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High school girls recognized for math, science accomplishments

Math and Science Awards

Celeste Rohlfing, chief operating officer at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, congratulates Audrey Kurz, a student at Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory, for her outstanding achievement in math. Rohlfing was one of the founders of Sandia’s Math and Science Awards. (Photo by Randy Wong) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image

Recognition program celebrates its 25th year at Sandia’s California site

LIVERMORE, Calif. – Celeste Rohlfing, chief operating officer at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), presented Sandia National Laboratories’ 25th annual Math and Science Awards to 28 young women from San Francisco Bay Area high schools. Rohlfing, a chemist at Sandia for 11 years, was one of the original founders of the awards.

“I am very proud of the hard work and academic accomplishments of this year’s winners,” said Marianne Walck, vice president of Sandia’s California site. “I hope this award and the connections made with Sandia mentors will inspire and encourage them throughout their professional journeys.”

The Math and Science Awards program encourages high-achieving young women to continue studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects and creates mentoring opportunities with Sandia employees. Teachers from 15 northern California high schools in Livermore, Dublin, Pleasanton, Tracy, Lathrop, Manteca and Oakland nominated students they deemed outstanding in math and science.

“Twenty-five years ago we realized that while young women were exceling in their high school math and science classes, we weren’t seeing them in similar numbers in senior positions in industry or academia. The Math and Science Awards was our way of helping to address that problem,” said Cathy Branda, one of the awards’ organizers and manager of the Systems Biology group.

The winners were recognized with certificates from Sandia and State Assemblywoman Catharine Baker.

Open mind, innovation keys to future success, say speakers

Those honored, families and teachers mingled with Sandia researchers and learned about different careers in math and science. Kicking off the ceremony, Rohlfing spoke about the history of the awards program and her career path, which also included serving as the assistant director for physical sciences at the White House Office of Science and Technology and deputy assistant director at the National Science Foundation.

“I gave the inaugural address at the first Math and Science Awards 25 years ago,” said Rohlfing. “I am overjoyed to see that these awards have not just endured but become bigger and better.”

Rachelle Hamblin shared her journey from Math and Science awardee to college intern to technologist in the Systems Biology group. She credited her exposure to the people and research at Sandia with inspiring her to pursue a dual medical degree and master’s degree in public health at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

She imparted some advice to the awardees for taking advantage of the exciting years to come.

“Keep an open mind, never take ‘no’ for an answer, be innovative,” said Hamblin. “And network, network, network.”

The winners of the 2016 Sandia Math and Science Awards are:

Outstanding Achievement in Mathematics

  • Alyse Coonce, Amador Valley High School
  • Ana Lapota, Coliseum College Prep Academy
  • Liubou Klindziuk, Dublin High School
  • Emily Allendorf, Granada High School
  • Rania Ibrahim, John C. Kimball High School
  • Ayzher Ocsona, Lathrop High School
  • Samantha Dukes, Livermore High School
  • Audrey Kurz, Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory
  • Jasmine Jaring Angeles, Merrill F. West High School
  • Dayanara Salinas, Millennium High School
  • Margaret Austin, Oakland Tech High School
  • Eunice Han, Skyline High School
  • Alexandra Uskov, Tracy High School

Outstanding Achievement in Science

  • Sandhya Kalavacherla, Amador Valley High School
  • Naomi Montenegro, Coliseum College Prep Academy
  • Navya Peddireddy, Dublin High School
  • Allison Kifer, Granada High School
  • Autumn Armstrong, John C. Kimball High School
  • Farhat Khairzadah, Lathrop High School
  • Raina Jiang, Livermore High School
  • Shannon Meyer, Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory
  • Jordan Hensley, Manteca High School
  • Jennifer Lukban, Merrill F. West High School
  • Alexis Diaz, Millennium High School
  • Merissa Bridgeman, Oakland Tech High School
  • Miranda Becerra, Sierra High School
  • Tiffany Wong, Skyline High School
  • Erika Pulliam, Tracy High School

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