What is your area of expertise?
Are you interested in mentoring high school or college students, or both?
How did you become interested in this area?
My interest in nuclear weapons grew out of undergraduate and graduate level classes on theories of international relations and nuclear deterrence. As I kept digging into historical and theoretical writing about nuclear deterrence I wanted to learn more and more, so there was a kind of snowball effect. North Korea's missile and nuclear testing in 2016-2017 piqued my interest in the more technical aspects of deterrence including missile and missile defense capabilities, counterforce theories, and inadvertent escalation pathways in conventional conflict.
What was your career path to get here?
My career path is not that typical for people in my generation that work at think tanks. I applied to the Cato Institute after finishing my Master's degree at Texas A&M University. The position at Cato I applied for was intended for someone with several years more experience than I had. Three professors who were familiar with Cato's work and knew I would be a good fit there vouched for my abilities. After working as a Research Associate for one year, I was promoted to Policy Analyst in August 2016, shortly after I turned 25 years old. At the time I think I was the youngest Policy Analyst at Cato, which gave me privileges to solo author op-eds and appear in media. I've been with Cato ever since.
Why should the public care?
The United States is committed to a new period of great power competition with China and Russia, and nuclear weapons will likely play a major role in these competitions, even if their role is less than what it was in the Cold War. This return of great power politics also coincides with new declassified information about the end of the Cold War that casts doubt on some of the foundational assumptions and ideas in nuclear deterrence theory. The increasing doubt about lessons of the past coupled with the emergence of new technology and a changing distribution of power makes for an exciting and important time to study nuclear deterrence.
What is a current issue or trend that concerns you?
Inadvertent escalation pathways in conventional conflict between great powers. Advances in technology have blurred previously-clear dividing lines between conventional and nuclear capabilities. Long range precision strike weapons can hold nuclear targets at risk without resorting to nuclear attack, emerging technologies are not well-understood, and the increasing complexity of new warfighting domains like outer space all pose very difficult challenges for fighting conventional wars that stay conventional. America's preferred approach to armed conflict with other great powers may carry significant escalation risks that are underappreciated by US policymakers. Trying to identify and explain these inadvertent escalation pathways is a big part of my research.