Ines Cifuentes, science educator, dies at 59

Ines Cifuentes, a seismologist who directed the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s academy for science education in the 1990s and early 2000s, died Dec. 16 at her home in Takoma Park. She was 59.

The cause was breast cancer, said her husband, Frank Aikman.

Cifuentes received a doctorate in seismology from Columbia University in 1988 — among the first women to do so. She then had a post-doctoral appointment at the University of Paris and the Institut de Physique du Globe before joining the Carnegie Academy for Science Education.

At Case, she trained about 100 Washington public elementary school teachers every year in science and math in a summer program and continued working with the teachers throughout the year in their schools.

Ines Lucia Cifuentes was born in London to an American mother and Ecuadorian father. She spent many years in Latin America before completing high school in 1972 at Albert Einstein High School in Kensington. She was a 1976 physics graduate of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and received a master’s degree in geophysics from Stanford University 1979.

In the early 2000s, she helped lead an ultimately unsuccessful effort to open a Jaime Escalante Public Charter School in Silver Spring in an effort to increase the SAT scores of minority students. She was a past board president of Casa de Maryland, an immigrant-rights organization, and co-chaired the board of directors of the Dance Exchange dance company in Takoma Park.

In 2006 the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa named her the national Hispanic scientist of the year. The next year, she received the Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s award for math and science.

Survivors include her husband of 30 years, Frank Aikman, and two children, Benjamin C. Aikman and Julia N. Aikman, all of Takoma Park; her mother, Lucy Axelbank-Cifuentes of Takoma Park; and a brother.

Adam Bernstein

Adam Bernstein has spent his career putting the "post" in Washington Post, first as an obituary writer and then as editor. The American Society of Newspaper Editors recognized Bernstein’s ability to exhume “the small details and anecdotes that get at the essence of the person” and to write stories that are “complex yet stylish.”
Most Read Local