Sandia LabNews

Sandia honors young women for outstanding achievement in math and science


MARGARET QUINN (8522) speaks with one of the recipientsof the award for Outstanding Achievement in Math. (Photo by Randy Wong)

On May 19, Sandia’s Women’s Connection (SWC) honored 20 young women from high schools in the Livermore area for their achievements in math and science. Now in its 19th year, the Math & Science Awards event is intended to both encourage the recipients to continue studying math and science and to create mentoring opportunities.

Pat Smith (8500), director of Site Operations and director champion of the SWC, gave the welcome address.

MARGARET QUINN (8522) speaks with one of the recipientsof the award for Outstanding Achievement in Math. (Photo by Randy Wong).

“The women and men of Sandia believe strongly that you, this year’s awardees, are our future,” she said. “We congratulate you on your achievements and hope you will continue to pursue your interests in math and science through college and beyond. I also hope your interactions with the Sandians here tonight will give you a glimpse of some exciting career paths.”

Brooke Harmon (8621), a virologist, spoke about being the first person in her family to attend college. Valerie Peters (8621), who specializes in systems analysis for homeland security and energy systems, shared her experience struggling with, but eventually excelling in, a difficult math course as an undergraduate at University of California, Berkeley.

Each spring, the SWC sends out nomination forms to 10 area high schools. Math and science teachers, as well as principals and counselors from each school, nominate two young women who have done exemplary work in the areas of math and science. The award is given to high school juniors so they can list it on college and scholarship applications.

Cathy Branda (8621), chair of the Math & Science Awards, shared some of what was written in the nominating statements from the schools. “It is clear that you all are extremely bright, motivated, hardworking, and high-achieving students, most if not all in the top 5 percent of your class,” she said. “But there was another very common theme in this year’s nominating statements that I want to mention — you are leaders in your class who reach out to support your peers.”

Each awardee was paired with a Sandia host working in the field of math or science, with the hope that the Sandia women can mentor the high school students as they continue in their academic and professional careers. This year’s hosts were Donna Djordjevich (8116), Julie Fruetel (8125), Patricia Gharagozloo (8365), Brooke Harmon, Linda Houston (8530), Tammy Kolda (8966), Paula Krauter (6375), Jane Ann Lamph (8243), Valerie Peters (8114), and Jeanne Stachowiak (8125).

In the last two years, the event has also focused on internship opportunities at Sandia. Last summer, Prihatha Narasimmaraj (Foothill High) and Mary Shi (Tracy High), both recipients of the 2009 Outstanding Achievement in Science award, interned at Sandia with Darryl Sasaki (8621) and Cathy, respectively, and are returning this year. Chelsea Finn of Amador High School, recipient of the 2009 Outstanding Achievement in Math award, will also be at Sandia this summer, interning with Diana Roe (8621).

Mary is again interning with Cathy and the two are already developing a mentor/ mentee relationship. Cathy wrote one of Mary’s recommendations to Yale, her alma mater.

“For me, having mentors was key,” says Cathy. In college she didn’t really know what she wanted to do until one of her professors suggested she apply for a Pew Fellowship for intercollegiate summer research.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could be a scientist, I simply hadn’t thought of myself in that way before. It really planted the seed in my mind about what I could become and reach for,” she says. Kathleen Siwicki, the Swarthmore professor she worked with as a Pew fellow, encouraged her to attend graduate school. Cathy earned her PhD in genetics from the Yale University School of Medicine and is now researching detection methodologies relevant to biodefense.

“Mentors showed me the path that led me here,” she says. “I want to make sure others have that opportunity too.”

The SWC’s Math & Science Awards program is organized by the Math & Science Awards Committee, composed of Donna Blevins (8953), Marilyn Hawley (8116), Seanna Crouch (8942), Deneille Wiese-Smith (8129), as well as Cathy and Pat.

The recipients of the 19th annual Math & Science Awards are:

Amador High School, Pleasanton Elizabeth Fromson – math Omsri Bharat – science

Dublin High School, Dublin Tess Schoenthal – math Michelle Lee – science

East Union High School, Manteca Hermila Mendoza – math Kayla Tirnetta – science

Foothill High School, Pleasanton Annie Wei – math Jessica Xu – science

Granada High School, Livermore Amanda McNary – math Erika Carlson – science Livermore High School, Livermore Cynthia Jing – math Rachelle Hamblin – science

Manteca High School, Manteca Michelle Sinclair – math Dallas Mould – science

Merrill F. West High School, Tracy Gabriella Herrera – math Ashley Vergel de Dios – science

Sierra High School, Tracy Lisa Thomas – math Jasmine Currimao – science

Tracy High School, Tracy Qiran Xie – math Effie Zhou – science