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Young women encouraged to blaze their own trails at Sandia’s Math and Science Awards

By Madeline Burchard

Photography By Randy Wong

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Sandia Women’s Connection honors exceptional local scholars

Sandia Math and Science Awards
Heidi Ammerlahn, left, with the Sandia National Laboratories Women’s Connection and the director of homeland security and defense systems, congratulates a student at the 2018 Sandia Math and Science Awards.

See below: "2018 Sandia Math and Science Award winners"

More than 30 students recently visited Sandia California to attend the 27th annual Sandia Math and Science Awards, a flagship program of the Sandia Women’s Connection.

Every year, the Sandia Women’s Connection receives nominations from local high schools and hosts a ceremony to honor the award winners for their accomplishments in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). During and after the ceremony, students are paired with Sandia mentors, who encourage their future studies and answer questions.

Heidi Ammerlahn, director of the Homeland Security and Defense Systems Center, kicked off the evening by talking about what attracted her to Sandia’s mission.

“My career at Sandia has allowed me to follow my interest in math and computer science while serving my community,” Heidi said. “I encourage you all to consider careers in public service.”

Mentors make a difference

Associate Labs Director Dori Ellis congratulated the young scholars in a video address and shared the beginnings of her career.

“Men in my father’s generation believed that women should only be teachers or nurses. That is until they get married, and then they should stay at home and be a good wife and mother,” Dori said. “It was a Sandia mentor, Tom Lane, that encouraged me to apply for an education program at Sandia. That one-year master’s degree program was life changing for me.”

Dori stressed the importance of seeking mentors and allies.

“Do not hesitate to reach out to us as you make your way,” she said. “We are all rooting for you.”

Plan to change your plans

Carolyn Fisher, a Sandia postdoc in systems biology, gave the keynote remarks. Fresh from finishing her own academic journey, she shared some words of wisdom.

“Please do not be afraid to dabble,” Carolyn said. “When I was in high school, I wanted to be a crime scene detective. Now, I search for algae predators. Give yourself permission to change your mind and follow your interests.”

2018 Sandia Math and Science Award winners

Outstanding Achievement in Mathematics
  • Nicole Park, Amador Valley High School
  • D’Aysia Johnson, Castlemont High School
  • Arnetta Olden, Coliseum College Preparatory Academy
  • Neha Harpanhalli, Dublin High School
  • Kelly Francesco Ball, East Union High School
  • Jasmine Zhang, Foothill High School
  • Silvia Pablo Cruz, Fremont High School
  • Colleen McCandless, Granada High School
  • Nikolle Sanchis, Lathrop High School
  • Zoe Russ, Livermore High School
  • Josie Voss, Merril F. West High School
  • Madelyn Beckner, Millenium High School
  • Areej Choudhry, Sierra High School
  • Isabella Ellis, Tracy High School
  • Renny Manansala, Weston Ranch High School
Outstanding Achievement in Science
  • Esha Chawla, Amador Valley High School
  • Ariana Perfino, ARISE High School
  • Ma. Cristina Arlantico, Castlemont High School
  • Paulina Vazquez, Coliseum College Preparatory Academy
  • Di Zhuang, Dublin High School
  • Nisha Prabhakar, Foothill High School
  • Ashley Zhuang, Granada High School
  • Kara Asuncion, John C. Kimball High School
  • Eghosa Ogbeide, Lathrop High School
  • Indira D’Souza, Livermore High School
  • Julia Tang, Manteca High School
  • Alyssa Costa, Merrill F. West High School
  • Ormina Naveed, Mountain House High School
  • Yuvleen Kaur, Millenium High School
  • Rakebe Gebrekidan, Oakland Technical High School
  • Sophia Sperman, San Leandro High School
  • Sophia Schmiedt, Sierra High School
  • Yael Berrol, Skyline High School
  • Meena Yuqob, Tracy High School