Sandia Labs News Releases

Black engineer awards expand Sandia Labs spotlight

Ten pre-eminent problem solvers honored for scientific, community feats

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Ten Sandia National Laboratories engineers received Black Engineer of the Year Awards, including Most Promising Scientist, Modern Technology Leaders and Science Spectrum Trailblazers.

Honorees include Sandia systems, chemical, computer, electrical, petroleum, manufacturing and mechanical engineers who excel in their respective fields, powering innovation while flexing their technological muscles for U.S. national security.

The recipients, all with advanced engineering degrees, hold patents, have published extensively and 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 with youth in their communities as local youth sports coaches, STEM student program and event mentors, computer camp counselors, Big Brothers and Sisters volunteers, local tutors and ambassadors for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“Each of these award recipients demonstrates remarkable abilities to inspire procedures, productivity and people in their professional and personal lives,” says Esther Hernandez, Sandia’s chief diversity officer. “Sandia embraces the importance of supporting our professionals both in their careers and personal interests, which benefits our employees, enterprise and communities.”

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 all-digital conference was held Feb. 11-13, when the awards were announced.

This year’s Sandia Black Engineer of the Year awardees are:

Most Promising Scientist — Professional Award

LaRico J. Treadwell, chemical engineer

Modern Day Technology Leader — Outstanding Achievement Award

Uzoma Onunkwo, electrical and computer engineer

David Carter, electrical engineer

Tonya Ross, petroleum engineer

Elijah J. Finch, computer engineer

Science Spectrum Trailblazer — Outstanding Achievement Award

Quenton McKinnis, systems engineer

Jeffrey Robinson, manufacturing engineer

Dennisa Thomas, electrical engineer

Tearie C. Buie, electrical engineer

Adam D. Williams, systems engineer

LaRico Treadwell, chemical engineer at Sandia National Laboratories. (Photo by Lonnie Anderson) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

LaRico Treadwell is a chemist at Sandia’s Advanced Materials Laboratory. Treadwell’s work covers the materials-science spectrum, from basic materials discovery and characterization through applied materials reliability and device fabrication for a wide range of applications, including radiation, ultra-high temperature systems, non-linear optics and thermo-electrics. His research advances science frontiers in chemistry, engineering, materials and component reliability.








Uzoma Onunkwo, electrical and computer engineer at Sandia National Laboratories. (Photo by Lonnie Anderson) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

Uzoma Onunkwo leads efforts in cutting-edge research and development spanning high-speed data analytics, streaming machine learning, large-scale wireless network simulation and quantum information science. His work in multithreaded coding, data structure and algorithms, queue management and compiler optimization accelerated new analytics on high-speed streaming data while protecting government computer networks. He has achieved notable success in the research and implementation of algorithms that enable large-scale wireless simulations at Sandia.








David Carter, electrical engineer at Sandia National Laboratories. (Photo by Jennifer Carter) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

David Carter’s career path at Sandia has taken him from satellite electromagnetic compatibility and interference testing to physical security analysis to electronic device analysis and cybersecurity. Carter pioneered the use of an unconventional measurement system to augment traditional measurements techniques. He now works for Cyber Mission Alliances and is a liaison to the University of Texas at San Antonio and government entities in the San Antonio area.








Tonya Ross, petroleum engineer at Sandia National Laboratories. (Photo by Michael Bravado) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

Tonya Ross creates and reviews two- and three-dimensional finite element meshes to support underground oil storage caverns built in salt domes for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Ross led the effort to develop and implement a sitewide hazard analysis/qualitative risk-assessment process supporting Sandia’s work.










Elijah Finch, computer engineer at Sandia National Laboratories. (Photo by Lonnie Anderson) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

Elijah Finch designed and implemented an information technology integration method that enables users to access each other’s tools across the Department of Energy, which allows for greater collaboration while maintaining data security and cybersecurity. His work enables analysts to dynamically execute and retrieve data in real-time without constraints.










Quenton McKinnis, systems engineer at Sandia National Laboratories. (Photo by Randy Wong) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

Quenton McKinnis oversees electrical cables and connectors and production testers related to Sandia’s national security mission. Over his 40-year career, McKinnis has built numerous complex system and subsystem components and cable assemblies. As the lead integration and test engineer, he oversees the functional activities of systems, system components and joint test assemblies. His attention to detail and drive for technical excellence are demonstrated in all facets of system engineering and cable design, ensuring system safety and reliability.







Jeffrey Robinson, manufacturing engineer at Sandia National Laboratories. (Photo by Lonnie Anderson) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

Jeffrey Robinson leads a diverse team of engineers who provide research and development hardware and software surety engineering expertise of high-consequence systems throughout a product-realization life-cycle. Robinson delivers technical solutions for prevention, early detection and mitigation of defects to protect against loss, damage and errors associated with national security technology. He develops or demonstrates new designs, testing concepts, materials, products, processes and systems.








Dennisa Thomas, electrical engineer at Sandia National Laboratories. (Photo by Craig Satchell) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

Dennisa Thomas is an expert in product realization related to the development, qualification and production of national security systems’ telemetry transmitters and modules. Her work has resulted in hundreds of design and manufacturing defects being identified and resolved before qualification testing and production. Her expertise includes process improvement and defect prevention, product integration and testing, strategic planning and project management.









Tearie Buie, electrical engineer at Sandia National Laboratories. (Photo by Lonnie Anderson) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

Tearie Buie designed, fabricated, qualified and implemented one of the first electrostatic discharge safe working areas for a major thermal battery supplier to the labs, which ensured the safety and reliability of the manufactured product and personnel safety. She led a manufacturing team in creating a technical onboarding training tool, the first of its kind, to allow new manufacturing employees to be trained and become competent in their new role within six months of employment.









Adam Williams, systems engineer at Sandia National Laboratories. (Photo by Lonnie Anderson) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.


Adam Williams has made significant contributions incorporating systems-theoretic concepts, frameworks and analysis techniques into Sandia’s national security mission areas. Williams has applied his technological and policy aptitude to conduct high-consequence facility vulnerability assessments, design physical protection systems, analyze geopolitical implications of global energy development and support various global security engagement opportunities. He co-developed an analysis technique, Hazards and Consequence Analysis for Digital Systems methodology, that is advancing cybersecurity for U.S. interests.





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.