Monday, March 10, 2014

Northeastern Maryland Technology Council recognizes ECBC leader, mentor in STEM education

The Northeastern Maryland Technology Council (NMTC) honored professionals for their contributions to the advancement of education and technology in northeastern Maryland during its 2014 Visionary Awards Gala at Richlin Ballroom in Edgewood, Md., on Feb. 27.

The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center’s (ECBC) Suzanne Milchling and Suzanne Procell were both recognized for their work supporting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiatives in Harford and Cecil counties by the NMTC.

More than 300 leaders in industry, government, non-profit and education arenas attended the evening event. “We are honoring remarkable people who are playing key roles in moving our region forward in the areas of education and technology,” said NMTC Board President Michael Parker. “These are individuals who selflessly donate their time and talents to make a difference in their community.”

Milchling, ECBC’s director of program integration, was presented with NMTC’s Leader Award for playing a critical role in expanding innovative STEM initiatives that engage students and teacher in organizations at Aberdeen Proving Ground. ECBC Quality Manager Procell received her Mentor Award for founding, formalizing and coordinating the Kids & Chemistry program that teaches hands-on chemistry concepts to hundreds of fifth grade students each year in the area.

“In one way or another all of our futures are impacted by the areas of science, technology, engineering and math,” Milchling said. “It only makes sense for me - for us - to invest our time, our money, our energy into developing the future of our country. It’s very rewarding for me as a scientist and a parent to share my passion for science and impact it can make.” 

Research laboratories like ECBC require critical thinkers trained in STEM fields to fulfill their missions. ECBC is the nation’s principal research and development center for chemical and biological defense. Since nearly half of the Center’s employees will be eligible to retire in the next ten years, Milchling and Procell have worked diligently in the community to ignite students’ interest in STEM fields. The Center will need scientists and engineers to join their ranks armed with fresh, innovative ideas.

ECBC Director Joseph Wienand shared that ECBC was able to significantly advance STEM education by “saying yes” to a structured, multi-faceted educational outreach program that encompasses career exploration, curriculum development, guest lecturing, mentoring, project judging, scientist-in-the-classroom activities, STEM learning modules, summer camp support, teacher professional development and tours.

“By investing in these young minds, we are investing in the future of the ECBC workforce," Wienand said. "When ECBC forms partnerships with organizations that also see the value of investing in the local communities, it creates one more bond solidifying the Center’s ties to our neighbors."

Five of the eleven NMTC honorees, including Milchling and Procell, were from Aberdeen Proving Ground. Gary Martin, acting director of the Communications-Electronics Command, received the visionary award. Dr. Robert Lieb, Ph.D., research physicist retired from the Army Research Laboratory received a Mentor Award, and Carmen Kifer, a chemical engineer with the Chemical Materials Activity, was recognized as a rising star.

Last year the Visionary Awards Academy presented Wienand with the Leader Award and ECBC’s now retired Program Manager for Community and Educational Outreach Mary Doak with the Innovator Award.

Please click on this link to view additional photos of ECBC’s participation in the 2014 NMTC Visionary Awards:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

FDHS Scientists and Engineers Depart for International Waters aboard the Cape Ray

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – The MV Cape Ray deployed on Jan. 27 from Portsmouth, VA. This departure marks another milestone for the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) team supporting the joint OPCW/UN mission to destroy Syria’s stockpile of chemical agent.

Earlier this month, ECBC Director Joseph Wienand had the opportunity to speak with journalists from the Defense Media Activity (DMA), a Department of Defense hub for glob al armed forces news. Several news stories have resulted from the media engagement, which informed hundreds of thousands of warfighters around the globe today of the work that dedicated people in the chem-bio world do to keep them safe.  

