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LGBTQIA+ Folk in STEAM (part 2)

This is the second part of a two part series celebrating LGBTQIA+ folks in the STEAM fields. The first part discusses the importance of diversity and history of exclusion. This part will honor the people in the fields.

In honor of Pride Month*, the Los Alamos STEAM Lab would like to recognize a few of the countless LGBTQ+ scientists and innovators that have aided in the advancement of numerous STEM fields. 

* Yes, we know that was soooo last month. Luckily, we celebrate diversity every day!

Sally Ride (1951-2012)

  • Astronaut, physicist, engineer, and professor. Known as the first LGBTQ+ astronaut, youngest American to have flown in space, and first American woman in space. 

Allan Cox (1926-1987)

  • American geophysicist and specialist in paleomagnetism. Instrumental in developing a way to measure the changes in the earth’s geomagnetic alignment and polarity. His work enabled testing of the seafloor spreading hypothesis which gave some of the first credible evidence to the theory of plate tectonics. 

Alan Hart (1890-1962)

  • American medical doctor, radiologist, author, and pioneer of tuberculosis research and screening. Developed x-ray photography to detect tuberculosis and implemented screenings that saved many lives.

Lynn Conway

  • American electrical engineer, inventor, systems architect, transgender activist, professor, and computer scientist credited with the invention of generalized dynamic instruction handling used by most modern computer processors to improve performance. Also known for the Mead-Conway VLSO chip design revolution that greatly simplified the design and fabrication of complex microchips allowing for the rush of high-tech startups in the 80s and 90s. 

Angela Clayton (1959-2014)

  • British physicist and trans rights advocate known internationally for her work in the fields of nuclear criticality safety and health physics. Former Head of Criticality Safety at the Atomic Weapons Establishment and chairperson of UK Working Party on Criticality among other achievements. 

Ben Barres (1954-2017)

  • Neurobiologist and researcher credited with numerous landmark discoveries including the identification of glial-derived factors that promote the formation of neuronal synapses and the characterization of signals that induce the formation of myelin sheaths. His pioneering work revolutionized the field of neuroscience and he was the first openly trans man recognized by the prestigious National Academy of Science. 

Peter Thiel 

  • German-American entrepreneur, co-founder of PayPal, and first outside investor in Facebook. Involved as a founder, investor, and developer of many innovative technology companies such as Tesla Motors, LinkedIn, SpaceX, Yelp, and YouTube. 

Neil Divine (1939- 1994)

  • American astrophysicist and major contributor to the modern theory of star formation. His research helped identify numerous interplanetary bodies and radiation belts as well as expanded our fundamental understanding of the complex environments space probes might face. 

Josephine Baker (1873-1945)

  • American physician and public health pioneer who made numerous significant contributions in the areas of public health and child welfare. She was the first woman to receive a doctorate in public health and organized the first child hygiene department under government control in New York City, leading to the lowest infant mortality rate in any American or European city during the early 1900s. She was also instrumental in identifying “Typhoid Mary” amidst the New York typhoid fever epidemic. 

Martine Rothblatt 

  • American lawyer, author, entrepreneur, transgender rights advocate, and biotechnologist. Creator of Sirius XM satellite radio, founder of biotech pioneer United Therapeutics, and former CEO of the satellite-focused company GeoStar. 

Jon Hall 

Karissa Sanbonmatsu 

  • American structural biologist and principal investigator at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Credited with performing the first atomistic simulation of the ribosome. Determined the secondary structure of an intact IncRNA and published a one billion atom simulation of a biomolecular complex. Influential in the advancements in the understanding of epigenetics and use of computer simulations to understand RNA and DNA mechanisms. 

Jim Pollack (1938-1994)

  • American astrophysicist, a senior space research scientist at NASA, and world-renowned expert in the study of planetary atmospheres and particulates. First graduate student of astronomer and science popularizer Carl Sagan. His later work in the evolutionary climate change of terrestrial planets and evolutions of giant gas planets led to many advances in the understanding of our solar system. 

