The UNM Foundation: Our Stories of Impact

Problem-Solvers Wanted

Sigma Science establishes scholarship to attract bright engineering students By Michelle G. McRuiz

Gilbert (Gil) Torres (BS ’89) and Kimberly Peña (BBA ’91) think nuclear engineering is an excellent career choice. It offers stimulation, challenges, high compensation, a variety of focus areas, and the chance to do good in the community.

But currently, there’s a shortage of nuclear engineers. Gil and Kimberly want to change that. Gil’s company, Sigma Science, has established an endowment and annual scholarship for undergraduate nuclear engineering students at UNM. The scholarship will be awarded to incoming freshmen or rising sophomores.

“This was a joint idea between me and [Chief Financial Officer] Kimberly,” says Gil, President and Chief Executive Officer. “We have wanted to do something like this for UNM. Ideally, we would like the scholarship to go to a New Mexico resident, preferably a first-generation college student.”

Sigma Science is a small-but-growing, minority-owned engineering and technology firm headquartered in Albuquerque, with employees located in states from Washington, D.C. to Las Vegas, Nevada. It was founded, says Gil, by a nuclear reactor engineer supporting Sandia National Laboratories, and has developed a reputation for providing technology, professional services, and products to large nuclear security enterprises across the United States. Sigma Science’s clients include the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, Sandia National Laboratories, and Los Alamos National Laboratories.

“We are very proud to support the federal government through our work,” says Kimberly, a former UNM Foundation Trustee.

The company has another reputation: One of continued generosity to New Mexico.

“Sigma Science has always had a spirit of giving to the community, especially to children and homeless families,” says Kimberly. “My first year with the company was 2017, and Gil made sure I knew the company was dedicated to sharing its profits.”

For ten years – ever since Gil took the helm – Sigma Science has been involved with UNM in various ways. One example is their support of the Energy Academy/UNITE summer program at Engineering Student Services from 2018 to 2020. “It was a perfect program for Sigma Science at the time,” Kimberly says. The program encouraged minorities and young women to develop and pursue an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Sigma Science also has attended career fairs at Anderson School of Management and the School of Engineering, offered several paid internships in accounting, hired UNM graduates, and served as one of the UNM Engineering Expo VII judges in May 2022.

But this new gift is different. It symbolizes the company’s lasting commitment to improving opportunities in New Mexico, particularly for first-generation college students who are New Mexico natives, and it reflects Sigma Science’s willingness to share its success through charitable giving.

“In 2021, we felt we were in a good position to establish the scholarship,” says Kimberly. “We are happy to support a deeper relationship with UNM.”

Kimberly says the scholarship “will create a fantastic opportunity” for New Mexico students. “Nuclear engineering is a high-demand, highly compensated field,” she continues. “People stay in it for a long time and really find their work interesting. We see an aging population in this field now, and we want to make a difference in the lives of students who will benefit from this gift.”

Gil was born in Trinidad, Colorado and raised in Santa Fe. “My dad was the first in his family to go to college,” he says. “He was in elementary education, and he was the inspiration that led me into engineering.

“I chose engineering because I liked solving problems, and that’s what engineers do,” he continues. And as the leader of Sigma Science, he also has an eye on diversifying the company’s services and specialties, such as exploring clean energy.

“We have been doing more multidisciplinary engineering since I took over,” he says. “We’ve also gotten into nuclear energy, which is a real area of focus for us.”

Gil earned a mechanical engineering degree from UNM and an industrial engineering degree from New Mexico State University. But, for Gil, once a Lobo, always a Lobo.

“Why support UNM? It’s my alma mater,” he says. “I’m a New Mexico native. UNM has always had a place in my heart. UNM gave me exposure to the big laboratories – Sandia, LANL – and offered a path to pursue my future and stay in New Mexico.”

Kimberly credits Gil for building a culture of generosity and community-mindedness at Sigma Science. “The gift really comes from Gil’s leadership,” she says. “It also comes from the hard work and dedication of all our employees nationwide. As new employees join the company, they learn how we all support students, children, and homeless families.”

Gil and Kimberly are pleased to be able to make this gift on behalf of Sigma Science. “We are really proud to support nuclear engineering at UNM,” says Kimberly. “It’s just one way we can give back to the community.”


Stories of ImpactProblem-Solvers Wanted