Las Vegas, N.M. – Monte Roybal, a New Mexico Highlands computer science graduate student and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, has landed a coveted permanent software developer position at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), calling it a dream come true.
Roybal is among six Highlands University graduates with a Master of Science in computer science whom LANL hired during early spring semester 2019.
“The most interesting thing about working at LANL is continually adding to my ‘bag of tricks’ in regard to computer science skills,” Roybal said. “The fact that we are contributing to something much larger than ourselves, the national security of this great nation, is gratifying. I like working alongside other people at LANL that share this ideology.”
Roybal, who grew up in the tiny town of Mora, north of Las Vegas, New Mexico, said serving in the Marine Corps immediately after high school as an aviation calibration technician sparked his passion for and dedication to technology.
“I will forever cherish my time in the Marine Corps.; it was one of the best decisions I ever made. After five years and one tour of duty in Iraq, I was ready to head down the college path. Highlands transformed my life, not only in the sense that it greatly expanded my horizons, especially in the world of computer science, but the university opened doors to many professional opportunities in life that I would not have had,” Roybal said.
Roybal said Highlands offered him valuable research opportunities, especially in cutting-edge artificial intelligence.
“I built an artificial neural network for an autonomous robot for my master’s thesis using artificial intelligence,” Roybal said.
Roybal said Gil Gallegos is the most inspiring computer science professor he’s had at Highlands.
“Dr. Gallegos continually pushed me to my intellectual limit with computer science concepts such as complex algorithms and their underlying math. He served as my professor, mentor, role model, and research adviser,” Roybal said.
Roybal said at Highlands, he had the opportunity to learn the wide-ranging study of computer science from many talented professors and other graduate students.
“This prepared me extremely well to be a be a software developer here at Los Alamos National Laboratory. I’m blessed to have a university 30 minutes from my hometown that has such an extensive computer science program,” Roybal said.
“Monte recognizes the limitations of his own expertise and has the essential quality of a good scientist: the ability to ask the important question,” Gallegos said. “Monte’s unlimited potential as a computer scientist is imbedded in his joy of learning and his tireless work ethic. He’s a class act with a bright future in the field.”
Roybal said without the individualized attention he received at Highlands, he would never have prospered as a nontraditional student. He is the father of three: Esteban, 8; JayLynn, 6; and Daniel, 1.
“My wife, Ashley, was also supportive of the very long hours that go into studying computer science,” Roybal said.
The other five Highlands M.S. computer science students who now call LANL their permanent employer in 2019 are Rosario Vasquez, Luis García, Frederick Sena, Ronald Shane Goff, and Michael Gonzales.
“I think LANL is interested in our graduates because we’re preparing them well academically and also giving them a sense of the importance of a strong work ethic as well as lifelong learning. All my graduate students are intellectually nimble and fearless. They’re competing successfully for LANL positions with students from top schools like MIT and Stanford,” Gallegos said.
The graduate research of Vasquez, García, and Sena was fully funded through a Highlands grant from the National Science Foundation.