Clyde Wahrhaftig (1919-1994)

  • American geologist and professor who worked for the United States Geological Survey and made significant scientific contributions to the field of geology. One of the first scientists to bring the role of plate tectonics in causing earthquakes to public awareness. Pioneer in applying geological sciences to environmental problems with a particular focus on forest management practices and lifelong advocate for public transportation and inclusivity in STEM. 

Sofya Kovalevskaya (1850-1891)

  • Russian mathematician and developer of Kovalevsky’s Theorem that made numerous noteworthy contributions to the fields of mathematical analysis, partial differential equations, and mechanics. First woman to obtain a doctorate in mathematics, be appointed to a full professorship position, and work as an editor in a major scientific journal. 

Margaret Mead (1901-1978)

  • American anthropologist, psychologist, and author. Curator of Ethnology at the American Museum of natural history and former President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Credited with changing the way different human cultures are studied and her efforts to apply the principles of anthropology and the social sciences to societal problems and issues such as world hunger, childhood education, and mental health. Her pioneering work on sexuality, culture, and childrearing continues to be influential today. 

Louise Pearce (1885-1959)

  • American physician and pathologist at the Rockefeller Institute who helped develop tryparsamide, a treatment for trypanosomiasis (also known as African sleeping sickness). Her research led to many profound discoveries and treatments related to syphilis, infection resistance, cancer, immune reaction, and hereditary diseases. 

Bruce Voeller (1934-1994) 

  • American biologist, pioneering AIDS researcher, professor, gay rights advocate, and founder of the Mariposa Foundation who pioneered the use of the topical virus-transmission preventative serums and research the spread and prevention of various diseases. Credited with coining the term “acquired immune deficiency syndrome” (AIDS).

Alan Turing (1912-1954)

  • British mathematician, cryptanalyst, logician, philosopher, theoretical biologist, inventor of the Enigma machine, and father of modern computer science. His role in deciphering German military code contributed to the Allied victory in WWII. Credited with creating the theoretical framework and design for the earliest modern computer and provided formalization of the concepts of algorithm and computation with the Turing machine. 

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946)

  • English economist, journalist, and financier whose ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments. Recognized as one of the most influential economists of the 20th century whose ideas are the basis for Keynesian economics and its offshoots. 

Frank Kameny (1925-2011)

  • American astronomer, politician, military personnel, and gay rights activist referred to as “one of the most significant figures” in the American  LGBTQ+ rights movement. Conducted photometric studies of variable stars and worked as an astronomer with the Army Map Service before being fired and denied the opportunity to continue his astronomy research by the federal government due to his sexuality. 

Jessica Esquivel

  • Physicist, data analyst, science communicator, and advocate for diversity and inclusivity in STEM. Her research focuses on developing and applying machine learning models to improve data analysis in particle physics experiments and she is currently working at the Fermilab on experiments to test the current theories of the standard model of particle physics by measuring the anomalous magnetic dipole moment of muon particles. 

Alexander Von Humboldt (1769 – 1859)


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LGBTQIA+ Folk in STEAM (part 1)

by JoAnna O’Neill

This is the first part of a two part series celebrating LGBTQIA+ folks in the STEAM fields. This part discusses the importance of diversity and history of exclusion. Part two will honor the people in the fields.

In honor of Pride Month*, the Los Alamos STEAM Lab would like to recognize a few of the countless LGBTQ+ scientists and innovators that have aided in the advancement of numerous STEM fields. 

* Yes, we know that was soooo last month. Luckily, we celebrate diversity every day!

The term “LGBTQ+” encompasses a wide range of identities including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning and the plus symbol acknowledges groups in the community that aren’t included in the short initialism, including intersex, pansexual, asexual, non-binary, and two-spirit individuals alongside other identities. Queer is an umbrella term that is commonly used to describe sexual orientation or gender identities that fall outside the heterosexual mainstream or the idea of a gender binary.

