Nerses "Krik" Krikorian was a chemist at Los Alamos during the later years of Manhattan Project.
After World War II, Krikorian was approached to join the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. On August 19, 1946, he arrived at 109 East Palace in Santa Fe. Krikorian told the Los Alamos Monitor, 'I went from working with kilograms of uranium at Union Carbide to micrograms of highly radioactive polonium. I went from the sublime to the ridiculous.' The polonium was for the construction of polonium-beryllium initiators.
He met his future wife, Katherine "Pat" Patterson, at Los Alamos. In 1943, she arrived at Los Alamos as a member of the Women's Army Corps (WACs), and worked as a secretary during the Manhattan Project.
Nerses "Krik" Krikorian was born on a Turkish roadside in 1921. At the time, his parents were fleeing the Armenian genocide. His family moved from country to country for the next four years with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Eventually, his family found refuge in Canada. At the age of four, Krikorian moved with his family to the Niagara Falls area in the United States.
In 1943, Krikorian graduated with honors and a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Niagra University. After graduation, he began working at Union Carbide in a laboratory that produced highly enriched uranium.
In the mid-1950s, Krikorian began to work on Project Rover, a joint project between the Atomic Energy Commission and NASA to build a thermal nuclear rocket for space applications. According to the Los Alamos Monitor, Krikorian was responsible for ensuring "that the materials would support the rigorous demands of nuclear propulsion at high temperatures." The work was especially challenging because little research had been done in the field at the time.
Throughout his career, Krikorian amassed six patents and published numerous technical assessments and analysis. The topics ranged from laser isotope separation and high-temperature reactor materials to directed-energy nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons.
Around the same time Project Rover was canceled in 1972, Krikorian was approached by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Director Harold Agnew to join a new intelligence unit. He became one of the six staff members originally assigned to the intelligence unit. Krikorian became the group's security officer. While working with the unit, he met with representatives of the Soviet Union's nuclear research program.
In 1991, Krikorian retired from LANL. His career was full of accolades including LANL Fellow, recipient of the Los Alamos Medal (top LANL award), the CIA's Intelligence Community Medallion, and two honorary doctorates. In 2006, Krikorian (far-right in photo) attended the Atomic Heritage Foundation's Legacy of the Manhattan Project: Creativity in Science and the Arts event in Los Alamos, NM.
At the age of ninety-six, Krikorian currently lives in Los Alamos, NM. He spoke graciously when he reflected on his life and career with the Los Alamos Monitor. “Things have worked out far beyond what I ever imagined. I think of my parents and wonder, ‘How did they ever do it?’ To be born on a roadside in Turkey to this,” he said, gesturing to his home. “My parents instilled in me the importance of doing the right thing and giving back to your fellow man. I hope I’ve done that.'
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