“Heroes at home, supporting heroes abroad,” is how Mr. Wienand put it, speaking of the scientists, engineers, researchers and others working on behalf of warfighters. “Chemists, engineers, plant operators, safety professionals and others bring hundreds of years of experience in safely handling hazardous material 24/7.”
On Jan. 10, journalists from DMA, Ft. Meade, Md. interviewed Mr. Wienand and Joint Program Executive Officer for Chemical and Biological Defense, Mr. Carmen Spencer. ECBC communicators arranged for interviews at Edgewood, APG, with the global DoD media team, pegged to the coming use of the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System (FDHS) in destroying Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles.

DMA is the government organization responsible for hosting Army Times, Stars and Stripes, the Pentagon Channel, Armed Forces Network News and many other broadcast, web and print news services.

The initial news products from the interviews were scheduled to be seen and read in approximately 170 nations, on 78 deployed Navy vessels, and on the Pentagon Channel and its nationwide cable and satellite TV presence.

With sea trials completed and installation of the FDHS finalized, the MV Cape Ray has been equipped to store, manage and destroy chemical material in a safe and environmentally compliant manner. The FDHS, engineered and constructed at ECBC, was developed with the Pentagon’s Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense (JPEO-CBD.)
 Mr. Spencer described the intense six-month development process that produced the FDHS.

“Without a close collaboration with ECBC, this mission could not be accomplished, Mr. Spencer said.  “We’re jointly working to make the world a safer place,” Mr. Spencer said. “It’s a growth business and that’s not always a good thing,” he said. “But (soon) there’s one less nation on earth that possesses chemical weapons,” he said.
Mr. Wienand saluted the civilian experts who wanted to become, and became, a part of FDHS’s first international mission.  Wienand cited their dedication and patriotism, as well as their passion for what for others might consider work that is too dangerous to do.

He related to DMA’s journalists the story of one ECBC engineer, a former soldier, who told him, “9-11 made me mad. That’s why I’m here.” 
He ended with the thoughts from another ECBC employee.

Asked by Mr. Wienand why he wanted to be part of the FHDS mission, he said, “This is a part of history. We want to be a part of it.”
To read and hear more about ECBC’s role in destroying Syria’s chemical weapons, check out the following DMA stories: | Safety top priority on chem-demil ship, officials say

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Coffee with Colleagues Showcases Collaborative Efforts at ECBC

ABERDERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md.On Dec. 12, CBARR showcased the results from its 219-funded project at the fourth annual Coffee with Colleagues event hosted by ECBC’s BioSciences Division in the Research and Technology Directorate. The Rapid Detect-Identify-Decontamination Kit was one of 60 posters highlighting ongoing research and development efforts across the Center and gave colleagues a chance to share their work and expertise in an informal setting.

The Rapid Detect-Identity-Decontaminate Kit was designed for the decontamination of suspected areas where spore-forming bacteria may be present inside a military or commercial aircraft. It contains hand-held detector assays, personnel protective gear and decontamination materials. ECBC utilized its own resources to test the effective-ness of the kit, including test beds and biological decontamination methodologies, C-130 cargo aircrafts and barcoded spore technology. Conceptual model design and animation was also used for the kit prototype, which offers a developing solution for the hazard mitigation arena.

“Our goal was to detect a spore contaminant in a suspected area, identify its presence using hand-held assays, decontaminate the areas using a surface decontaminating foam and clear the area of the contaminant after the decontamination process,” said Debbie Menking, project manager. “As a result of the testing, we achieved what we set out to do by demonstrating proof-of-concept for a novel hazard mitigation kit that detects-identifies and decontaminates biological contaminants in aircraft interiors. Moving forward, we recommend replacing the hand-held assays with a commercial-off-the-shelf electro-chemical detector that will improve assay sensitivity.”

The concept for the Rapid Detect-Identify-Decontaminate Kit was the result of a previous multi-directorate collaboration between Menking and Sofi Ibrahim, Ph.D., a microbiologist who conducted decontamination biological efficacy assessments at ECBC for the Joint Project Manager-Protection. Now, the methodologies and success from that project have grown into another cross-directorate opportunity that explored decontamination efficacy inside aircraft.