The word queer can also be used to describe the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, but it is important to note that although widely reclaimed, “queer” has historically been used as a slur and may still be offensive to some people and therefore should be used with caution. For an in-depth guide to the terminology surrounding gender identity and sexual orientation as well as LGBTQ+ history, resources, and more, please refer to the GLAAD Media Reference Guide:

When discussing historical LGBTQ+ figures, it can be difficult to describe them using modern terminology found within the community today. LGBTQ+ individuals in past decades or centuries likely lacked the proper labels to describe themselves and/or may not have openly used them for fear of ostracization, imprisonment, or violence in the society they lived in. As homophobia and gender discrimination continue to run rampant in our society, the fear of retaliation is, unfortunately, something that many LGBTQ+ individuals face today. This heartbreaking reality has resulted in countless individuals (both historically and present) keeping their identities private.

All of the living scientists and innovators listed in the second part of this article have come out publicly as queer. Many of the historical mentions were confirmed as LGBTQ+ during their lifetime or after their passing while others have strong historical evidence supporting the speculation that they did not align a gender binary or the heterosexual mainstream and were therefore likely LGBTQ+. 

Visibility and acceptance of LGBTQ+ people in STEM fields is something that is historically lacking. Within academic and professional environments, LGBTQ+ experience horrifically high rates of exclusion, harassment, assault, and discrimination as represented in the following statistics: 

Diversity is an incredibly important factor within STEM as it allows people from different backgrounds and walks of life to make decisions about how to investigate the world around us. Increased diversity comes hand in hand with a more complete picture of the world and ultimately aids in the process of scientific discovery and understanding. Negative attitudes and other harmful biases create barriers to opportunity, produce unwelcoming environments that disadvantage LGBTQ+ people, and ultimately prevent the advancement of all fields both scientific and otherwise.

Education and representation are key to gaining a better understanding of the challenges and hardships faced by the LGBTQ+ community. It is key that LGBTQ+ individuals and their communities receive support from colleagues, classmates, and peers as they work to make STEM (alongside other fields) more diverse, accepting, and equitable. Simply being an active bystander that speaks up against the negative or discriminatory actions or behaviors of others can go a long way. 

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Introduction to Weather Science

An adventure in STEM and brought to you by Family Strengths Network and the Los Alamos STEAM Lab – credit JoAnna O’Neill


Most days when you look up into the sky you can see a variety of different types of clouds.  Even when we can’t see them, clouds affect our daily lives in a number of different ways. Clouds are important components of the complex global weather system and play a key role in Earth’s water cycle. Clouds have dramatic effects on climate and weather and can influence the locations and severity of floods and droughts as well as affect the temperature of the planet as a whole. Gaining a better understanding of clouds allows scientists to better predict severe storms, global freshwater distribution, and the course of climate change. 

How are Clouds Formed? 

Water can exist in three phases (solid, liquid, and gas) and is the primary component of all clouds. The water that makes up clouds can exist in any of its three phases as ice crystals, water droplets, and water vapor. The main source of the water vapor necessary for the initial steps of cloud formation comes from evaporation (the process of turning from a liquid into a gas or vapor) as well as transpiration (the release of water by plants). 

As the sun warms the Earth’s surface, water vapor is introduced into the atmosphere through evaporation from bodies of water such as oceans and lakes,  and transpiration from Earth’s many plants. As warm air rises, it brings water vapor with it. The warmer the air, the more moisture it can hold and the colder the air, the less water vapor it can hold. If the air becomes cold enough, it will reach a state called supersaturation (when more water vapor is present than needed to produce saturation) and some of the water will transition back into a liquid or solid state. Water molecules will form around tiny particles such as dust, pollen or smoke suspended in the atmosphere. These particles are called condensation nuclei and serve as a starting point for the formation of tiny water droplets and ice crystals from water vapor. As this process is repeated billions and billions of times, these newly formed ice crystals and water droplets will clump together to form a visible cloud. Once a cloud becomes large and full enough, it will release the water back down to the Earth as precipitation in the form of rain, snow, sleet, or hail. 

