The department has close links with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, also in California, which Teller played a key role in establishing in the early 1950s. The applied science department at Davis was created when Teller realized that Livermore scientists had no experience of translating basic research to practical applications.

Although Teller, who turned 91 in January, officially retired from the University of California and the Livermore laboratory in 1975, he still divides his time between the laboratory, where he is director emeritus, and Stanford University's Hoover Institution, where he is a senior research fellow.