Academy to observe Women's History Month

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Air Force Academy's Special Observances Committee will celebrate women with ties to the Academy during a Women's History Month observance luncheon at the Falcon Club March 18 at 11:30 a.m.

The observance will honor two cadets for their innovative research, a 2007 graduate who's given back to the community through her outreach efforts and the Air Force's first female four-star general.

Cadet 1st Class Alexa Gingras worked with the Air Force Drug Testing Laboratory at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, in the summer of 2012. She helped develop a synthetic marijuana detection system that optimized the testing process and greatly increased the test's sensitivity. Gingras is now working with Academy faculty members to develop an expedient portable drug test. She plans to attend medical school and hopes to become a trauma surgeon.

Cadet 1st Class Yasmin Sarmiento helped develop chemical solutions known as ionic liquids, which could help investigators preserve evidence. For criminal investigators and Defense Department investigators, this means better preservation of evidence for determining what substances were used in a crime, including war zone blasts. Evidence preservation is crucial: Any substance left behind at a crime scene or blast site runs the gamut of explosives, viruses or even radiological compounds. Sarmiento's work was highlighted in the Academy's annual research report and recognized by the Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory as the DOD project of the month.

Capt. Monica Wu, a 2007 Academy graduate, received the Maj. Gen. Eugene A. Lupia Award as the outstanding environmental engineering cadet her senior year. That same year, Wu was elected as the vice president of the Society of Women Engineers and launched science, technology, engineering and mathematics outreach efforts for Girl Scouts who aspire to become engineers or scientists. Wu holds a master's degree in environmental engineering from the University of California-Berkeley and a master's in fire protection engineering from the University of Maryland. As an instructor in the Academy's Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, she hopes to continue her STEM outreach efforts.

Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger was promoted to general at the earliest point in service of any female four-star general in DOD history. A STEM pioneer, Wolfenbarger holds a master's degree in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has commanded at every level and now leads Air Force Materiel Command, which comprises more than 80,000 people and a $60 billion annual budget.

For more information on the Women's History Month observance, call Carol Gennaro at 719-333-4312.