Types of Clouds:

Clouds can have many different characteristics including a wide variety in appearance and atmospheric height. A cloud’s qualities are dictated by the elements available in the direct environment, including the amount of water vapor, temperatures at that altitude, wind, and the interplay of other air masses. Clouds are formally classified by both appearance and height of the cloud base. Information on the 10 basic types of clouds and how they are classified can be found here:

Cloud Facts: 

  • Clouds reflect sunlight but also absorb infrared energy. Reflecting light from the sun is what gives them their typical white appearance. 
  • Clouds appear whiter if the water droplets contained in them are smaller. This happens as the result of more condensation nuclei or aerosols in the clouds. 
  • Clouds can appear gray when they are either very full of water or if there are so many clouds in the area that they are casting shadows on eachother. 
  • The average cumulus fair weather cloud can weigh more than a million pounds and a lively thunderstorm cloud can pack billions to trillions of pounds of water into a tiny fraction of the sky. 
  • In meteorology, the study of clouds is called nephology and a person who studies clouds is known as a nephologist. 
  • A cloud will float as long as the air that the water and air it is made of is warmer than the air surrounding it. 

At Home Experiments 

For local families, supplies can be picked up at Family Strengths Network during June (2021)

Experiment 1: Cloud in a Jar

Video Tutorial: 


  • Glass jar with a metal lid 
  • Hot/boiling water 
  • Ice 
  • Hairspray 


  1. Start by pouring the hot water into the jar carefully until it is about halfway full. Swirl it around to heat up the side of the jar. 
  2. Turn the metal lid upside down and place it on the top opening of the jar. 
  3. Place your ice cubes inside the upside down lid. 
  4. Wait about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  5. Quickly and carefully remove the lid holding the ice cubes and briefly spray hairspray into the jar. 
  6. Immediately replace the lid and ice cubes to seal off the jar opening. 
  7. Observe the cloud form.
  8. Remove the lid to release the cloud when you are ready. Watch as it rises up and disappears into the air outside of the jar. 

How It Works:

This experiment mimics the natural cloud formation process described above. As hot water is added to the jar, some of it turns to its gaseous form, water vapor. As this vapor rises to the top of the jar, it encounters the cold lid filled with ice cubes. Upon contact with the lid, the water vapor condenses as it cools down. However, a cloud will not form unless the water vapor has something to condense to. The hairspray added to the jar serves as the condensation nuclei that allow a cloud to form and become visible within the jar. 

Experiment 2: Rain in a Jar

Video Tutorial: 


  • Glass jar
  • Food coloring drops 
  • Shaving Cream 
  • Room temperature water 


  1. Fill the glass jar about 2/3 of the way full with water.
  2. Fill the rest of the jar with shaving cream to form a fluffy cloud at the top. 
  3. Drip your food coloring onto the shaving cream until the first drops of rain (food coloring) make their way through your cloud (shaving cream) and are released into the water below. 

How it Works: 

In this experiment, the shaving cream serves as a cloud, the water as the atmosphere, and the food coloring as moisture entering the cloud during cloud formation that will eventually leave in the form of precipitation. As the food coloring is dropped into the shaving cream, the shaving cream cloud becomes saturated and mimics how clouds grow and become heavier until they reach a point where they can no longer hold onto that much water. When clouds reach this point, they will release water as rain or other forms of precipitation in a similar way to how the shaving cream releases the food coloring into the water below after enough drops are added.  

Thank you for joining us! 

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Upcoming Camps and Classes

We’ve got some camp offerings up (and adjusted to accommodate K-6+)! They are all half-day, outside, free-form, and run from 8:30 – 12:30. We believe in providing a pretty loose format that allows time for free play. We often find the most fun happens after the kids start saying, “I’m bored.”

