Sandia LabNews

Inspirational women

Sandia workers celebrate women who have influenced their lives

Throughout history, women have played a vital role in shaping society and culture, from advancing science and technology to making notable contributions in medicine, art and education. Some have left their mark on the world in a big way by breaking barriers and inspiring those who live in the wake of their legacies. Others, although less well-known, have touched the lives of their students, colleagues, family and neighbors through their daily interactions.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, members of Sandia’s workforce honor a few of the women who have helped shape their own lives and careers.

A sister’s shining legacy

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FLOATING FAMILY — Jon Salton, right, and his sister, Laurel Salton-Clark, float during a zero-G pass aboard the NASA KC-135 zero-G training aircraft. Jon was working on an engineering test and Laurel was flying that day as a test subject. (Photo courtesy of NASA)

“I am the youngest of four siblings and my sister, Laurel Salton-Clark, was the oldest. All my siblings and step-siblings have been influential in my life, but as we entered adulthood, Laurel’s path and my own connected not just personally, but professionally as well when I was working at NASA and she became a NASA astronaut. She was a medical doctor who became a Navy undersea-medicine and flight-surgeon-certified officer following medical school and was likely the first woman to deploy on a nuclear submarine in the 1990s. She was selected by NASA to be an astronaut in 1996 and her first flight was aboard the shuttle Columbia for the ill-fated STS-107 mission. Although she and her crewmates perished while returning to Earth, she was and will forever continue to be an inspiration for me and many others young and old for whom her light shined so brightly.”

— Jon Salton, PE, R&D manager

A captivating speaker

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FIRST WOMAN IN SPACE — Aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space. One of her keynote speeches led system engineer Chad Davis down a path to success. (Photo courtesy of NASA)

“When I was a high school senior, I was one of only 100 students across the country selected to attend a leadership conference where Sally Ride was a keynote speaker. Her fantastic speech included advice that stayed with me and helped guide my academic and professional career. She advised that attending the top-ranked undergraduate institution in the country isn’t as important as working hard, getting good grades and gaining experience to help you get into a top graduate institution. I followed her advice, choosing for my undergraduate education a slightly lower-ranked school that was offering better scholarships, used opportunities while there to do scientific research and build relationships with faculty, and then leveraged that experience to get into the top graduate program in the nation — ultimately leading to my position with Sandia. Sally Ride’s timely advice gave me confidence to make a good decision, leading to a great outcome.”

— Chad Davis, system engineer

An exceptional scientist

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PROBLEM SOLVER — As Tyler Stevens’ Ph.D. adviser, Karen Goldberg, right, inspired him to push back the frontiers of science and approach challenging problems by paying attention to small details in the data. (Photo courtesy of Karen Goldberg)

“Karen Goldberg was my Ph.D. adviser. She inspires all of her students to, as she often says, push back the frontiers of science. She is highly ethical and strives to fully understand all details related to a project. One of the most memorable things she said to me is ‘the data is trying to tell us something, we just need to be better listeners.’ This really made an impact on how I approach challenging problems and showed me how important seemingly small details can be. Karen made a big impact on my life — she showed me what an exceptional scientist is.”

— Tyler Stevens, electrical engineer 

A mentor and role model

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LEADER IN STEM — Janice Smith says she is proud to work at Sandia, where she believes women have many opportunities to pursue technical leadership positions. Her first Sandia manager, Lorraine Baca, served as a mentor and role model to her when she joined the Labs in 2004. (Photo courtesy of Janice Smith)

“I joined Sandia in 2004. I worked in industry for about 15 years as a software developer contractor to NASA, Air Force, Navy, the Applied Physics Lab and other control systems. For many years I was either the only woman or one of two in my department or project teams. I had never worked with women technical managers before coming to Sandia. I had seen women in business roles or accounting, but none in senior engineering fields. Lorraine Baca hired me into Sandia to work on the Integrated Correlation and Display System program. She was the first woman technical manager I had ever worked with. She was a wonderful mentor and role model. At Sandia I saw women in many leadership positions. There is no comparison to my prior employment where I saw very few women in technical leadership roles.”

— Janice Smith, manager, system engineering