gain a deeper understanding of how the nuclear enterprise functions as well as understand the perspectives of government decision makers tasked with overseeing our arsenal.



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PhD Candidate, MIT Laboratory of Nuclear Security and Policy

September 2011 - May 2017

Problem Statement of Research: 

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty requires weapon-state signatories to pursue disarmament agreements. Future treaties that seek to limit warhead numbers, or eliminate them outright, will likely require further development of verification technologies beyond those currently used in bilateral disarmament agreements. This verification goal is complicated by the competing missions of providing high confidence in compliance while limiting access to national secrets. 

My research investigates the potential for using secondary gamma rays generated naturally in high explosive exposed to a radiation source as a signature of the presence of a warhead-like object. This investigation defines a ‘warhead-like’ object as containing materials consistent with a warhead, specifically a neutron source and high explosives. Combining mock-up laboratory measurements with radiation transport simulations, this research seeks to determine the passive detectability of a warhead-like object using this secondary gamma signature.

Nuclear Science and Engineering Communication Coach, MIT

Sept 2014 - Dec 2015

The mission of the NSE Communication Lab is to empower students to become confident and effective communicators. By offering content-specific support in written, oral, and visual communication, we help NSE students build the skills necessary to help spread knowledge in research, advocate for innovative endeavors, and educate the public in areas of nuclear science and technology.

The NSE Communication Lab offers writing and speaking support for scientists, by scientists. It relies on a peer-coaching model, in which specially selected NSE graduate students are trained to become exceptional communication coaches. They work one-on-one with NSE clients, providing guidance and assistance for all NSE Department members in the effective creation of any and all forms of written and oral communication used by modern scientists. These include, but are not limited to, scientific journal articles, conference presentations, course materials, lab reports, research posters, and theses.

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PLS Physics Division Research Intern - Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory - Summer 2014

Investigated the feasibility of using the detection of neutrons and gammas generated within a warhead as a signature of its presence.

PLS Physics Division Research Intern - Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory - Summer 2013

Studied the pulse shape discrimination properties of different organic scintillators: Stilbene, Boron-loaded plastic and liquid based scintillators with Dr. Natalia Zaitseva. 

National and Homeland Security Directorate Research Intern - Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls, ID - Summer 2012

Determined efficiency of CVD diamond neutron detectors for neutron energies from thermal to 14.1-MeV

Best Poster Winner in INL Summer Poster Session 2012


Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

PhD Candidate, Nuclear Science and Engineering Department        

Thesis Advisors: Dr. Richard Lanza (MIT), Dr. Adam Bernstein (LLNL)

GPA: 4.7/5.0   Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2017


Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, FL

B.S. Physics Department                            

Research Advisor: Dr. Joseph Johnson III

Summa Cum Laude, Cumulative GPA: 3.8/4.00 Major GPA: 3.714/4.00

Relevant Courses

  • Introduction to Nuclear Physics (22.101 - MIT 2011)

  • Nuclear Nonproliferation (22.814 - MIT 2011)

  • Electromagnetic Interactions (22.105 - MIT 2011)

  • Neutron Interactions and Application (22.106 - MIT 2012)

  • NSE Laboratory Radiation Detection and Measurement (22.90 - MIT 2012)

  • Nuclear Power Plant Dynamics and Controls (22.921 - MIT 2012)

  • Quantum Theory of Radiation Interactions (22.51 - MIT 2012)

  • Thinking Outside of the Black Box: New Insights into North Korea (IGA.681 - HKS 2013)


 C++    |    MCNP    |    Mathematica    |    MatLab    |    Linux   |   Visual & Oral Communication   

Honors & Awards

  • MIT Graduate Woman of Excellence (2015)

  • NNSA Stockpile Stewardship Graduate Fellowship (2012)

  • Ford Fellowship Honorable Mention (2012)

  • MIT Office of the Dean of Graduate Education Diversity Fellow (2011)

  • Alpha Nu Sigma Honors Society, MIT Chapter of American Nuclear Society (2014)

  • Sigma Pi Sigma Physics Honors Society, FAMU (2011)

Writing Sample

The Iran nuclear deadline


Written by Mareena Robinson Snowden

On November 19, 2014, the MIT chapter of Global Zero and Radius hosted a roundtable discussion on the status of negotiations between Iran and the E3+3 (The United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France, and Germany) about Iran’s nuclear program. The discussion covered the history of the diplomatic process, the forces influencing current negotiations, and likelihood and implications of a successful agreement.