Two-week camp to finish off June:

And as of now, two, focused, single week offerings in July:

We’re hoping to create a fun and safe outdoor experience. Camps will be run by our adult teachers, but supported by our teen employees. We’re aiming for a ratio of 5 kids per adult and 3 per teen. Our teens missed out on employment last year and we want to fix that for as many of them as possible this year.


We’ve got an online Minecraft Modding class in the works for kids who are looking to take their programming skills to the next level. We’ll be programming in Java and the learning curve will be a bit steep, but kiddos should come out with some solid skills.

Other classes may be in the works as we field requests from families and have a better handle on what the other local offerings are. If you’ve got something in mind, we’ll see if we can work with you.

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Black History Month

Celebrating Black History Month with the Los Alamos STEAM Lab 

by JoAnna O’Neill

As Black History Month comes to an end, the Los Alamos STEAM lab would like to take the time to recognize just a few of the countless Black scientists, innovators, and inventors whose contributions in STEM have profoundly changed our world for the better. Systemic racism, both historically and currently, has resulted in a severe underrepresentation of Black scholars in nearly every field of STEM and their vast achievements and contributions often go forgotten or unrecognized. By highlighting and celebrating the accomplishments of these incredible individuals, we hope to promote increased diversity, intersectionality, and inclusion in STEM. 

Making STEM equitable for everyone requires that the community as a whole actively put in the work to combat racism, bias, and underlying systems of oppression. A great resource for more information about anti-racism in STEM can be found in this great paper as well as this website by the same authors.

Prolific Black Scientists, Inventors, and Innovators:

Mark Dean – Inventor, computer engineer and co-creator of the IBM personal computer. Developed the ISA bus, colored PC, and the first gigahertz chip.

Marie Van Brittan Brown – Nurse and Inventor of the closed-circuit television security system that paved the way for modern home security systems.

Garrett Morgan – Businessman, community leader, and inventor of the traffic light and gas mask.

Gerald Lawson – Electronics engineer that designed the first video game console and pioneered commercial video game cartridges. Known as the “Father of Modern Gaming”.

Frederick McKinley Jones – Inventor of the air conditioning unit, self-starting gas engine, movie projector, and first automatic refrigeration system for trucks. Co-founder of Thermo King; the global leader in transport temperature control systems. 

Marian Croak – Vice President of Engineering at Google known for initiating and developing Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) that allows audio and video communication through the internet. 

Alexander Miles – Inventor that designed and patented automatic elevator doors, drastically increasing elevator safety. 

Lewis Latimer – Inventor and designer of the carbon filament for the incandescent lightbulb. Contributed to the invention of the first telephone.

Shirley Ann Jackson – Physicist, first Black woman to earn a doctorate at MIT, and eighteenth president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Inventor of the portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cells, caller ID, call waiting, and fiber optic cables.

Otis Boykin – Engineer credited with improving the technology of electrical resistors and electronic control devices used in missile guidance, televisions, computers, radios, and pacemakers.

Lonnie Johnson – Aerospace engineer and inventor of the Johnson thermoelectric energy converter and iconic super soaker.

Charles Drew – Medical researcher and surgeon that improved techniques for blood storage. Developed the blood bank, plasma programs, and the concept of  blood mobiles. 

Jane Cooke Wright – Professor, surgeon and pioneering cancer researcher that analyzed a wide range of cancer treatments and explored the relationships between patient and tissue culture response. Developed new techniques for administering chemotherapy and was the first Black woman to be named associate dean of a nationally recognized medical institution. 

Lisa Gelobter – Computer scientist and technologist credited with developing the animation software program used in GIFs. Worked on several pioneering internet technologies and advancements in animation and online video. 

Alice Ball – Chemist that developed the “Ball Method” (the most effective treatment for leprosy until the 1940s) and conducted groundbreaking work in the cure of Hansen disease. 

Jesse Ernest Wilkins Jr. – Mechanical engineer, nuclear engineer, mathematician, and scientist that developed the mathematical models to explain gamma radiation that he later used to develop advances in gamma radiation shielding.

