Photo and story courtesy Los Alamos National Laboratory
When Veronica Trujillo was a child, her father—a mechanical engineer—taught her physics and calculus using his old college textbooks, which filled an entire bookshelf in their house. “He’s one of the people who interested me in STEM,” Veronica says. “I took almost all the available math and science classes in high school.”
When Veronica’s father passed away in 2015 after a battle with colon cancer, she felt “empty” for many months. “However, his struggles taught me I must never give up in the face of adversity,” she says. “I must continue to work hard to fulfill my passions.”
Which is exactly what Veronica, a 2018 graduate of Española Valley High School, is doing. Since eighth grade, she’s been involved with the MESA (Math, Engineering, Science Achievement) program.
She recently designed a prosthetic arm using tongs, a Pringles can, and fishing line attached to a motor on a timer. “The arm would open and close every five seconds,” she explains. “My team won first place in the regional competition.”
In August, Veronica will be a freshman at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. There, she plans to study electrical engineering. “The thrill of making something come to life using only wires and software has always intrigued me,” she says.
Veronica is able to attend college largely due to a $10,000 Domenici scholarship from Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund (LAESF) which she was awarded in April.
“I didn’t think I had gotten the scholarship because I knew [the LANL Foundation] had been calling people,” she remembers. “They called at night, and I was so ecstatic.”
Veronica’s mother is also thrilled, but the realization that Veronica is heading on to college has been tough. Veronica is the youngest of three siblings, and now their mom will be alone on the family’s farm in Velarde.
Likewise, Veronica’s 87-year-old grandmother will be without a caretaker. “She’s wheelchair bound,” Veronica explains. “I spend most of my time helping her around the house, making meals, taking her to the bathroom, laying her down.”
Veronica will likely be back for a visit this fall, however. Every year, she helps replaster the San Pedro Chapel in Chamita.
“We have to do it annually because the rain water erodes the mud-and-straw plaster,” Veronica explains. “It takes a couple days—it’s a community effort.”