Sandia LabNews

Five Sandians win Black Engineer of the Year Awards

The Black Engineer of the Year Award conference will honor five Sandians for their outstanding achievements in engineering, science and technology.

The awards include Science Spectrum Trailblazer, Modern Day Technology Leader, Most Promising Engineer in Industry and the Senior Investigator Award.

The winners’ tenure at the Labs spans four to 20 years and each have made significant contributions in creative, innovative, science-based, systems engineering solutions to help solve our nation’s most challenging national security problems.

The award recipients will be honored at the 2024 conference held in Baltimore on Feb. 15-17.

Science Spectrum Trailblazer

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BEYA SCIENCE SPECTRUM TRAILBLAZER — Black Engineer of the Year Awards winner Michelle Collins is an electrical engineer and product realization team lead within one of Sandia’s system engineering groups.

Michelle Collins

Michelle Collins was in seventh grade, constructing a doorbell, when she decided she was going to become an engineer. And that’s exactly what she did.

Michelle will celebrate her seventh year at Sandia in April. When Michelle started, she was one of two electrical engineers who helped define the entire architecture of the system her group was developing. Today, she is product realization team lead within one of Sandia’s system engineering groups. In her time at the Labs, Michelle and her teams have won the NNSA Defense Program Awards of Excellence and two Employee Recognition Awards.

Much of Michelle’s education was paved by opportunities and programs that helped young women and minorities tap into their potential as future scientists and engineers, and Michelle is committed to helping pave a similar path for future generations. She plays an active role as a mentor and helps recruit at universities and colleges.

Michelle serves on the executive board of Sandia’s African American Outreach Committee.

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BEYA SCIENCE SPECTRUM TRAILBLAZER — Black Engineer of the Year Awards winner Anthony Sanders is a systems engineer and R&D manager of the START Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Other Minority-Serving Institutions Partnerships Department.

Anthony Sanders

A longtime lover of music, Anthony Sanders discovered his passion for engineering while learning to record and produce music. It was here that he learned concepts such as dynamic range, clipping and quantization while creating digital recordings.

Anthony has been with Sandia for 16 years, working primarily in testing and integrating space and ground system hardware working in various roles from test engineer to manager of the Advanced Space Systems department. He developed a predictive performance statistical model that is used today to support ground-based analysis, on-orbit analysis and troubleshoot anomalous behavior.

Today, Anthony works as Sandia’s Campus Partnership manager for the Labs university diversity partnerships using his vast technical background to help develop and foster key relationships between Sandia and historically Black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions. His work has been pivotal in building a more diverse talent pipeline and enhancing research ties between these institutions and the Labs.

Anthony is committed to helping provide educational support to disenfranchised and underrepresented youth in Albuquerque. He volunteers for a local nonprofit associated with his fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha Inc., leads a grant committee to secure funding for the Alpha Mentorship Program, works as a mentor for that program and mentors early career engineers within the Labs.

Modern Day Technology Leader

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BEYA MODERN-DAY TECHNOLOGY LEADER — Black Engineer of the Year Awards winner Sean Harris is deputy director of the Field Intelligence Element and is senior manager of the High Security Operations Cyber and IT organizations.

Sean Harris

Sean Harris was working at a Best Buy in high school when his interest in information technology sparked. It was there that Sean was first exposed to an Oracle-based point-of-sale and back-end system.

Fast forward a few years and Sean was working with the Oracle Middleware Team at Sandia as a summer intern. Sean has now been with Sandia for nearly 20 years working in various capacities across Enterprise Technology Systems and cybersecurity efforts supporting the intelligence community. From 2016 to 2020, Sean served on the board of directors for the Community Association for Information Systems Security Working Groups, which helps advance the professional understanding and capabilities of cybersecurity across the intelligence community.

Sean currently serves as deputy director of the Field Intelligence Element and is senior manager of the High Security Operations Cyber and IT organization. Sean’s work has been critical in leading Sandia’s effort in support of the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate cybersecurity mission.

Outside of his technical work, Sean is committed to helping create opportunities for women and minorities in the cybersecurity field and supports several nationwide diversity recruiting efforts for the Labs. He is also co-chair of Sandia’s Black Leadership Committee.

Most Promising Engineer in Industry Award

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BEYA MOST PROMISING ENGINEER IN INDUSTRY — Black Engineer of the Year Awards winner Nicole Jackson is a systems engineer and senior member of Sandia’s technical staff.

Nicole Jackson

Nicole Jackson’s mother was a strong supporter of the arts and encouraged a young Nicole to participate in a variety of mediums from painting to dancing to taking cello lessons. Nicole credits this early exposure to helping her connect the dots and find new solutions — problem-solving that has been vital to her work at Sandia.

Nicole’s work as senior member of the technical staff centers around finding ways to help communities adapt to a changing climate while sustainably developing and managing their natural resources. Her research looks at what natural hazards have occurred in the past, what is projected in the future, how these have impacted infrastructure and how we can improve decision making around these findings.

In her almost five years at Sandia, Nicole has built an outstanding professional reputation both within the Labs and the industry. In 2023, Nicole was nominated by the United States Global Change Research Program to the Integrated Hydro-Terrestrial Modeling Coordinating Group for federal and non-federal scientists, managers and their partners. This federal program coordinates research and investments to better understand forces shaping the global environment, both human and natural, and their impacts on society.

Nicole is dedicated to making the civil engineering field more diverse and inclusive by mentoring STEM students of all levels from high school to undergraduate and graduate interns working at the Labs.

Senior Investigator Award

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BEYA SENIOR INVESTIGATOR — Black Engineer of the Year Awards winner Rigo Tibi is a geoscientist and principal member of Sandia’s technical staff.

Rigo Tibi

Rigo Tibi joined Sandia in 2016, bringing with him an impressive background in academia and industry for his research in seismic event discrimination and local and region distances, advanced seismic data processing for automatic generation of event bulletins, seismic waveform denoising and machine learning application in seismology.

As a principal member of the technical staff, Rigo researches and develops techniques to improve monitoring of underground nuclear explosions. His research spans Technical Readiness Level 2-5, which includes everything from basic research to that which can be used in operation.

In 2021 and 2022, Rigo published two papers that demonstrated how machine-learning-based denoising was superior to both continuous wavelet transform thresholding and frequency filtering, the standard methods of noise suppression.

In Rigo’s seven years at Sandia, he has authored an impressive 11 peer-reviewed publications and two technical reports. Rigo and his research are highly regarded and recognized within the international and national treaty monitoring and seismology communities.

In addition to his technical achievements, Rigo is a champion in minority communities encouraging students to pursue careers at national laboratories. 

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