Sandia National Laboratories MHK, biofouling researcher receives award

Bernadette A. Hernandez-Sanchez, Ph.D., a chemist, is the first female researcher from Sandia National Laboratories to receive the Outstanding Technical Achievement award from Great Minds in STEM. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

Bernadette A. Hernandez-Sanchez, Ph.D., is a chemist and now the first female researcher from Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia) to receive the Outstanding Technical Achievement award from Great Minds in STEM.

Great Minds in STEM is an organization supporting careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Hernandez-Sanchez received the award during the 28th Annual Hispanic Engineering National Achievement Awards Conference (HENAAC) held Oct. 5-9 in Anaheim, Calif. The HENAAC honors Hispanic researchers who have made significant contributions to the nation’s technical community.

Hernandez-Sanchez is the project lead for Sandia’s Advanced Materials program and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Marine and Hydrokinetic Technology Database. According to Sandia, “The Advanced Materials program focuses on understanding the properties and performance of materials and coatings being investigated for potential marine hydrokinetic (MHK) and ocean thermal energy conversion technologies as well as developing novel anti-biofouling and anti-corrosion coatings.”

The nano-engineered copper-silver coatings Hernandez-Sanchez is developing are real-world applications meant to prevent microorganisms from growing on underwater equipment. The award winning researcher said the coatings come from techniques she has spent more than 10 years developing in Sandia’s Advanced Materials Laboratory.

In addition, she has contributed to Sandia’s NanoCRISPR genetics project, the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program, and to improving the chemistry of lithium-ion batteries and ferroelectric perovskite materials. According to Nature, ferroelectric materials are characterized by a switchable macroscopic polarization. Most technologically important ferroelectrics are oxides with a perovskite structure – any material with the same type of crystal structure as calcium titanium oxide (CaTiO3).

Alongside her technical work, Hernandez-Sanchez has mentored more than 50 interns in her lab, many of whom have gone on to pursue graduate degrees in chemistry, according to Sandia.

In addition to mentoring undergrads, Hernandez-Sanchez works with underrepresented elementary and middle school students to get them excited about science. She is the co-creator of CSI: Dognapping – a lively, interactive workshop that shows kids the fun in science. The program has reached 5,000 local students and was honored by the American Chemical Society with the 2015 ChemLuminary award for Outstanding Kids & Chemistry.

Hernandez-Sanchez earned her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from New Mexico Tech and her Ph.D. in Solid State Inorganic Chemistry from Colorado State University. She has published 28 technical papers and is listed as a member of two separate teams of inventors that have each been awarded a U.S. patent.

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