Elijah McCoy – Engineer and inventor of the lawn sprinkler, portable ironing board, and lubricants that revolutionized the steam and railroad industries.

Mary and Mildred Davidson – Sisters that invented the sanitary belt, toilet paper holder, walker tray, and multiple accessibility tools. 

Gladys West – Mathematician whose calculations,  computer programming and extensive contributions to satellite geodesy helped construct a model of the earth’s shape that was incorporated into the Global Positioning System (GPS), resulting in its widespread use. 

George Edward Alcorn Jr. – Physicist, engineer, and distinguished professor known for his work in Rockwell missiles, technology transfer, and his multiple aerospace and semiconductor inventions including the imaging x-ray spectrometer. 

George Carruthers – Astrophysicist and inventor of the ultraviolet camera and spectrograph used by NASA in the Apollo 16 flight as well as an image converter for detecting electromagnetic radiation. 

Ernest Everett Just – Biologist and scientific writer that conducted pioneering work in the physiology of development and fertilization. First to recognize the fundamental role of cell surface in development of organisms.

Patricia Bath – First African-American to complete a residency in ophthalmology and first Black woman to receive a medical patent for her invention of the Laserphaco Probe used to treat cataracts.  

Bessie Blount Griffin – Writer, nurse, physical therapist, forensic scientist, and inventor of the electronic feeding device along with other assistive devices.

Daniel Hale Williams – Cardiologist that performed the first documented, successful heart surgery and founded the first interracially staffed hospital and first Black nursing school in the United States. 

Katherine Johnson – NASA research mathematician and trailblazer whose calculations of orbital mechanics and flight path were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights. 

Betty Harris – Chemist known for her work in environmental remediation, hazardous waste treatment, and explosives research at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Synthesized and characterized high explosive and energetic materials and developed the detection methods and the extremely sensitive spot test for the explosive TATB. 

Kenneth J. Dunkley – Physicist and visual pioneer in the field of holography. Best known for inventing and patenting 3D glasses.

Valerie Thomas – Scientist, data analyst, and inventor of the illusion transmitter that has since been adopted by NASA and adapted for use in surgery and the production of television and video screens. Developed digital media formats and image processing systems used in the Landsat program to send images from space.

John Henry Thompson – Former Chief Scientist at Macromedia, computer programmer, and inventor of the Lingo programming language used in Adobe Director and Shockwave to render visuals in computer programs, video games, and animation.

Marie Maynard Daly – Biochemist and first Black woman to earn a PhD in Chemistry in American. Conducted important studies on cholesterol, sugars, and proteins and developed programs to increase enrollment of minority students in graduate and medical programs. 

James West – Acoustician, engineer, and inventor of the electret microphone. Holds over 250 foreign and U.S. patents for polymer foil electrets and microphone production and design.

Dorothy Vaughan – Mathematician, computer programmer, and NASA’s first Black manager. Known as the “Human Computer”.

Percy Lavon Julian – Research chemist and pioneer known as “The Chemist Who Changed the World.” Ingeniously developed chemical synthesis of important medicinal compounds from plant based sources, making them more affordable to mass produce. Received more than 130 chemical patents and was the first Black chemist inducted into the National Academy of Sciences.

George Washington Carver – Botanist, inventor, scientist, and agricultural chemist whose innovative discoveries and inventions helped restore the struggling agricultural economy of the South during the early 20th century. Known as the father of regenerative agriculture.

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Circuit Box: Rocket

We’ll use our breadboard, some LEDs, and wire to light out rocket.


  • 1 wooden rocket
  • 1 coin cell battery
  • 1 AA battery holder
  • 4 AA batteries
  • bread board
  • Alligator – male jumpers
  • copper tape
  • 2ft each red, blue, and black 22 gauge wire
  • Wire strippers
  • 4 5mm red LEDs
  • 4 3mm blue LEDs
  • 1 470ohm resistor
  • 1 male-male jumper