Dr. R. Scott Kemp, an assistant professor in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE) at MIT, led the discussion. Before joining the faculty, Kemp served as Science Advisor in the State Department’s Office of the Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control, where Iran was his primary responsibility. He has continued to participate in the track-II talks since leaving government service.

Prof. Kemp brought a mix of technical and political insights to the discussion, covering many intricacies of the diplomatic constraints. The event opened with Kemp setting the stage for the current negotiations, beginning with the inauguration of President Hassan Rouhani and the appointment of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as Iran’s chief negotiator. Kemp asserted that this change in leadership marked a political shift that opened up the possibility of engagement that was not possible with the previous Iranian administration. On November 24, 2013, the new leadership agreed to a Joint Plan of Action that froze escalatory actions on both sides. After an extension in July, the 1-year anniversary and putative deadline for an agreement is now just days away.

Kemp said it was very unlikely that a final agreement would be reached by the November 24 deadline. “I’m sorry to say, but there is virtually no chance that a final deal will happen by Monday”, Kemp said, “but that’s not as bad as it sounds.” It is still possible, he added, that negotiators might achieve agreement on a framework for the broad outlines of a deal. Kemp said the element of brinkmanship pushes important decisions to the deadline. He reported that the November 9–10 meeting between Foreign Minister Zarif, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and EU envoy Catherine Aston was unproductive beyond reaffirming that all sides continue to believe that a deal is in the best interest of all parties and that an extension of some sort seemed likely.

Kemp identified three primary issues that remain unresolved: the size of Iranian stockpiles of enriched uranium, the duration of the period for which Iran would accept restraints and special inspection provisions, and the number of centrifuges Iran would operate during that period. Based on his expertise in enrichment technology, Kemp explained the tradeoffs between these parameters. The mission of the E3+3 negotiators is to lengthen Iran’s nuclear ‘breakout’ time to something like 12 months by reducing the number of centrifuges in operation and the stockpile of enriched uranium in Iran’s possession. Iran, by contrast, argues that it needs to retain a significant capability because of their future civil energy plans and face-saving considerations. Based on personal conversations with Foreign Minister Zarif, however, Kemp articulated reasons why he does not believe these claims. Instead, he believes Iran views its nuclear program as having strategic value, and would simply like to retain as much of that strategic capability as possible.

Aron Bernstein, a professor in the MIT Physics Department and faculty advisor for MIT’s Global Zero, echoed Kemp’s view, arguing that Iran’s enrichment capabilities serve as a “virtual nuclear weapon”, giving the Iranian leadership the option to arm themselves in the future. In addition to this, Kemp explained that nuclear capabilities, whether for civilian or military purposes, are an intense source of pride for the Iranian public, making it difficult for the leadership to relinquish these capabilities while preserving their dignity.

Many other issues were discussed during the 90-minute roundtable, including the response of Saudi Arabia to a successful deal between Iran and the West, and how a final agreement would impact the strategic calculus for Israel. While nobody in the room was confident in predictions about the future, participants did agree that a successful deal would be a productive step towards lowering the tension between Tehran and the West. Kemp articulated a large agenda of foreign-policy items for which a warming of relations with Iran would be useful, including the problems of ISIS and Middle East stability.

Mareena Robinson-Snowden, the president of the MIT chapter of Global Zero and a fourth year doctoral candidate in the NSE department, described the event as “an opportunity to explore the various issues influencing the success of this deal, and provide people with a forum to discuss the meaning and impact of this event at the ground level.The entire world is awaiting the outcome of these negotiations, and will be actively listening to the decisions announced on the morning of November 25th.”