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Meet Sam Brinton, Biden’s newest DOE pick

Bruno Cooke February 11, 2022
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On 10 January 2022, activist and nuclear engineering graduate Sam Brinton accepted an offer to join the Department of Energy (DOE) in the Biden administration. What else do we know about Brinton?

Sam Brinton studied nuclear engineering at MIT

Brinton earned their bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering (with nuclear engineering as an option) from Kansas State University, graduating in 2011. 

Thence to MIT, where Brinton completed a dual master of science degree in nuclear engineering and technology and policy. They graduated in 2013. 

Since then, Brinton has worked a range of jobs. They spent a year as a clean energy fellow at Third Way, a Washington DC-based think-tank. For two years, they worked as a senior policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Centre, another DC-based research institute. 

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In 2017, Brinton founded Core Solutions Consulting but The Trevor Project – a non-profit organisation that aims to prevent suicide among LGBTQ+ youth – took precedent. They worked there for four years in total, from October 2017 to September 2021.

What is Sam Brinton’s current position in the Biden administration?

On 10 January, Sam Brinton announced on LinkedIn and Twitter they had accepted an offer to serve as deputy assistant secretary of spent fuel and waste disposition in the Office of Nuclear Energy – for the Department of Energy. Yes, that job title is a bit of a mouthful.

“In this role,” Brinton wrote, “I’ll be doing what I always dreamed of doing, leading the effort to solve the nation’s nuclear waste challenges.”

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Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for The Trevor Project

But Brinton’s activism has had as much to do with opposing conversion therapy as nuclear waste containment. Their husband apparently describes them as “a weird kind of Batman”.

“Because by day I work to save lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) youth from suicide, and by night I work to save the world from nuclear waste-related environmental disaster.”

“The challenge of coming out as LGBT,” Slice Of MIT quotes Brinton as saying, “sure gives you a lot of practice for coming out for nuclear energy.”

If it’s not already clear, Sam Brinton uses “they/them” pronouns. Watch the video below to learn more.

Brinton tweets frequently about nuclear waste issues around the world

In the past two days alone, Brinton has tweeted several times about: debates over storing radioactive waste in West Texas; an investigation of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan; an Alaskan nuclear initiative; and a joint Czech-Slovak radioactive waste management scheme.

Sam Brinton’s own bio recognises and celebrates the apparent bifurcation in their topics of interest.

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The bio states: “Sam is an ardent activist against the dangerous and discredited practices of conversion therapy.” But at the same time, they’re just as likely to be “walking the halls of Congress to help educate the Hill on the differences in advanced nuclear reactors”.

“You might not expect a nuclear engineering graduate from MIT to be strolling through the White House in stilettos, but that is part of the reason Sam does it.”

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.