Argonne National Laboratory

Argonne’s Hispanic-Latino Club gives back

By Kate ThackreyJune 21, 2016

The Hispanic-Latino Employee Resource Group at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory awarded $5,100 in scholarships to students from junior high to university levels this spring. This brings the total amount of scholarships awarded since 2011 up to $25,800.

The scholarships serve to help students with excellent grades and work ethic to pay for registration fees and tuition.

Eighth graders moving into high school don't need to express an interest in the sciences, but the scholarships go to high schoolers and university students who are pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors.

"With the scholarships, maybe we can spark an interest in the STEM fields and plant the Argonne name with them, their schools and their communities."

Michael Kaminski, leader of the Nuclear Decontamination and Separations section in Argonne's Nuclear Engineering Division, has been the club's president since the inception of these scholarships.

"We're looking for very bright students who have a tremendous amount of drive," Kaminski said. "These kids make up their minds about what they want to do early on. With the scholarships, maybe we can spark an interest in the STEM fields and plant the Argonne name with them, their schools and their communities."

Students were chosen for the scholarships from middle and high schools in Joliet, Illinois, the United Neighborhood Organization charter school network in Chicago and the University of Illinois.

One of the scholarship recipients was Elena Montoto, 23, a third-year graduate student from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"I have always had an interest in science since I was very young, and fell in love with chemistry, specifically during my undergraduate studies," Montoto, who studies materials chemistry, said. "I did not know about the Hispanic-Latino Club at Argonne before the scholarship, so I was happy to find out that there are organizations for minorities at national labs."

Montoto currently works with Argonne's Joint Center for Energy Storage Research through her graduate program to study redox active polymers, which can be used for energy storage applications such as batteries.

The Hispanic-Latino Club funds scholarships mostly through tamale sales hosted several times a year, where members sell between 100 and 200 dozen tamales.

Kaminski said he established the scholarships starting in 2010 because receiving scholarships was an important part of his own education experience.

"My annual scholarship was just a check with a letter, but I remember loving it," Kaminski said. "It was motivating and I was very thankful that they recognized me, and I've always wanted to do the same type of thing to support students."

He said the club hopes to establish more scholarships in the future.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit the Office of Science website.