For Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re visiting with three Battelle Solvers for their views on the celebration.
My name is Justin Sanchez, I’m a Battelle Technical Fellow, I’m three-quarters Italian and one-quarter Hispanic. Three words I’d use to describe myself are Intense, precise, positive. I might be a robot.
First, we’re all Americans. I think that gets lost in celebrating culture. We’re all on the same team and that’s important for our prosperity as a whole. Our backgrounds shape us in different ways, and they frame our approach. We’re not all cut from the same cloth. This mixture of heritage has made us a stronger country.
Many of us have similar background stories—your people came to this country with eight dollars in their pocket and a drive to improve on our ancestors. It’s what makes this country great. It’s part of who I am. It’s not OK to be mediocre and that applies to science and your personal life. I think a lot of European cultures have that. It’s a good thing. It’s to be celebrated.
I believe Hispanic communities are built around hard work and the desire to get better than we are today. Several people inspired me during my career, including a man from Mauritius off the coast of Africa. It was early in my career and I wasn’t as precise as I am today. He forced me to be more precise. He made me think about being deliberate and directive to what I was doing. It really made an impression on the way I do science.
Another was my PhD advisor, a man from Portugal. I was working on a blended degree of neuroscience, AI, signal processing and brain-machine interfaces before they were a thing. He said, “I applaud your desire to do these things, but when you walk into a room, what are people going to know you as?” One’s expertise is important in science. People have to know they can trust you and know your core contributions. You won’t get the impact you want if you’re just a jack of all trades. It’s important to have a center. Being really good in an area is important in science.
Today, at Battelle, I know science that impacts society in a positive way is the best. It brings meaning to your life in a way that other things don’t. There are very few places in the world that do science the way we do. We take risks on high-impact science, but in a strategic way to fund us so we can give it to STEM education. Pure for-profit companies make a lot of money, but it’s not a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I get out of bed to make a positive impact in the world, to know I’ve been useful on this planet.
Alejandra (Ale) Santiago Torres
My name is Alejandra (Ale) Santiago Torres (she, her) and I am a Subsurface Scientist at Battelle. Three words I would use to describe myself are caring, selfless, thoughtful (sneaking in a 4th 😊, adventurer).
I value working at Battelle, and specifically Battelle Carbon Services, because it provides me the opportunity to have a meaningful impact in efforts towards mitigating climate change. While growing up in Puerto Rico, I saw the effects of rising ocean temperatures and stronger storms which has made me passionate about doing everything I can to help create a better future. I strongly align with Battelle’s mission, and it has been very rewarding working for a company that reflects my values.
After spending six years outside of Puerto Rico, it can be easy to fall into day-to-day routines and not think critically about certain aspects of my life, such as identity and how I present myself to others. This has changed significantly for me after moving to the mainland United States. At this stage of my life, Hispanic Heritage month serves as a reminder of who I am, where I come from, and it poses a moment for self-reflection for who I want to be in the future.
My name is Xiomara Manuel, my pronouns are she, hers, hers and I’m a subcontracts manager. I’ve been at Battelle for 31 years. Three words I would use to describe myself are kind, helpful and resilient.
When I came to Battelle originally, I was a contractor to work on a program for the U.S. Department of Energy and I did that for eight years. What drove me to stay at Battelle was mainly the people; Battelle’s mission of using science for the betterment of society and the organization’s reputation as one of the best employers in the area.
For me, the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month means an opportunity for the appreciation of the culture and to be connected with my heritage. It also allows others to learn and experience the Hispanic culture. You do not have to travel to other countries for the experience—you can learn right here at home.