News

Overachievers under Forty

By Stephanie Holinka

Photography By Randy Montoya

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sandians Katie Esquibel, Kenny Armijo, and Rafael Gonzalez were recipients of the Albuquerque Business First‘s 40 under Forty award, which honors the state’s top young professionals each year. They were selected from more than 350 nominees from all over the state.

Katie Esquibel . . .

. . . is a project controller supporting the RF & Electronics Systems Center. Previously she worked as a technical business development specialist in the same group.

Katie earned a bachelor’s in elementary education and special education, with a minor in history, from the University of New Mexico (UNM).

After completing her student teaching work in a kindergarten inclusion class, she decided to get involved in more policy work, and went on to get her MBA at UNM with a concentration in policy and planning with an emphasis in nonprofit management. She worked in the nonprofit sector before coming to Sandia.

She also was a ballet dancer for more than 20 years, and continues to stay involved in the arts through board work with dance organizations. Katie says the discipline and practice of dance helped her develop her leadership abilities.

Above all, she strives to make New Mexico a good place for her and for her family.

“I am a new mom so I want to ensure that Albuquerque is a better place for my daughter to grow up in. My husband and I both were born and raised in Albuquerque and one of our shared passions is education,” says Katie.

Kenneth Armijo . . .

. . . is a senior member of the technical staff who previously worked at Sandia as a postdoc, an intern, and as a participant in the Sandia Summer Institute at Sandia/California. He’s been at the Labs for four years.

The selection committee chose Kenneth for this honor, not only on his background, which includes patents, high-impact publications, three startup companies, and research that has been featured on CNN, Discovery magazine, and PBS, but for his significant impacts across New Mexico and the local community with contributions through education, professional development, and economic outreach.

His work at Sandia has spanned several areas of research within the Solar Photovoltaics, MEMS, and Concentrating Solar Thermal Energy Technologies departments, as well as with several New Mexico Small Business Assistance, DOE Small Business Vouchers, and Laboratory Directed Research and Development projects.

The outreach programs he has helped to start have impacted children and parents in low-income areas, where he and his colleagues have pushed to not only educate students about the importance of STEM education careers, but also to educate the parents to encourage their kids to do so and perhaps also go back and finish their education.

His work with local New Mexico-based companies in Sandia’s NMSBA program, which has previously benefitted his family’s chile farm, has enabled many companies to innovate technically and business-wise so they can enter new markets with new products, says Kenneth.

Kenneth holds a PhD in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, with minors in energy and resources, and business credentials in Management of Technology from Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Kenneth also received a master’s degree in science in mechanical engineering from Berkeley.

Rafael Antonio Gonzalez . . .

. . . has been at Sandia for just eight months as a MESA Fab operations manager but he brings a breadth of industry experience and a unique perspective from his previous career at Intel Corp.

He is already widely recognized by his peers as an outstanding engineer and leader in the semiconductor industry in the country and the world, as well as a subject matter expert in lithography, metrology, and semiconductor fabrication. He was nominated by his peers to serve as the 2016 president-elect for the New Mexico Society of Professional Engineers.

Rafael volunteers for many STEM initiatives across the state such as Noche de Ciencias. He also volunteers in other Sandia-supported STEM activities such as the Dream Builders program, RoboRAVE, and he recently gave a MESA Fab tour for the White House initiative My Brother Keepers. He was selected to join the Hispanic Philanthropic Society council through United Way, which places him among the most influential Hispanic leaders in the state.

Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters, traveling, learning about ancient civilizations, and investing. Rafael also enjoys spending time to improve his community, especially in areas related to STEM education and economic development.

“My passion is empowering the Hispanic community to realize its fullest potential and to impact the world through STEM awareness, access, support, and development where Hispanics are highly valued and influential as leading innovators, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs,” Rafael says.

The honorees will celebrate at the Albuquerque Business First black and white-themed awards event June 16 at Sandia Resort & Casino.