Sandia Labs News Releases

High school girls honored for math, science achievements

Mentorship opportunities key to Sandia recognition program

Award recipient

Sandia National Laboratories vice president Marianne Walck, center, celebrates with Dublin High School student Alessia Stewart, one of 31 high school girls honored by Sandia for academic achievement in math and science. (Photo by Dino Vournas) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

LIVERMORE, Calif. – Sandia National Laboratories has presented its annual Math and Science Awards to 31 girls from San Francisco Bay Area high schools, celebrating their academic accomplishments and potential.

“I want to congratulate each of you for your academic excellence and encourage you to continue your passion for math and science,” Marianne Walck, vice president of Sandia’s California site, told the students during the May 20 ceremony. “It’s frustrating that women are still underrepresented in many technical fields. At this event you will meet Sandia women working in math and science whom I hope will serve as inspiration and encouragement for what is possible for your future.”

Now in its 24th year, the Math and Science Awards program is designed to encourage high-achieving young women to continue studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects and create mentoring opportunities. Teachers from 17 California high schools in Livermore, Dublin, Pleasanton, Tracy, Lathrop, Manteca, Stockton and Oakland nominated students they deemed outstanding in math and science.

The winners also were recognized by state and federal officials. State Assemblywoman Catharine Baker of San Ramon, California, presented certificates to the winners, as did representatives from the offices of Reps. Barbara Lee, Jeff Denham and Eric Swalwell.

Mentoring relationships initiated

Those honored and their families learned about different careers in math and science by mingling with Sandia researchers. As part of the ceremony, Sandia mechanical engineer Myra Blaylock and technical editor and writer Emmeline Chen shared their personal stories. Both women’s career paths have gone in unexpected directions.

“I didn’t take a straight path to get to where I am now, but that led to some great experiences,” said Blaylock. “Always keep learning, and don’t be afraid to switch career paths.” She switched from astrophysics to geophysics to astronomy to wind energy before settling into her fluids analyst position at Sandia.

math awardee

Suhasiny Naik, a student at Foothill High School in Pleasanton collects her award for academic achievement in math at Sandia’s 24th annual Math and Science Awards. (Photo by Dino Vournas) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

Chen advised the girls to remain open to opportunities. “Very soon, you will have many important decisions to make about where to attend college, what major to choose and which opportunities to pursue,” she said. “It may feel overwhelming, but consider these choices a gift, and remember that no single decision is going to determine your life path.”

Each winner was paired with a Sandia mentor, a woman working in a STEM field.

“Our goal is that these introductions are the start of a long relationship,” said Cathy Branda, a manager in Sandia’s biological sciences program and chair of the Math and Science Awards. “When I was a student, connecting with women already working in my field was a great help. We hope to provide that opportunity to these talented young women.”

The winners of the 2015 Sandia Math and Science Awards:

Outstanding Achievement in Mathematics

  • Alexandra Hawkins, Amador Valley High School
  • Illeanna Gutierrez, Castlemont High School
  • Meylin Serrano, Coliseum College Prep Academy
  • Katherine Raja, Dublin High School
  • Suhasiny Naik, Foothill High School
  • Megan McCandless, Granada High School
  • Aiyana Bergren, Lathrop High School
  • Emma Kristovich, Livermore High School
  • Kelsey Conway, Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory High School
  • Makayla Dodd, Manteca High School
  • Khadija Flowers, McClymonds High School
  • Jasmeen Sandhu, Merrill F. West High School
  • Amy Wise, Millennium High School
  • Kayla Wilson, Sierra High School
  • Pallavi Adapa, Tracy High School

Outstanding Achievement in Science

  • Catherine Tu, Amador Valley High School
  • Susana Lopez, Castlemont High School
  • Jessica Rodriguez, Coliseum College Prep Academy
  • Alessia Stewart, Dublin High School
  • Vanessa Angeles, Granada High School
  • Medha Kothari, John C. Kimball High School
  • Lisa Thongmanivong, Lathrop High School
  • Christine Cummings, Livermore High School
  • Camille Zaug, Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory High School
  • Kyleigh Range, Manteca High School
  • Yuliza Rios-Oregon, McClymonds High School
  • Jessica Huynh, Merrill F. West High School
  • Leanne Velasco, Millennium High School
  • Candice Lao, Sierra High School
  • Isabel Ortiz-Gelder, Tracy High School
  • April Vang, Weston Ranch

Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corp., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness.

Sandia news media contact: Patti Koning,, (925) 294-4911