“Leveraging momentum from the decon testing in order to take it to the next level was our goal. The Section 219 funding provided the means to drive the development of the proposed kit using tri-directorate assets to explore how effective a Detect-Identify-Decontaminate process could work against biological agent hazards inside an aircraft,” Menking said.

Section 219 funding originated from the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009, which allows military and government research laboratories to generate revenue as an indirect fee to help finance the overall cost of a given project. The proposed kit was awarded funds from the FY13 ECBC 219 funding. The kit was one of nine ECBC projects that effectively met ECBC’s objective of maintaining awareness of emerging threats and met the required proposal criteria: innovation, collaboration and potential transition to the warfighter.

“It was exciting to experience the vitality and creativity generated as talented scientists and engineers came to the table energized by a common goal,” said Menking. “We brainstormed and fed off each other's ideas to make a better product in the end."

Monday, January 6, 2014

Technical Report on Albania Mission Documents Chem Demil Expertise

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md.A team of CBARR scientists published a technical report this December, officially documenting the work completed last year that assisted the Albanian military in successfully destroying a small stock of chemical warfare agent (CWA), including mustard, sarin and lewisite.
“We set up a laboratory within one of the rooms in the Albanian facility where the agent was stored and outfitted it with glove boxes, analytical instrumentation and personnel decontamination station,” said Brandon Bruey, CBARR chemist. “It was a process of acquiring their chemical inventory and determining what chemicals, supplies and equipment we needed to treat, analyze and destroy the agent. We also verified successful destruction, which was performed in a technically sound, safe and environmentally responsible manner.”
The report, “Analysis and Destruction of Chemical Warfare Agent Samples: Albanian Armed Forces Central Laboratory, Tirana, Albania,” was authored by Bruey, John Schwarz and CBARR Director of Operations Tim Blades. The report summarized destruction statements and supporting analytical data that was also given to the Albanian government as evidence of the safe CWA destruction. Additionally, the operation was reported to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), of which the United States and Albania are member states.
The collaborative effort between CBARR and the Albanian Armed Forces Central Laboratory, Logistics Brigade led to the successful destruction of 11 chemical agents during a two week period in July 2012. The operation in Albania demonstrates CBARR’s ability to provide chemical solutions for customers worldwide as it leads ECBC’s mission of providing CBRNE defense needs in a safe and secure manner.
“I’ve been a CBARR employee since August 2011 and that was my first big trip abroad. It was neat to see how when another country needs help meeting a chemical demilitarization challenge, CBARR is called upon to develop a solution,” said Bruey.
That call came in late 2011 when the U.S. Department of State had been notified by the Albanian government that a small stock of CWA was discovered in the Central Laboratory. According to the technical report, representatives from the Albanian government worked through the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, Albania to supply an inventory of the toxic chemicals to be destroyed. These chemicals were present in relatively small quantities and were reportedly used previously as analytical reference standards for training Albanian soldiers on laboratory operations and specialized detection equipment.
On Nov. 21, 2012, CBARR received a warm letter from U.S. Ambassador to Albania Alexander A. Arvizu, thanking the organization for a successful operation in Tirana. “Thanks to your professionalism and expertise, these hazardous chemicals are no longer a potential danger to the Albanian or American people. I have received profuse thanks from the Ministry of Defense and other Albanian government officials, and wanted to pass on their appreciation as well. Once again, thank you for a job well done!” wrote Arvizu.
Bruey said that he believes the work CBARR does serves a real world importance, no matter the mission. Chemical demilitarization has become increasingly well-known by the general population over the past few months. The chemical weapons attack in Syria last August has led to international efforts by the OPCW to rid the country of its chemical weapons. Destruction of CWA supports the OPCW’s mission to rid the world of such hazards.
“It takes a huge team effort to make these missions happen,” said Bruey. “It’s not just one person and any one group. These projects are successful because there are a lot of people involved in the planning process. We’re just doing our one little piece, but it is kind of cool that our one little piece is something that no one else can do.”
ECBC first supported the Albania chemical weapons elimination program in 2005, in conjunction with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The multi-phase project was conducted over several phases and took 2.5 years to to complete, from assessment to final demolition. More than 16 metric tons of chemical agent stored in 746 canisters and vials were destroyed between Feb. 1, 2007 and July 11, 2007. Destruction facilities were dismantled and ECBC demobilization was completed on Nov. 20, 2007. The effort resulted in more than 52,000 total man-hours from ECBC personnel, who analyzed more than 5,000 liquid and vapor samples.
The safe and successful chemical demilitarization mission was confirmed by the OPCW and Albania became the first nation to completely and verifiably destroy all of its chemical weapons. According to the OPCW website, this disarmament campaign was conducted to fulfill Albania’s obligations under the CWC.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mobile Labs & Kits Lead Joins CBARR as Program Manager

