From an early age, Althea Denlinger knew that she wanted to learn more about computers. She loved playing computer games and wondered about how they work. She and her brother built a desktop together at home.
After moving to Los Alamos from Pittsburgh, Denlinger worked at Hot Rocks Café and made the effort to talk with the computer scientists that came in as customers. She got to know a few, asked them questions, and was inspired to hear about the work that they were doing at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).
After earning a New Mexico High School Equivalency Diploma in 2019, Denlinger enrolled in the Associate of Science in Computer Science program at UNM-Los Alamos (UNM-LA). She is now preparing to earn the Associate Degree at UNM-LA and then transitioning in the Fall to the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science Program through the UNM College of Engineering. She also will be participating in the UNM Critical Technologies Studies Program that develops students for national security careers.
In February of this year, N3B announced the availability of the Danny Nichols Memorial Scholarship developed in conjunction with parent companies, Huntington Ingalls Industries and BWXT, and partners Longenecker & Associates and Tetra Tech. The scholarship was established to attract talented students into the energy, environmental, and radioactive waste management industry.
Qualifying students were contacted and encouraged to apply. Denlinger was selected to receive the $8,000 award that she will use to cover educational expenses as she continues to take classes. As part of the scholarship program, Denlinger participated in the annual Waste Management Symposia International Conference to receive a better understanding of the cleanup industry and discuss safe and environmentally responsible ways to manage global radioactive waste.
Denlinger recently accepted a position at LANL where she will be working with the Theoretical Division on Project E3SM (Energy Exascale Earth System Model). The project combines ocean modeling with computer programming and parallel scripting to support research. For Denlinger, this will be the ideal combination of the computer science work that she loves and her recently discovered interest in environmental science.
Reflecting on her experiences at UNM-LA, Denlinger said, “So many of my STEM classes were taught by women scientists. Dr. Joan Lucas and Dr. Nicole Lloyd-Ronning, and others, were role models for me and made me feel encouraged and supported.”
Denlinger’s non-traditional path to college came with financial challenges and a learning curve for understanding the college culture. She received guidance from the staff in the Student Services Department and considers them a supportive family.
“It was especially beneficial to have, Jenny Duran, UNM-LA Financial Aid Officer, help me figure it all out. She and the advisors reached out to help keep me moving forward,” Denlinger said.
In addition to the Danny Nichols Memorial Scholarship, it was recently announced that Denlinger earned scholarships from the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation including the Bronze Scholarship worth $6,000 and the LANL Workforce Retiree Scholarship worth $1,000.
When asked about her motivation, she said, “Others have inspired me by saying you can do this and I’m here to support you. I hope that other students will have the courage to study STEM fields, apply for scholarships, and find the helpers in their lives.”
N3B manages the 10-year, $1.4 billion Los Alamos Legacy Cleanup Contract for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office. N3B is owned by HII Nuclear, a subsidiary of Huntington Ingalls Industries and BWX Technologies. Longenecker and Tetra Tech are key subcontractors to N3B.
UNM-Los Alamos is an innovative, rigorous, and affordable comprehensive branch community college that provides foundations for transfer, leading-edge career programs, and lifelong learning opportunities. More information about UNM-LA is available at losalamos.unm.edu.