Governor Hosts Panel Discussion On STEM And Showing Of ‘Oppenheimer’

Members of the panel discussion team for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s STEM event Thursday at SALA were: from left, Ellie Gilbertson, the Governor, Sara Scott, Tina Cordova and Asher Stephens. Photo by Maire O’Neill/

Gov, Michelle Lujan Grisham arrives Thursday afternoon at SALA Event Center in Los Alamos. Photo by Maire O’Neill/

UNM-LA student Asher Stephens takes a selfie of himself and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham Thursday afternoon a SALA Event Center. Stephens and the Governor were on a panel that discussed the importance of STEM and its contributions to the Manhattan Project. Photo by Maire O’Neill/


Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday hosted a panel discussion and screening of the film “Oppenheimer” at the SALA Event Center in Los Alamos. The event was attended by high school and college students, area public officials and officials from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The hour-long discussion focused on the importance of STEM education and its contributions to the Manhattan Project, the continued impacts of the Project, and the critical role New Mexico continues to play in science, technology and innovation. Former Los Alamos County Councilor and LANL retiree Sara Scott moderated the panel discussion. She was joined by the Governor, Sarah (Ellie) Gilbertson, Deputy Manager of the Department of Energy Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office, Tina Cordova, Co-Founder of the Tularosa Downwinders Consortium and UNM-LA student Asher Stephens.

The Governor told the students that she was born in Los Alamos where her father worked at the hospital, not directly for the Lab. She noted that that was the experience of the families who were moving to Los Alamos in the very late 50s and late 60s when it became an open community. She said the purpose of the event was for her three-fold.

“I haven’t seen the movie so I’m hoping that a bunch of you have not seen the movie and will be inspired to do right by all the opportunities that present themselves either because we’re trying to solve a particular problem or research is advancing, Gov. Lujan Grisham said.

She said New Mexico for a long time hasn’t seen the benefits of New Mexico kids excelling as young adults in science, technology, engineering and math but yet the talent that was here was remarkable.

“Making sure that that talent is identified, is promoted, is supported in each of our schools and the real experience, is particularly important. The nation has five national labs – we have two of them. To really think about ways to engage more directly as interns and apprentices and to make sure the Labs continue their effective roles as mentors. I think we can do more,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said.

Secondly she noted that engaging more young people in STEM leads to many more really sound economic development strategies also solving huge problems.

“We’re seeing national security being an issue again. We know that we need the next generation in nuclear medicine. I will tell you without a doubt we know that this science and technology will help us attenuate or completely eradicate the consequences of climate change based on all that we have accomplished like some of the energy issues we have in the state,” the Governor said. “Our state is leading the country in renewables and green energy but also as the second largest oil and gas producer in the country. That leads to the third issue. There are always consequences and deploying and developing any number of strategies, policies or scientific research and we need to strike much better balances as a world about how we train our researchers, scientists and workers to really begin to explore the ethics and the sense of community, our moral responsibilities as humans to the planet, the globe and each other as we’re engaging in any number of these technical efforts.”

She said it doesn’t need to all be nuclear.

“We’re going to be exposed to artificial intelligence that is going to possess for a health care professional any number of incredible opportunities to prevent or cure those who are still waiting to get diagnoses. AI will also present any number of ethical and very difficult challenges, not the least of which is protecting each other from some of those consequences. This is important for me to engage New Mexicans to be the best at those balances, not just in the state or in the the country but to be identified as real leaders in those balances around the world,” the Governor said.

Allan Saenz, co-owner of SALA Event Center, right, chats with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham about plans for the next stage of the renovation of the facility and his application for a Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) grant for the project. Photo by Maire O’Neill/

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, second from left, addresses students gathered for a panel discussion on STEM Thursday afternoon beneath a back drop of the movie poster for ‘Oppenheimer’. Photo by Maire O’Neill/