George Noya talks customer-centered design

– In the years following 9/11, new services and capabilities were meeting the needs of an evolving defense market where mobile, on-the-go applications were replacing fixed, permanent solutions. ECBC’s CBRNE Mobile Laboratories & Kits Team partnered with federal agencies to design, fabricate, integrate and validate modular, mobile and semi-permanent analytical capabilities for customers with national and international missions that include the verification of the CWC and WMD countermeasures.

The Mobile Labs & Kits team has since integrated into various Center teams as shrinking budgets forced the unit to disband, but the capability remains an active service offering for customers like the Department of Homeland Security, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who desire upgraded equipment for their mobile laboratories. Now, a former team lead of the group, George Noya, has joined CBARR as a program manager responsible for a mobile ground sensor project, an interagency agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency, and the
design and fabrication of custom glove boxes to be used for new emerging threats.

Noya’s experience adds value to CBARR’s deployable laboratory services, which include near real time monitoring for the detection airborne contaminants to ensure worker safety, as well as on-site lab analysis of chemical warfare agents and their breakdown products.

“My approach has always been: let the science drive the engineering, not the engineering drive the science. There are a lot of factors that impact the customization of a mobile lab, including the infrastructure space, air flow and weight of equipment,” Noya explained. These transportable CBRNE analytical platforms require state-of-the-art, novel technologies designed to accurately perform under austere conditions. Robust engineering controls and technical risk assessments specially designed for chemical and biological threat materials significantly reduces the logistical burden while providing data that withstands the most  intensive and critical review.

“The biggest challenge is making sure the equipment is ruggedized enough to be deployed where the customer needs it. Mobile labs are designed to provide incident commanders with a level of accurate information to make quick decisions. Depending on the situation and location, there isn’t time to prepare samples for shipment to a fixed laboratory that can provide a thorough analysis of results. The equipment in the mobile labs can save time and cost while still providing an accurate assessment of the samples,” Noya said.

According to Noya, having the correct engineering controls reduce or eliminate personnel exposure to chemical or physical hazards, as well as ensure the equipment is performing  accurately. For example, Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems and diffusers are designed to mix the air so it remains turbulent, but this can create a disturbance in chemical fume hoods and BSCs. Additionally, some pieces of equipment use a lot of power or are sensitive to vibration and movement, such as electron microscopes.

“I’ve done a lot of work with glove boxes, fume hoods and customized equipment for scientists and research teams in order to work safely with new emerging threats. One of those projects is the new glove box that is going into the McNamara Building. Enrique Faure and I are in the process of fabricating the temperature and humidity control system that will be utilized for the inside chamber,” Noya said.

