Alyssa Aguilar, a student at Northern New Mexico College, along with Daniel Tafoya and Jimmy Wheeler, both students at University of New Mexico-Los Alamos, were each awarded a $9,000 Danny Nichols and Dennis Huddleston Memorial Scholarship by N3B Los Alamos in late February.

N3B and its parent companies, Huntington Ingalls Industries and BWXT Technologies (BWXT), along with critical subcontractor partners Longenecker & Associates and Tetra Tech, established the Danny Nichols and Dennis Huddleston Memorial Scholarship to attract talented students into the environmental remediation, radioactive waste management and energy industries.

N3B addresses environmental impacts from Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Manhattan Project- and Cold War-era operations for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office.

“I am always thrilled to see this scholarship awarded to deserving students, as it often helps them launch professional careers near their colleges and hometowns,” said N3B President Kim Lebak. “A strong, talented workforce is essential to properly and safely perform this type of specialized work, so we are more than happy to provide this scholarship opportunity.”

Winning students

Alyssa Aguilar, a sophomore at Northern New Mexico College, is pursuing an associate’s degree in radiation protection and a bachelor’s in environmental science. She looks forward to being part of the diverse cleanup efforts at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“My passion for a cleaner, safer environment has presented me with an opportunity to make a difference,” Aguilar said.

Daniel Tafoya, a student at UNM-Los Alamos seeking an associate’s degree in applied sciences, is a tribal member and resident of Santa Clara Pueblo, where he has served as an active volunteer on the Santa Clara Pueblo Fire Department since 2011. He has also worked in the Special Projects and Safety of Dam program, where he has “gained a broad view of environmental and radioactive waste management.”

Jimmy Wheeler is pursuing a mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree and a certificate in welding at UNM-Los Alamos. He said he has always liked the duo challenge of mechanical engineering – designing the parts – and then welding the pieces together. He enjoys learning about proper selection of metal materials in welding followed by safe disposal “to keep the environment safe and clean.”

Scholarship details

The Danny Nichols and Dennis Huddleston Memorial Scholarship seeks students pursuing STEM degrees and is designed to support students at UNM-Los Alamos and Northern New Mexico College who have completed at least 15 credit hours and have a minimum GPA of 3.3. Qualified applicants submitted brief essays about their background and interests.

In addition to a $9,000 unrestricted scholarship, awardees this year were offered the opportunity to attend the Waste Management Symposia 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona, to learn more about the field and to be formally acknowledged.

Previous scholarship recipients were Aaliyah Sandoval, Andrew Ortiz and Reyes Roybal for 2020, and Sheena Lewis, Belen Huerta and Althea Denlinger for 2021.

Memorial tribute

The annual Danny Nichols and Dennis Huddleston Memorial Scholarship honors the lives of longtime environmental professionals Danny Nichols and Dennis Huddleston.

Nichols worked for more than 30 years managing hazardous and radioactive waste disposition operations. He was manager of N3B’s Contact-handled Transuranic Waste Program and a respected leader within BWXT. He was well-known for his good nature, expertise and willingness to invest in his colleagues.

Dennis Huddleston worked for BWXT and other DOE contractors, coordinating complex environmental management programs at sites such as Hanford, Pantex, Rocky Flats and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. He was known for his expertise in addressing difficult technical challenges, as well as his ability to provide strong leadership in times of stress and uncertainty.

Jimmy Wheeler

Daniel Tafoya

Alyssa Aguilar