Newswise — ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Five Sandia National Laboratories employees with accomplishments in science, engineering, management or diversity and inclusion received career achievement and leadership awards.
Three awards were presented to Sandia’s Chief Information Officer Carol Jones, chemical engineer Rekha Rao and electrical engineer Ireena Erteza at the annual Women of Color STEM Conference this month.
Two Women Worth Watching awards, presented by Profiles in Diversity Journal, honored Employee Health Services Director Renee Holland and manager Blythe Clark as leading women in business.
Director’s tech vision has ripple effect beyond Sandia
Jones, who is also director of information technology services, leads the labs’ information technology and information management strategies. She received a Women of Color STEM Outstanding Achievement Award as a Technology All-Star. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“Technology is always moving forward, and as it changes, Sandia continues to move forward and adapt to ensure we are meeting national security needs,” Jones said.
Jones’ professional career spans more than 31 years at Sandia and IBM, and includes many leadership roles. She currently manages about 1,000 people at Sandia.
Jones also led development of an agencywide cybersecurity plan with chief information officers at the national laboratories and plants for the Department of Energy in 2015. The paper describes a proactive, enterprisewide approach.
“Carol’s achievements and managerial leadership set a powerful example for anyone wishing to pursue a career in IT or other STEM fields,” said Scott Aeilts, Sandia associate labs director.
A New Mexico native, Jones earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in management information systems at the University of New Mexico.
‘A rare combination of ability, imagination, determination’
With 28 years of experience in developing computational models for complex fluids at Sandia, Rao received a peer-reviewed Women of Color Career Achievement Award.
Rao also has been working on foam models to understand how polyurethanes fail. Her work on foam-process models has made an impact at both Sandia and the Kansas City National Security Campus leading to process improvements, higher yields in foam parts and shorter turnaround times for structural foam mold designs. This effort recently led to a DOE-funded project with Dow Chemical Co.
“Rekha is one of the foremost experts in the world in the mechanics of complex fluids,” said Sandia manager Sophia Lefantzi. “She has a rare combination of ability, imagination and determination that enables her to make unique technical contributions, ensure Sandia’s mission success and train future generations of talented researchers.”
Originally from California, Rao holds bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Washington.
Award winner loves science, mentoring and the arts
For 25 years, Erteza has contributed to Sandia research. She received a Women of Color STEM Outstanding Achievement Award as a Technology All-Star.
One of Erteza’s largest impacts has been in Synthetic Aperture Radar. When Erteza first joined the SAR algorithms group, she examined the methods being used to address the computationally challenging problem of SAR image formation, then applied her signal processing and high-performance computing expertise to help solve the challenge.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from UNM and a master’s degree and doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University. For more than 35 years, Erteza has been involved in mentoring.
“Engineering doesn’t mean you’re a stereotypical nerd, isolated in a room with a computer,” she said. “We work on teams, and communication is very important. We use math, science and engineering skills to make and build things, and to help solve important problems. Creativity and imagination are two of the most important parts of being an engineer.”
Director aims to create culture of health, inclusion
Holland was a founding member of Sandia’s Disease Management Clinic and has served in a variety of leadership positions. She received a Women Worth Watching Career Achievement Award.
Holland leads a multidisciplinary team of healthcare providers, who provide onsite medical, health and wellness services at Sandia’s clinic in New Mexico.
Holland, a licensed registered nurse, earned a bachelor’s degree in health promotion from Minnesota State University, then earned a master’s degree in community health education from UNM.
Over the last five years, Holland helped establish more than 20 energy hubs throughout Sandia’s New Mexico and California campuses. The indoor and outdoor energy hubs provide stretching and exercising equipment for the workforce to take breaks throughout the day. Indoor hubs also promote diversity by serving as meditation spaces and nursing rooms, Holland said.
“My passion during the past 20 years included creating a culture of health, inclusive of women in the workplace, in a predominantly male working environment,” she said.
Working to curb unconscious bias in the workplace
Clark, who also won a Women Worth Watching Career Achievement Award, said long before she discovered materials science, her first loves were art and music. She credits her grandfather — an engineer, musician and watercolor artist from Mexico — with setting an example of embracing diversity of talents.
A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Clark earned a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering from Northwestern University, then went to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for her doctorate.
She then worked as a post doctorate at the Max Planck for Metals Research in Germany before taking a research position at Sandia. Prior to becoming a manager, she led research teams and holds multiple patents for her work.
Clark, now a manager, strives to cultivate diversity and inclusion within her team and throughout the labs. She serves as co-chair of the Sandia Women’s Action Network, a group chartered to enrich and support the careers of all women at Sandia and mitigate gender bias. As part of the group, Clark has lead multiple initiatives to improve diversity in hiring and promotions.