Excelling at math and science

By Patti Koning

Photography By Randy Wong

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Recognition program for high school girls celebrates 25th year at Sandia/California

Celeste Rohlfing, chief operating officer at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), presented Sandia’s 25th annual Math and

Science Awards to 28 young women from San Francisco Bay Area high schools. Rohlfing, a chemist at Sandia for 11 years, was one of the founders of the awards.

“I am very proud of the hard work and academic accomplishments of this year’s winners,” said Marianne Walck, vice president of Sandia’s California site. “I hope this award and the connections made with Sandia mentors will inspire and encourage them throughout their professional journeys.”

MAKING AN IMPRESSION — Guest speaker Celeste Rohlfing, third from left, front row, is joined by the organizers, speakers, and mentors involved in this year’s Math and Science Awards ceremony recognizing young women from San Francisco Bay area high schools. Rohlfing, chief operating officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, worked at Sandia for more than a decade and was one of the founders of the award 25 years ago.
The Math and Science Awards program encourages high-achieving young women to continue studying STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects and creates mentoring opportunities with Sandia employees. Teachers from 15 northern California high schools in Livermore, Dublin, Pleasanton, Tracy, Lathrop, Manteca, and Oakland nominated students they deemed outstanding in math and science.

“Twenty-five years ago we realized that while young women were excelling in their high school math and science classes, we weren’t seeing them in similar numbers in senior positions in industry or academia. The Math and Science Awards was our way of helping to address that problem,” said Cathy Branda (8633), one of the awards organizers and manager of the Systems Biology group.

The winners were recognized with certificates from Sandia and State Assemblywoman Catharine Baker.

Open mind, innovation keys to future success

Honorees, families, and teachers mingled with Sandia researchers and learned about careers in math and science. Kicking off the ceremony, Rohlfing spoke about the history of the awards program and her career path, which also included serving as the assistant director for physical sciences at the White House Office of Science and Technology and deputy assistant director at the National Science Foundation.

“I gave the inaugural address at the first Math and Science Awards 25 years ago,” said Rohlfing. “I am overjoyed to see that these awards have not just endured but become bigger and better.”

Rachelle Hamblin (8633) shared her journey from Math and Science awardee to college intern to technologist in the Systems Biology group. She credited her exposure to the people and research at Sandia with inspiring her to pursue a dual medical degree and master’s degree in public health at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

She imparted some advice to the awardees for taking advantage of the exciting years to come.

“Keep an open mind, never take ‘no’ for an answer, be innovative” said Rachelle. “And network, network, network.”

Girls recognized for outstanding achivement in mathematics.

Outstanding Achievement in Mathematics

  • Alyse Coonce, Amador Valley High School
  • Ana Lapota, Coliseum College Prep Academy
  • Liubou Klindziuk, Dublin High School
  • Emily Allendorf, Granada High School
  • Rania Ibrahim, John C. Kimball High School
  • Ayzher Ocsona, Lathrop High School
  • Samantha Dukes, Livermore High School
  • Audrey Kurz, Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory
  • Jasmine Jaring Angeles, Merrill F. West High School
  • Dayanara Salinas, Millennium High School
  • Margaret Austin, Oakland Tech High School
  • Eunice Han, Skyline High School
  • Alexandra Uskov, Tracy High School

Girls recognized for outstanding achivement in science.

Outstanding Achievement in Science

  • Sandhya Kalavacherla, Amador Valley High School
  • Naomi Montenegro, Coliseum College Prep Academy
  • Navya Peddireddy, Dublin High School
  • Allison Kifer, Granada High School
  • Autumn Armstrong, John C. Kimball High School
  • Farhat Khairzadah, Lathrop High School
  • Raina Jiang, Livermore High School
  • Shannon Meyer, Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory
  • ordan Hensley, Manteca High School
  • Jennifer Lukban, Merrill F. West High School
  • Alexis Diaz, Millennium High School
  • Merissa Bridgeman, Oakland Tech High School
  • Miranda Becerra, Sierra High School
  • Tiffany Wong, Skyline High School
  • Erika Pulliam, Tracy High School