ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two experts at Sandia National Laboratories have been honored for their achievements and leadership as top engineers and scientists from the Hispanic community.
Evaristo “Tito” Bonano, nuclear energy fuel cycle senior manager, and cyber assurance architect Angela “Ang” Rivas were recognized at the 32nd annual Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference by Great Minds in STEM.
Bonano received a Lifetime Achievement award and Rivas received a Luminary award during the society’s annual conference last week, held virtually this year. To date, 43 Sandia employees have been recognized at HENAAC since 1994.
Yucca Mountain license application lead honored for Lifetime Achievement
Throughout his 37-year career, Bonano has focused on the safety-related issues of nuclear technology, nuclear waste management and nuclear waste disposal, working to provide solutions for the safe disposal of highly radioactive nuclear waste. Early in his career, he worked as a researcher at Sandia and other institutions, and then became a small-business owner before coming back to Sandia to take on technical and managerial leadership roles.
In 2006, the Department of Energy designated Sandia as the lead laboratory of the Yucca Mountain Project, which sought to permanently dispose of high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel from both commercial and national defense use. Bonano was elected to lead the preparation of the portion of the license application that described the work of hundreds of engineers and scientists from multiple laboratories, universities and private companies to demonstrate that spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste could be disposed of deep inside the Earth while protecting the health and safety of humans and the environment for tens of thousands of years.
“Having the opportunity to lead this critically important, complex effort and completing the license application in June 2008, which represented the culmination of over 30 years of work by hundreds of scientists and engineers from numerous organizations, is, without any doubt or reservation, the highlight of my professional career and an accomplishment that I will always be extremely proud of,” Bonano said.
After the Nuclear Regulatory Commission accepted the license application, federal funding was withdrawn from Yucca Mountain in 2011 and the site has not progressed.
Bonano is currently the senior manager for Sandia’s Nuclear Energy Fuel Cycle Program, where he oversees research in nuclear waste disposal while also directing programs in safety analysis for space launch missions, small modular reactors, advanced energy conversion systems, fuel cycle systems engineering and analysis, storage and transportation of nuclear waste and advanced modeling and simulation.
“Tito’s visionary leadership has grown Sandia’s nuclear effort substantially despite a nationwide lull in nuclear power generation and nuclear waste disposal the past 10 years,” said Sandia Labs Director James Peery. “Tito has positioned Sandia as the nation’s, and arguably the world’s, premier nuclear waste disposal research organization, a trusted technical adviser to DOE and a leading contributor to national and international nuclear waste disposal efforts in Australia, South Korea, at the International Atomic Energy Association in Vienna, Austria, and the Nuclear Energy Agency.”
Bonano also has worked to build partnerships with Hispanic-serving universities to increase the pipeline of Hispanic engineers to Sandia.
Bonano says that throughout his career he learned much from others who mentored him, and he feels an obligation and a responsibility to share his experiences and lessons learned with those that will follow him.
“Knowledge transfer has become my passion at this point in my career, and there are four basic principles that have served me well personally and professionally that I want to share with the next generation of STEM professionals: have passion for and believe in what you do; always act with integrity regardless of the circumstances; never assume you know it all – respect and value the opinions of others; and always give credit to those you work with, for your accomplishments would not be possible without them,” Bonano said.
Beyond mentoring and sharing his own experiences, Bonano has set up a formal knowledge transfer program at Sandia to ensure that scientific and analytical expertise is passed on from one generation of engineers to the next.
“Tito’s vision has resulted in the creation of a state-of-the-art knowledge management program at Sandia,” said Rod McCullum, senior director of decommissioning and used fuel for the Nuclear Energy Institute, in his recommendation letter. “His realization that continued government inaction will likely push the quest for a nuclear waste solution forward to yet another generation has led him to turn his dedication towards assuring that all of the scientific and analytical expertise that this generation has developed will remain available to those that follow. Eventually, the U.S. will solve its nuclear waste problem. It cannot be known whether or not the world will then truly appreciate the role that Tito had in making this possible.”
Bonano was born and raised in Puerto Rico. He graduated from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez with a degree in chemical engineering. He earned master’s and doctorate degrees in chemical engineering from Clarkson University, focusing on transport phenomena.
Software security expert honored with Luminary award
Rivas grew up in a multi-generational household Albuquerque’s South Valley, where she says they had “no money, but lots of love.” She worked hard in school, taking college classes while still in high school and graduating when she was 16.
She pursued a triple major in technical communications, electrical engineering and computer science at New Mexico Tech. Shortly after her grandmother died, Rivas focused on working to help support her family and be more financially secure. She first joined Sandia as an intern and then became an intellectual property administrator while taking classes at Central New Mexico Community College. Rivas said that for years, Sandia’s flexible and stable work environment enabled her to take care of her family. While working full-time, she earned a Bachelor of Science in technical communication from Arizona State University.
“My journey at Sandia has been non-traditional,” Rivas said. “I like to help remind kids that not everyone takes a linear journey from school to college to a career. It’s easier that way but having a zigzag journey myself, I tell them you can figure things out as you go, and you can get back on track when obstacles come your way. Don’t give up.”
Currently, Rivas leads software security awareness and training and developed a training course for members of software development teams, nuclear weapons engineers and cybersecurity professionals on software security awareness, best practices and supply chain risk. She has led and contributed to threat modeling engagements and found ways to incorporate her team’s software security expertise to increase the security of software design and architecture.
“Angela Rivas is the one of the most talented, motivated, versatile and team-oriented persons I have met in my 32-plus years at Sandia,” said Joselyne Gallegos, senior manager. “These characteristics make her a natural leader, one who managers and experienced staff respect and listen to. No matter what role she is in, Ang redefines the role to be broader and more impactful than what is initially presented to her, subsequently demonstrating new and exciting possibilities.”
Rivas proposed and established a pilot program at Sandia to develop software security champions throughout the Labs and has helped build relationships with other national laboratories that are developing software security programs.
“She has demonstrated passion and talent for data and software security, finding new and innovative ways to propel the program forward and inform its best practices for integrating security earlier into the software development lifecycle,” Peery said. “She is a dedicated engineer and natural leader with a bright future ahead of her.”
While continuing to grow in her career at Sandia, Rivas is studying to earn a Master of Science in cybersecurity at the New York University.
Rivas said that when she has had to make big decisions about her career and job opportunities, she remembers the advice of her late uncle, who was like a father to her. He encouraged her to be fearless, telling her “you can do anything.” Rivas said this advice had encouraged her to branch out and embrace new opportunities.
Outside of her work at Sandia, Rivas has a passion for community service and mentoring. Last year she was sworn in as a Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer with NM Kids Matter. She volunteers with multiple organizations to mentor young people in underserved communities and has been heavily involved with United Way of Central New Mexico’s Community Fund allocation panels and affinity groups. Rivas has also volunteered at STEM events at schools and community centers in Albuquerque’s South Valley.
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: Kristen Meub, email@example.com, 505-239-1671