Researcher Sandra Begay recently received a Women in Technology Award from the New Mexico Technology Council.

Sandra Begay recognized for her work and advocacy

July 19, 2021 8:00 am Published by

For many achievements in research, mentorship and community impact, the New Mexico Technology Council celebrated researcher Sandra Begay with a Women in Technology Award.

“I’m very honored to receive the Women in Technology award in my home state, and I appreciate the acknowledgement of my Sandia tribal energy work,” Sandra said.

According to the New Mexico Technology Council website, the annual awards recognize women who represent a variety of STEM industries and show exemplary commitment to mentorship and community impact. Sandra was selected as one of six Women in Technology honorees out of a pool of 49 nominations and 24 applications. An additional Emerging Leader Award was presented by the council for the first time this year.

Work with U.S. tribes, Indigenous interns drives engineer’s research

Sandra has been a Sandia engineer working primarily on renewable energy development for 29 years, many of them dedicated to positively impacting U.S. tribes. Nearly two decades ago, Sandra began providing technical assistance to the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, which received federal funding to begin a program focused on a photovoltaic solar electric system for residential customers who were not connected to the electrical grid. With federal sponsorship, she was able to provide technical assistance to more than 15 U.S. tribes for 16 years.

“Sandra Begay’s impact at Sandia, in New Mexico and throughout the nation is incredible,” said Senior Manager of Business Development Mary Monson. “When our team discussed who to nominate for the Women in Technology Award, Sandra stood out because she uses research and technology to change lives. She is a trailblazer in renewable energy development in addition to being a leader to students and young professionals working to build careers in science.”

Sandra, a member of the Navajo Nation, mentored Indigenous Sandia interns through a program she created that was sponsored by Sandia and the Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy.

“Pride is an understatement when reflecting on my time with my former interns,” she said. “I keep track of their accomplishments and celebrate all of their endeavors. I started my tribal energy work with one Native woman intern and grew the program to mentor more than 40 interns since 2002.”

As one of only 13,000 U.S. Native American women engineers (0.007% of all engineers), Sandra understands the unique challenges Indigenous STEM students face and has recommended systemic change in education programs to help the American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

As part of the Sandia internship program, students spent summers working on Indian energy projects and research. Each year, field visits to tribal lands enabled the interns to learn about and help solve real-world technical problems.

“I’m happy that a few interns were hired by Sandia,” she said. “All are leaders in renewable energy academic studies, in nonprofit work and in tribal projects. I feel that I provided a steppingstone of a real tribal project, in real time, which complemented the interns’ academic studies.”

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Learn more about renewable energy technology development and programs at Sandia.

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