ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Ten Sandia National Laboratories engineers received Black Engineer of the Year Awards this year, including Most Promising Scientist in Government, Research Leadership, Science Spectrum Trailblazers and Modern-Day Technology Leaders.
Honorees include Sandia mechanical, electrical, civil, aerospace and aeronautical engineers who excel in their respective fields. From the abstract to the technical, each has demonstrated exceptional talent and dedication to their work and communities in advancing research and science.
The recipients, all with advanced engineering degrees, hold patents, have published extensively and have received numerous professional and community awards. They perform several roles at Sandia and with research and academic partners across the country.
In addition to their professional pursuits, they are active within their communities as local youth sports coaches, STEM student program and event mentors, science program instructors and active members in the National Society of Black Engineers and its local chapters.
“This year’s Sandia BEYA winners spotlight not only their extraordinary service to Sandia National Laboratories and the nation, but to the diverse communities in which we all live, work and play,” said Tobie Webb, senior manager and acting chief diversity officer at Sandia.
BEYA is a program of the national Career Communications Group, an advocate for corporate diversity, and is part of its STEM achievement program. The awards annually recognize the nation’s best and brightest engineers, scientists and technology experts. This year’s conference was held Feb. 17-19, when the awards were announced.
This year’s Sandia Black Engineer of the Year awardees are:
Most Promising Scientist in Government
- Karla Morris, mechanical engineer and computer scientist, Digital Foundations & Mathematics Department.
- Chris Jenkins, electrical engineer and computer scientist, Information Operations Center.
Science Spectrum Trailblazers
- Muhammad El, electrical engineer, manager, Component Science, Engineering & Production.
- La Tonya Jenkins, civil engineer, independent surveillance assessment engineer, R&D Science and Engineering Research systems analyst for Energy Water System Integration.
- Tyler Garrett, civil engineer, senior R&D systems engineer, Component & Tester Surety Engineering.
- Patrice Gregory, Ph.D., mechanical engineer, principal R&D systems engineer, System & Component Surety.
- Joshua James, electrical engineer, senior R&D systems engineer, Tester and Component Surety Engineering Department.
Modern Day Technology Leaders
- James Taylor, electrical engineering, engineering support technologist, R&D Science and Engineering.
- Mark Onuigbo, aerospace engineer, principal member of technical staff, R&D Science and Engineering, Systems Engineering.
- Gerard Bennett, aeronautical engineer, R&D technical staff, Navigation, Guidance and Control department.
BEYA winner brief bios
Karla Morris is the formal-verification software lead for national defense systems, developing methodology and workflow for software verification of high-reliability and high-consequence electrical systems. She has developed tools and computational models used to verify digital systems for safety, security and reliability. Karla was the co-inventor of a Fortran short course taught in the U.S. and Europe. She is a mentor dedicated to diversity in science and math for students and colleagues in her community and beyond.
Chris Jenkins is a principal cybersecurity research and development staff member in Sandia’s Information Operations Center. He leads a team researching innovative ways to protect critical infrastructure and other high-consequence operational technology. His work focuses on three key areas: cyber-physical cybersecurity research; high-performance computing; and cybersecurity expertise outside the Labs. Chris also has been a local math tutor and a previous officer in the National Society of Black Engineers.
Muhammad El is responsible for developing, qualifying and integrating state-of-the-art technologies for a broad range of components and assemblies used in the design, development and production of neutron generators. His work in technology solutions crosses disciplines in mechanical, materials science, industrial, chemical and electrical engineering. He is a manager and mentor for his staff and a role model for people of color in technology. Outside of work, Muhammad enjoys time with his family and performing community service.
La Tonya Jenkins’ work focuses on systems dynamic modeling supporting projects in Sandia’s Energy Water Systems Integration department. Her modeling capability supports the department’s work with human-engineered and natural systems to support the security of the nation’s energy water systems. La Tonya’s expertise in modeling is also utilized by multiple organizations across the Laboratories. As a mentor, she works in developing and advancing youth STEM programs. She also has coached various teams participating in national and local STEM competitions and mentored local students.
Tyler Garrett works across multiple enterprises, integrating team members in multidisciplinary technology areas. He identifies, assesses and mitigates risks using defect-prevention methodologies throughout the product lifecycle — from conceptual design through product retirement — to ensure safe, reliable and robust performance. Tyler owns and manages a franchise fitness facility outside of his role as a Sandia employee. He also has been an instructor and coordinator for a Sandia-sponsored, local summer science program.
Patrice Gregory implements strategies that lead teams to successful product qualification and delivery. She aids in developing safe, reliable and robust products by managing requirements and qualification efforts for various electrical and mechanical components. Her previous roles include collaborating across multiple organizations to develop tooling and failure modeling of electronic components. Patrice is also active in the community as a volunteer for public health and youth STEM endeavors.
Joshua James is responsible for the evaluation and qualification of product and test equipment used to assure suitability of Sandia’s high-fidelity, high-consequence products. Joshua works with product and tester development teams from multiple production agencies qualifying test equipment to ensure systems perform as intended. Away from the Labs, Joshua is a STEM advocate at local high schools, volunteers for STEM programs and attends regional conferences to support students considering STEM careers.
James Taylor supports engineering activities on projects, collecting, maintaining, organizing and compiling technical data. He supports engineering activities in design, test, check-out, modification, fabrication and assembly of prototype electromechanical systems, experimental design circuitry and specialized test equipment through engineering documentation, reports and drawings. James has mentored summer interns over the last two years sharing his skills and experience in problem-solving. He is a youth mentor and coaches his sons’ baseball teams.
Mark Onuigbo currently leads a team of 25 subject matter experts spanning 20 organizations and disciplines ranging from materials science to system engineering. Team success depends on close collaboration with science and technology partners within Sandia, as well as technical peers at partner institutions, commercial vendors and a myriad of internal stakeholders, from enhanced surety to advanced and exploratory systems. Mark enjoys mentoring junior staff and colleagues through career advisement, issue resolution and personal growth.
Gerard Bennett develops navigation, guidance and control solutions for aerospace systems. His work focuses on developing aerospace applications and validating them through simulation. He is responsible for developing the technical applications for modeling and simulation of these systems and creating a model for developing algorithms and optimizing trajectories. Gerard is active in teaching middle and high school students on STEM subjects, leading science classes and facilitating class experiments through the Hands-On Minds-On Technology program.
Sandia National Laboratories is a multimission laboratory operated by National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Sandia Labs has major research and development responsibilities in nuclear deterrence, global security, defense, energy technologies and economic competitiveness, with main facilities in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Livermore, California.
Sandia news media contact: Luke Frank, email@example.com, (505) 377-5620