ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A local chemist is defying the odds in more ways than one.
Doctor Bernadette Hernandez-Sanchez grew up in Albuquerque’s South Valley, the oldest of six siblings, she says she was always interested in the world around her.
“Growing up, I didn’t see a whole lot of Hispanic role models that I could connect with so it’s exciting to be somebody that can be a role model for future students,” Hernandez-Sanchez said.
Now, she is getting national attention for her work.
“It was such an honor to be recognized for this,” Hernandez-Sanchez said about received the outstanding technical achievement award at the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards conference in California last weekend.
She is the first woman at Sandia Labs to get the recognition.
“It was almost like the Oscars for science and engineering,” she said.
She started her journey with Sandia Labs when she was just a 17-year-old high school intern.
Now, a full-fledged chemist there, she’s been responsible for big advances in renewable energy.
She’s worked on ways to maintain underwater devices that harness the ocean’s wave energy as electricity and prevent microorganisms from growing on the pricey equipment.
Most recently, she’s worked with Santa Fe based company bioLime to make stucco stronger.
“Stucco used in a lot of homes in New Mexico and so we would like to improve the formulation to make it more robust,” Hernandez-Sanchez said.
In a field where Hispanic women make up about two percent of the work force according to the National Science Foundation, this local chemist says she has a lot to be proud of.
“It’s very rewarding, I’m very humbled by it every day. I’m excited to come to work because my chemistry is helping people.”
Another researcher at Sandia Labs, Vincent Urias was also honored at the HENAAC conference for his work in cyber security.