Graduates of CNM: Jamin Pillars

Jamin started as a laborer but then found CNM and now has a Ph.D. and a prestigious job at Sandia National Labs
June 10, 2021

Jamin Pillars was not on a path to college while growing up here in New Mexico. His dad passed away when he was young and he found himself living on the streets by age 16. Jamin was able to complete high school, but only found low-paying jobs after graduation. Then his wife got pregnant and he decided to work temporary construction jobs down in Arizona.

He did grunt work to start and then landed a job building metal sunrooms in Phoenix. Temperature regularly went over 110 while he worked, and Jamin watched as his uninsured co-workers got injured and took pain medicine and drank alcohol to cope. Around the same time, Jamin’s wife also got sick and he started to worry about finding a better job with health insurance. 

“It was all pretty miserable,” he says. 

Then one day, a homeowner approached Jamin and told him he’d observed Jamin’s skills with numbers and suggested he attend college to move forward with his career. Jamin laughed and said school was too expensive. The homeowner countered and said that there were plenty of scholarships and financial aid to help. Jamin looked around and realized that CNM back in Albuquerque was indeed an option. He enrolled immediately.

“I just told myself, ‘you're standing on a cliff, but there is water below, so go ahead and jump,’” he says.

Staff at CNM patiently helped Jamin with everything from registration to a class schedule. At one point he decided to take a chemistry class because it looked interesting. While attending that class, something clicked. He found chemistry fascinating and immediately knew he wanted to pursue a scientific field. 

“When I started to excel it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had,” Jamin says. 

Jamin went on to take a variety of science and engineering classes at CNM and says he was regularly impressed with the level of instruction and help he got from the faculty. He says CNM taught him how to be a college student and he quickly graduated with an Associate in Engineering. Immediately after, he transferred to UNM where he graduated with a Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering in 2011.

From there he got a Master’s Degree in Nanoscience at UNM. He went on to get his Ph.D. in Nanoscience and Microsystems Engineering from UNM as well, and was immediately hired by Sandia National Labs after graduating. At Sandia National Labs, Jamin is now part of the technical staff and works with superconductors and creates his own magnets. 

Looking back, Jamin says it’s obvious that college, and CNM in particular, completely changed his life.

“I went from laboring 60 hours a week with a bad back to a great job with health benefits and I now get to work with some of the most brilliant people on the planet,” he says.  

For people who are in a similar situation—those who are looking to move up from any circumstance—Jamin says college can be an affordable and life-changing opportunity. 

“We all hesitate but just have to jump and believe in ourselves,” he says. “You will never regret educating yourself, and you will never regret pushing yourself.”

All current CNM students and those considering attending CNM should complete the general scholarship application to be matched with over 80 different scholarships, many without special requirements. There are still many funds available for Summer Term and Fall Term. Apply now.

For information about federal Financial Aid, click here.