National Nuclear Security Administration

NNSA Hidden Talents: Donald Sandoval

February 4, 2019

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Los Alamos Lab Engineer Donald Sandoval with his loom.
Los Alamos Lab Engineer Donald Sandoval with his loom.
Los Alamos Lab Engineer Donald Sandoval with his loom.
Sandoval at his desk.

Being part of the Nuclear Security Enterprise takes skill, smarts, and determination. From research scientists developing innovative new technologies to administrative professionals organizing day-to-day operations, it’s no surprise that our workforce is filled with impressive people. What some members of the NNSA family accomplish in their spare time, however, is truly unexpected.

Donald Sandoval is a mechanical engineer for Los Alamos National Laboratory’s historic nuclear weapon program. He is currently focused on the W88 Alt 370 program, contributing directly to the security of our Nation. He also has a hidden talent.

What is your hidden talent?

I’m a fifth-generation weaver. It wasn’t until my first year of graduate school that I discovered the involvement of my family in the arts. I learned that my grandmother had been a weaver and my own father built weaving looms.

Excited by these revelations, I began to spend my spend summers in New Mexico learning how to weave on the loom and dye my own wool with naturally made pigments. With my father’s help, I learned the basics and from there it was just practice to gain experience. And now I am teaching my youngest daughter how to weave so that she can carry on the tradition.

What have you done with your talent?

I’m known at the Santa Fe Spanish Market for tapestries with bold colors and design elements grounded in tradition but also with a modern flair. I’ve participated in the annual Spanish Market since 1994, won awards, and sold various pieces to museums that span from El Rancho de las Golondrinas in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to England. 

How does your talent relate to your day job?

It’s about patterns. Rather than think in terms of pure mathematics, I am able to touch upon the creative side of problem solving. I then use that side of my thinking process and apply it to any technical challenges at work. I usually analyze the technical patterns from a creative perspective and that in turn helps me come to a creative yet science-based solution.