The Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Joint Science and Technology Office partnered with the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, the U.S. Army Public Health Command, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory to launch its inaugural Joint Science and Technology Institute July 28 to Aug. 10.
The two-week residential program, administered by Oak Ridge Associated Universities, afforded 23 Maryland and Virginia high school students and six Cecil and Harford County Public School high school teachers the opportunity to work on leading-edge science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, projects with Department of Defense scientists and engineers. In addition, students and teachers participated in extracurricular activities and toured sites, such as the Maryland Science Center, Fort McHenry and the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
“As leaders within the chemical and biological defense enterprise, we have a responsibility to attract and sustain a highly-skilled technical workforce that is prepared to protect our nation against current and future threats,” said Alan Rudolph, Ph.D., director of the Chemical and Biological Technologies Department, DTRA. “With the establishment of the JSTI, DTRA’s goal was to demonstrate its commitment to DOD’s strategic STEM objectives. Therefore, we asked other DoD organizations to join us in this collaborative STEM effort and to help us provide participating students and teachers an innovative, hands-on STEM experience.”
After the two-week JSTI kicked off with a tour of ECBC’s state-of-the art facilities, students and teachers were divided into research groups led by mentors from each participating organization. Students conducted their science and engineering projects at ECBC’s and Harford Community College’s research laboratories.
“The chemical and biological defense community has been dedicated to offering students and teachers relevant hands-on STEM experiences,” said ECBC Technical Director Joseph D. Wienand. “I am very proud and honored that ECBC was part of this first-of-its-kind DOD STEM initiative and, that we were able to collectively make a significant impact in the lives of participating students and teachers.”
Students were divided into six groups with research topics ranging from water quality monitoring to the design and testing of military packaging solutions, soil toxicology, forensic science, testing of bacteria resistant surfaces, and operational research focused on Wounded Warriors.
“The opportunity to work in a biology lab with an environmental toxicologist has expanded my understanding and appreciation for this STEM field,” said 11th-grade student Daezha Logan from Galileo Magnet High School in Danville, Va.
Cody Short, 12th-grade student at Buckingham County High School, Va., was assigned to the same research group and added, “This experience has increased my interest in biology, because I’ve learned something new in everything we’ve done so far.”
Teachers’ research areas included the design and testing of military packaging solutions, air monitoring, disease surveillance, toxicology screening, tactical biological detection, as well as environmental chemical analysis.
The JSTI concluded with a closing ceremony Aug. 10 at the Clarion Hotel in Aberdeen, Md., with welcoming remarks from Wienand and a keynote speech from Maj. Gen. Jimmie O. Keenan, commander of the USAPHC. Students and teachers then presented their research results to family members and senior leaders of participating organizations.
Keenan, a nurse by profession, reminded students during her keynote address that they should consider a career in healthcare taking care of America’s Sons and Daughters.
“The medical community needs individuals with the schooling and smarts to be doctors, nurses, behavioral health professionals, epidemiologists, engineers, and other scientific and technical disciplines that are STEM related.”