Sandia LabNews

‘I am a scientist through and through’

‘I am a scientist through and through’

By Iris Aboytes

The fall issue of Hispanic Engineer & Information Technology highlights Bernadette Hernandez-Sanchez (1815) as one of the Forty Under Forty rising stars in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM.

BERNADETTE HERNANDEZ-SANCHEZ, at home in her lab, is one of Hispanic Engineer and Information/Technology magazine’s “Forty Under Forty” rising stars. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

The publication is devoted to promoting engineering, information technology, science, and technology to Hispanic Americans.

Bernadette works on luminescent materials for radiation detectors along with biofouling- and corrosion-proof coatings for devices that harness the ocean’s kinetic and thermal energy. In the seven years Bernadette has been at Sandia, she has been published in 23 journals and has three patent applications.

Bernadette’s journey in becoming a scientist began at Sandia. As a high school intern, she worked under Timothy Boyle (1815).

“I just had fun,” says Bernadette. “I liked chemistry because you got to work with your hands. I liked mixing solutions, seeing colors change, and growing crystals.”

This experience fueled her desire to become a chemist. She attended New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology for her undergraduate degree and Colorado State University, where she earned her PhD in chemistry in 2004.

Bernadette’s love of the Labs and strong work ethic shaped her early career.

“From an early age my parents taught me about work ethics,” says Bernadette. “That was later reinforced by my mentors and teachers. I attribute my work ethic, along with my passion for working in the lab, as the catalyst for my success. The lab is where I still feel most comfortable  because I enjoy learning about how things work.”

Outside the lab, Bernadette’s love is educational outreach. She leads

Sandia’s MANOS ChemisTRY program, is an Explora Portal to the Public (PoP) scientist, and also mentors students (K–12 to graduate students) in her lab. As a postdoc, she helped design the CSI Dognapping Workshop, which she helps coordinate. The two-hour workshop, held at Sandia every year since 2006, introduces elementary school children to science, engineering, and nanotechnology.

“By engaging them as ‘junior scientists’ and guiding them to pore over evidence at various stations, students help solve the mystery of a missing dog,” says Bernadette.

Giving back to Sandia

She is dedicated to encouraging young scientists-in-training to follow their dreams and to giving back to Sandia through her outreach.

“I am grateful to Sandia and my scientific family in Center 1800 for supporting student programs,” says Bernadette. “They made my and other new staff members’ early research experiences memorable. It encouraged us to return to Sandia and begin our professional careers.

“I felt excited and honored to hear I was selected for my early career contributions to science. It made me reflect on my own personal struggles, my experimental triumphs and failures, and what I have learned through those processes. I know this sounds silly, but this reflection helped reinforce my self-perception of who I am. Yes, I am a scientist through and through and am living my dream! However, I am not done yet, and am on my way to new scientific adventures.” — Iris Aboytes

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