The McNamara Glove Box Facility recently won ECBC’s 2013 Excellence in Safety Award, which recognized David McCaskey and John Carpin, two scientists in the Research & Technology Directorate. Their design of the facility made significant contributions to existing safety management system initiatives for the “Little Mac” and “Big Mac” glove boxes. This equipment is used for the safe handling of non-traditional agent (NTA) materials at ECBC.

Noya’s experience and contributions across the Center will bolster CBARR’s mobile laboratory capabilities. Unlike the former Mobile Labs and Kits team that was limited to the design and distribution of the platforms, CBARR has the trained and specialized personnel to maintain, repair and sustain the offering for customers carrying out their mission in homeland defense.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Military/Civilian Collaboration at Forefront of Summer Internship

West Point Cadet Shadows CBARR Chemical Engineer on FDHS Project

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – When Sean Crain, a Cadet from the United States Military Academy at West Point, began his summer internship at ECBC, he had no idea he would be on the cutting edge of elimination technology for weapons of mass destruction.

“It’s pretty impressive to neutralize a really dangerous chemical and get it to a point where it is not harmful. It’s also a neat capability to be able to deploy the technology,” said Crain, who spent several weeks at ECBC assisting CBARR develop the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System (FDHS).

Crain had a unique opportunity to assist on the project. He was one of 10 cadets selected to receive training at ECBC, giving up their summer vacation to received additional laboratory academic credit toward their education. Working alongside chemical and biological experts at the Center as part of the Academy’s Advanced Individual Academic Development (AIAD) program, the cadets were integrated into various ECBC teams, observed scientific processes and implemented concepts from their course work throughout the program. For Crain, he was immersed in the fast track acquisition of the FDHS, whose design-to-fabrication process has since been applauded by government partners and generated the interest of numerous stakeholders.

Crain had been assigned to shadow CBARR Chemical Engineer Adam Baker, who said the cadet’s most direct impact had been conducting calculations regarding the effluent of the system after the water has been evaporated from it. Dealing with mass and material balances in and out of a system is exactly where Crain had left off his learning at West Point prior to his summer internship. He was now putting it into practice.

“For some of our acidic effluent, that involves first neutralizing with sodium hydroxide, which leaves a salt and water byproduct. Sean’s been doing some calculations that determine how much sodium hydroxide you need to neutralize the hydrogen fluoride or hydrogen chloride. After evaporating the water, you can then determine the volume of the remaining salts,” Baker explained.

“You start with a huge amount of effluent, oftentimes thousands of liquid gallons, and once you evaporate the water, you’re left with a relatively small amount of solid remainder. So Sean’s been working on calculating what those amounts would be.”

Baker said Crain’s chemical engineering background has been just as helpful as his military experience, knowing that the FDHS was designed with the Warfighter in mind. Given the circumstance, the technology could transition from civilian-operated to soldier-operated. Because the system is transportable, it is self-sufficient with power generators and a mobile laboratory that needs only consumable materials such as water, reagents and fuel to operate. It can be set up within 10 days of arriving at an onsite location and is equipped with redundant critical systems that ensure maximum system availability. Should the FDHS be deployed, it is possible that CBARR personnel would serve as subject matter experts supporting an onsite crew of 15 trained personnel, who would be needed each shift to operate the system 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“It’s neat to get a fresh set of eyes from someone in the military with a chemical engineering background. Being able to introduce him to the project and see what his thoughts were was a huge help, especially knowing that this system, in the long view, is expected to at first be soldier-assisted and eventually soldier-operated,” Baker said.

According to Crain, this civilian-military interaction is critical when earning higher leadership roles and moving up within a command. He got to witness the dynamic first-hand during his time at ECBC, something he does not often have the chance to do as a junior officer.

“For example, with the FDHS demonstrations, there were a lot of colonels and commanders of the chemical school in attendance. They interact a lot with the chemistry labs, and it’s very important because while the civilian side is designing it, the military side will eventually be the ones operating it. That’s why it’s important to understand that this system is capable of being run by both civilians and the military,” Crain said.

