Sandia Labs News Releases

Five Sandia Labs scientists earn 2024 Black Engineer of the Year Awards

Childhood experiences, personal adventures led to fulfilling careers

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Dissecting doorbells, exploring music, mastering retail software, love of the arts and old-fashioned hard work were early paths that led five Sandia National Laboratories engineers to their callings and recently earned them national Black Engineer of the Year Awards.

BEYA Michelle Collins

Michelle Collins is an electrical engineer and product realization team lead within one of Sandia National Laboratories’ system engineering groups. (Photo by Lonnie Anderson) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

The awards, recognizing outstanding achievements in engineering, science and technology, include Science Spectrum Trailblazer, Modern Day Technology Leader, Most Promising Engineer in Industry and the Senior Investigator Award.

Each Sandia award winner has made significant contributions in creative, innovative and science-based systems engineering solutions to help solve our nation’s most challenging national security problems.

Science Spectrum Trailblazer

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.

When Collins started at Sandia seven years ago, 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, Collins and her teams have won NNSA Defense Program Awards of Excellence and two employee recognition awards.

BEYA winner Anthony Sanders

Anthony Sanders is a Sandia National Laboratories systems engineer. (Photo by Lonnie Anderson) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

Much of Collins’ education came through opportunities and programs that helped young women and minorities develop their potential as future scientists and engineers, and Collins 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.

A longtime lover of music, Anthony Sanders was drawn to engineering while learning to record and produce music. He learned concepts such as dynamic range, clipping and quantization while creating digital recordings.

Sanders has been with Sandia for 16 years, working primarily in testing and integrating space and ground system hardware 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 and on-orbit analyses and troubleshoot anomalous behavior.

Today, Sanders works as Sandia’s Campus Partnership manager for the Labs’ university diversity partnerships using his technical background to help develop and foster key relationships between Sandia and Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions. Sanders also provides educational support to disenfranchised and underrepresented youth in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Modern Day Technology Leader

BEYA winner Sean Harris

Sean Harris is deputy director of the Field Intelligence Element and senior manager of the High Security Operations Cyber and IT organizations at Sandia National Laboratories. (Photo by Lonnie Anderson) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

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

Fast forward a few years and Harris was working with the Oracle Middleware Team at Sandia as a summer intern. He 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, Harris 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.

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

Outside of his technical work, Harris is committed to helping create opportunities for women and minorities in the cybersecurity field and supports several nationwide diversity recruiting efforts for the labs.

Most Promising Engineer in Industry

BEYA winner Nicle Jackson

Nicole Jackson is a systems engineer and senior member of Sandia National Laboratories’ technical staff. (Photo by Lonnie Anderson) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

Nicole Jackson’s mother was a strong supporter of the arts and encouraged her to participate in a variety of media, from painting to dancing to taking cello lessons. Jackson 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.

Jackson’s work as senior member of the technical staff centers around cultivating 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, Jackson has built an outstanding professional reputation both within the Labs and industry. In 2023, she was nominated by the U.S. 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.

Jackson 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 Sandia.

Senior Investigator

BEYA winner Rigo Tibi

Rigo Tibi is a geoscientist and principal member of Sandia National Laboratories’ technical staff. (Photo by Lonnie Anderson) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

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 applications in seismology.

As a principal member of Sandia’s technical staff, Tibi researches and develops techniques to improve monitoring of underground nuclear explosions. His research spans multiple technical readiness levels, including everything from basic research to that which can be used in operation.

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

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

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.

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,, 505-377-5620