LANL Foundation Awards $741,000 In Scholarships

Monica Chavez


Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Foundation, in partnership with the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund (LAESF), has awarded $741,000 during its 2020 four-year scholarship cycle.

These scholarships will support the educational goals of 110 Northern New Mexico students.

Three graduating seniors, Monica Chavez of New Mexico School for the Deaf, Lillian Peterson of Los Alamos High School and Kyran Romero of Santa Fe Indian School, were awarded the top-level $20,000 Gold Scholarship.

Chavez has been accepted to the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she plans on channeling her love of math into becoming an engineer. Chavez is a first-generation college student from Sandoval County who has overcome many challenges to reach her goals. She has dedicated significant time volunteering with Assistance Dogs of the West and actively works to bridge the divide between the deaf and hearing world. Chavez wants to excel in her field, hoping to become a famous engineer who invents something.

Kyran Romero

Romero intends to pursue a degree in physics, computer science or engineering. He is deeply committed to serving his Jemez Pueblo community and feels that his mission in life is to not only provide for himself and his family, but to make sure that every member of his community has the opportunity to explore and pursue their passion. He has participated in the Summer Policy Academy to develop awareness of issues facing Native communities and policy-level change to address these challenges. Romero believes his Native culture provides him with a unique and valuable perspective on many STEM fields and looks forward to further exploring the connection between science and Native cultural knowledge.

Lilian Peterson

Peterson is deeply committed to protecting the environment and solving global issues stemming from climate change. She has published independent research in multiple peer-reviewed journals, including research that predicts crop yields in every country in Africa to help countries prevent hunger and malnourishment by predicting and preparing for food shortages. She has been accepted to Harvard and plans to study applied math, with a focus on molecular biology and computer science.

Two new scholarships were awarded for the first time this year.

The Sheila Morris Luna Memorial Scholarship is a $20,000 award designated for one outstanding female student with financial need pursuing a STEM degree at a New Mexico college or university. Ayeh Safi, a senior at Capital High School, is the first recipient. Safi, who is the first in her family to graduate high school, intends to pursue a degree in electrical engineering. Ayeh plans to use her degree to help create renewable and sustainable sources of energy. She also intends to be a role-model who encourages other Palestinian, Muslim, and Arab girls empower themselves through education.

The $10,000 Bryan Fearey & Maureen Connolly Scholarship for Science and the Arts honors the couple’s enduring commitment to science serving the nation’s national security needs and provides financial support to students with an interest in chemistry and a passion for performance music and/or visual arts. The first recipient is Estrellita Sena, who is graduating from Española Valley High School. Sena is a first-generation college student who intends to major in chemistry and pursue a career in forensic science. She serves as captain of her Varsity Cheer Team, sings in Worship Band and participated in the LANL Summer Physics Camp for Young Women. Her love of chemistry has grown throughout her high school years. “All the possibilities it brings, all the explanations to so many of my childhood questions, made me yearn for more.”

LANL scholarships support graduating high school seniors and current undergraduate students pursuing a four-year degree in any field of study. All winners maintain primary residence in the seven Northern New Mexico counties surrounding Los Alamos National Laboratory—Los Alamos, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Taos, and have met rigorous academic and merit-based requirements. Academic achievement, leadership, service, financial need and overcoming life challenges are all taken into consideration. Certain award levels are determined by additional qualifications, including the pursuit of degrees in specific fields of study, first-generation college students, Native American students, outstanding leadership, higher financial need, resiliency and determination, and residency in certain communities.

“These students have worked incredibly hard to position themselves to be ready for a four-year college. They’ve demonstrated the tenets of our scholarship, which are academic achievement, leadership and service. They’ve done their part. And for many of them, financial support is the piece that is missing in order to make their dream possible. We’re able to provide that,” said Mike Ammerman, Scholarship Program Manager. “For others, the acknowledgement and the opportunity to be part of this LANL Scholars community may be the most valuable benefit of receiving the award. This opens up the opportunity for them to be part of a network of other high-performing people from the region who care about New Mexico and want to give back, including giving back to the program as alumni.”

The scholarship program also generates many professional opportunities for students, ranging from employment at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to internships and/or employment in other fields. LANL also prioritizes scholarship recipients for its very competitive internship program.

By the Numbers:

  • 42 percent of recipients reported family income of less than $50,000
  • 8 of the top 10 scholars to receive a Gold/Silver/Copper Scholarship are first-generation college students.
  • Recipient Gender: 61 percent female, 37 percent male, 1 percent non-binary
  • More than half of all Native American applicants received a scholarship, including recipients from Picuris, Ohkay Owingeh, Jemez, Zuni and Pojoaque Pueblos.
  • 3 recipients are former Career Pathways Scholarship recipients who have transitioned to full-time students pursuing a bachelor’s degree.

2020 awards by reported ethnicity are:

  • Asian/Asian American: 10 recipients (9%)
  • White/Caucasian: 35 recipients (32%)
  • Hispanic/Latino/Spanish origin: 46 recipients (42%)
  • Black/African American: 2 recipients (2%)
  • American Indian/Alaska Native: 8 recipients (7%)
  • Other: 1 recipient (.1%)
  • Decline to state: 8 recipients (7%)

2020 awards by county of residence within scholarship service area are:

  • Los Alamos County: 15 recipients, $100,000
  • Mora County: 2 recipients, $16,000
  • Rio Arriba County: 19 recipients, $71,5000
  • San Miguel County: 5 recipients, $51,000
  • Sandoval County: 7 recipients, $78,000
  • Santa Fe County: 44 recipients, $308,000
  • Taos County: 18 recipients, $116,500

Giving to Scholarships

The scholarship program and funds are managed and administered by the nonprofit LANL Foundation. Award selections, student outreach and programmatic support are provided by an advisory committee of volunteer donors.

Laboratory fundraising efforts are led by the LANL Community Partnerships Office. The annual scholarship fundraising campaign will be conducted in May 2020. Lab employees may donate year-round to a variety of funds through the LANL Giving Tool.

LANL Foundation also accepts direct contributions at and assists donors in creating individual endowed awards with defined selections criteria upon request.

Since 1999, Northern New Mexico students have been awarded 1,915 scholarships totaling more than $8.5 million from LAESF, over $5 million of which came directly from LANL employees.

For more information, contact Mike Ammerman at or 505.753.8890 ext. 115.

Complete list of additional scholarship recipients.

Three students received $15,000 Silver Scholarships:

  • Cambria Barnes, Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School
  • Lexy Lujan, Española Valley High School
  • Aaron Ortiz, Pecos High School

Four students received $10,000 Copper Scholarships:

  • Valeria Cera Primero, The Academy for Technology and the Classics
  • Tenzin Gendun, Capital High School
  • Nialo Kinney, Taos High School
  • Thaddeus White, The MASTERS Program

Senator Pete Domenici Scholarships, named after the late U.S. Senator (R-N.M.), are $10,000 awards given to one recipient from each of the seven counties served by the scholarship program. Recipients of the Domenici Scholarships are: Evan Chilton-Garcia, Taos High School (Taos County).