The awards, instituted in 2004 in honor of the late Dr. Teller, renowned physicist and Lab co-founder, are given annually by the Laboratory to graduating seniors who excel in science studies.
This year's award winners from the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District are Rachel Sowa from Livermore High School and Maryann Gong from Granada High School. The Tracy Unified School District winners are Maxwell Gibbard of West High School, Jonathan Wong of Tracy High School and Pastor Villagomez of Kimball High School. Each receives a scholarship of $1,000 toward a college education.
Sowa is interested in the physics of musical instruments, acoustics and sound. In fact, she made a musical instrument herself in the physics classroom. She received all A's in science courses and has been part of the Green Engineering Academy, a California Partnership Academy. She plans to go to UC Santa Barbara, College of Creative Studies, where she will major in computer science.
Gong excelled in all areas of study, especially science and math. She took nine science classes during her four years at Granada, and completed the Biotechnology Pathway, a program that prepares students for higher education and careers in biotechnology-related fields. She entered research projects in the Alameda County Science Fair two years running, earning awards both years.
In addition, she was captain of the Granada High School Science Bowl team in her junior and senior years. She will be attending MIT in the fall with plans to further her passion for science and engineering.
Gibbard is an honors graduate of the West High School Space & Engineering Academy, where he completed five years of science and four years of mathematics, including the most advanced science and math courses offered there. He was an active member of the school's robotics club during his four years. He participated in after-school programs and designed, built, programmed, and tested robots for regional competitions. He has been the club president the past two years. This year he took his team to the Robotics World Championships. In addition to robotics competitions, he ran robotics activities at several elementary school science nights each year. He will attend UCLA this fall, where he is considering a major in either physics or engineering.
Wong has earned straight A's in all of his classes from freshmen to senior year. He also has been active on the Academic Decathlon team at Tracy High, earning medals at the county level both junior and senior year, and at the state level his junior year. In addition to his academic achievements, he participates in the Boy Scouts. For his Eagle Scout project, he raised funds to upgrade the computers in the science department. In the fall, Wong will pursue a degree in either chemistry or bio-chemistry at UC Berkeley.
Villagomez has been active in Health Occupation Students of America for the past two years and competed at the state leadership competition in Sacramento in March where he was a finalist in creative problem solving. He also was a finalist in the National Chemistry Olympiad Competition this year. He will attend the University of Southern California with a double major of chemistry and physics and plans to pursue a career advancing knowledge of the physical properties of the natural world.
Richard Farnsworth, Nadine Horner, Linda Lucchetti and Scott Wilson of LLNL presented the awards to the students at the high schools' awards ceremonies.