As for his biggest takeaway? “I think I’ll definitely be able to bring back the first-hand knowledge of the new technologies in the Army and how chemical engineering is truly operable to what we need. I’m also going to bring back the relationships and understanding the collaboration between Army personnel and civilians,” he said.

Crain is expected to graduate West Point in two years as a 2nd Lieutenant Officer. In five years he hopes to be serving in the Chemical Corps.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

U.S. Army ECBC employees nationally acclaimed for expertise and commitment

Researchers earn awards from Penn State University, Federal Consortium Laboratory.

The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) is the Nation’s premier, non-medical chemical biological defense organization. ECBC conducts some of the Nation’s most critical chemical and biological defense testing, requiring top researchers and scientists to create solutions to challenging problems. Recently, a few ECBC researchers and scientists were nationally recognized for their commitment to government service and the science community.

Research and Technology Division Chief earns Penn State University Outstanding Science Alumni Award.
Peter Emanuel, BioSciences Division Chief at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center earned the Outstanding Science Award from his alma mater Penn State University, and will be honored in November 2013. This award recognizes alumni who have a record of significant professional achievements in their field, and are outstanding role models for students in the college. The Outstanding Science Award was established by the Board of Directors of the Eberly College of Science Alumni Society at Penn State.

“It’s a great honor to be selected and it provides my wife and me a great opportunity to go back to State College where we met,” said Emanuel, who was one of seven award recipients.

Since graduating from Penn State with his Ph.D in molecular and cell biology in 1994, Emanuel has served as the assistant director for chemical and biological countermeasures within the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President for three years during the Bush and Obama administrations. While there, Emanuel managed the chemical and biological defense and medical countermeasures portfolio and coordinated research-and-development efforts across the federal government.

At ECBC, Emanuel served as a scientific advisor where he developed more than 100 highly specific and sensitive tests for pathogen detection, developed recombinant antibodies using a process called combinatorial phage display, was part of a team that developed and patented a novel biological sampling device, and oversaw bacterial-fermentation production and tissue-culture production of antibodies. Currently, as BioSciences Division Chief, Emanuel is the lead for all biological research, overseeing 100 life scientists and more than 60,000 square feet of laboratories at the premier non-medical research institute for defense science and technology. “We are blessed to be located in an area surrounded by so many highly ranked universities that can feed us the next generation of Chemical Biological defense scientists and engineers,” Emanuel said.

In 2013, Emanuel received the gold Outstanding Supervisor Award Excellence in Federal Career Award from the Baltimore Federal Executive Board.

2013 Mid-Atlantic Regional Award for Excellence

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science & Technology (S&T) Chemical Security Analysis Center (CSAC) earned the Mid-Atlantic Regional Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer. Dr. Shannon Fox and Dr. Adolfo Negron helped support the Project Jack Rabbit: Chemical Release Trials to Improve Modeling, Mitigation, a project that developed critical data necessary to improve the modeling of toxic inhalation hazard chemicals (TIHs) released from accidents or terrorist attacks on chemical storage tanks or railcars. The group transferred technology to four major trade associations representing hundreds of industrial members: the Chlorine Institute (CI), the Ammonia Safety & Training Institute (ASTI), The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) and the Association of American Railroads (AAR). The transfer was performed through a variety of outlets including presentations at industry meetings and trainings, distributing data through the Jack Rabbit website and establishing a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA). Dr. Fox CSAC project leader of the Jack Rabbit, conducted the technology transfer through presentations, training materials and was an instructor for industry training magazines. Dr. Negron Deputy Director for CSAC, structured and oversaw the transition process, led the effort to create the CRADA and facilitated intra-agency relationships. The Technology Transfer resulted in lives saved and dollar cost avoidance to industry. Additionally, the transfer has led to improved planning and procedures so that there could be fewer casualties in the event of a chlorine or ammonia release.

The team received their award at a 14 November ceremony.