Tuesday, February 28, 2012

ECBC Celebrates Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center is hosting a special blog series featuring historical facts and insights of notable African American inventors and ECBC personnel. We invite you to follow the series this February here on the Center’s official blog site.

Name: Leslie I. Williams

Title: Biological Science Laboratory Technician

Years of Service: 4

What is the one word that characterizes Black History Month for you?

The one word that characterizes Black History Month for me is “pride.” In the past, my ancestors were made to feel inferior. We had our African history…our native language and customs taken away from us. Black History Month helps educate Americans about the many contributions Americans of African descent made that have helped shape this nation. The information released in today’s times tells our children that there is more to us than being performers and sports heroes; that we can invent things to simplify and save lives, and we can be successful business people, strong political leaders, scientists and artists. We are smart, strong and beautiful, which is something to be proud of.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

ECBC’s Advanced Design and Manufacturing Division Supports Development of Science and Technology Site in Afghanistan, Provides Field Assistance to Warfighter

Despite having to hike three-eighths of a mile over gravel-filled pathways each day for meals, sleeping in an eight-person dormitory style room and having only outdoor bathrooms to use for three months, ECBC Advanced Design and Manufacturing’s (ADM) Kevin Washok is thankful for what he calls “the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Washok recently returned to the U.S. after spending three months in Afghanistan in the summer of 2011, assisting in the establishment of a new U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) Field Assistant Science and Technology (RFAST) Program location at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. A desire to start a large-scale operation from scratch and a yearning to work closely with the Warfighter prompted Washok to volunteer for the program.

“I wanted an opportunity to go out and set up a barebones shop. This experience proved to be all that I wanted and then some,” Washok said. “And it’s important to note, I was fortunate to have the support at home to allow me to take this opportunity and be out of the country for three months.”

The RFAST program deploys civilian engineers and technicians to Afghanistan for three-to-six months to assist the Warfighter with all technical equipment needs. The program’s mission is to streamline communication between the Warfighter and the technical professionals in order to troubleshoot issues with the Warfighter’s equipment. With technicians and engineers like Washok stationed abroad, they are able to examine equipment, identify capability gaps and work directly with the end users – the Warfighter – to develop working solutions in a more efficient manner.

“Being stationed abroad gives Warfighters the advantage of having their needs quickly met, and gives the technical workers immediate insight and ideas on how to improve the equipment they build,” Washok said.

Washok was a member of the first team to set up the RFAST program at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. The program, which is open to employees of RDECOM and its subordinate organizations, is coordinated through ADM. In the planning stages of the program at Bagram, ADM helped to create the concept for a technical village that provided the base for a larger RFAST operation in Bagram. ADM also helped determine what services the Bagram site would offer and how the RFAST mission would work there, including coordination and reach back to CONUS resources such as the RDECOM Prototype Integration Facilities (PIFs), program managers and the safety community.

“After ADM helped with the initial set-up, the RFAST PIF Director –who happens to be Dr. LTC Alan Samuels from ECBC’s Research and Technology Directorate - looked to ECBC to provide key personnel for the first rotation in Bagram,” said Mark Schlein, ADM Division Chief. “Kevin applied and was chosen from about a dozen or so other applicants to represent ECBC.”

Helping the new RFAST location take a step in the right direction, Washok worked to establish a safety program at Bagram modeled after ECBC’s safety program. Andy Cote from the ECBC Risk Office supported Washok and his colleagues to develop a safety plan appropriate to the site’s needs.

“We took the safety measures provided to us by Mr. Cote and adapted them to unique situations we had. We were able to mirror what is done at ECBC with the addition of a few Standard Operating Procedures particular to Afghanistan,” Washok said. “The help Mr. Cote provided us was significant and allowed us to get things in place over there.”

Washok noted that the information sharing in Afghanistan was two way– he helped to share best practices from ECBC, but also gained additional perspectives and ideas from the other technicians and Warfighters stationed in Bagram.

“My relationship with the Warfighter was basically one of shared information. The technicians and Warfighters developed a knowledge bank,” Washok said. “We had machinist welders assigned to a helicopter section in Bagram. As we got to know them, we were able to show them our capabilities and what we do; and they in turn showed us their methods.

“The program is a great opportunity for engineers to network and interact with each other and with program operators on a whole new level. Seeing everyone working together toward the same goal was amazing.”

Washok’s average day started at 7 a.m. and ended at 8 p.m. The day was spent solving problems with equipment and working with contractors to coordinate solutions for problems. As Washok explained, the heart of his work lay within the relationships he made and the knowledge he gained while overseas – both things he is now applying to his work in Edgewood.

“The deployed employees get a unique experience and understand the customer better,” said Schlein. ”What we gain back home is a sense of satisfaction. It’s about how can we contribute to the Soldier better,” Schlein said.

Currently, Bagram’s RFAST Program is looking to ECBC to potentially manage the business aspects of the program, which would include contracting, purchasing and coordinating maintenance contracts.

“We’re working up a plan on how we can support them with the business of the program. Anytime you take on these tasks that serve a greater purpose you feel a sense of accomplishment. You also get the satisfaction of knowing you’re making a difference right where it counts,” Schlein said.

Schlein would like to maintain ECBC’s presence in Afghanistan through the RFAST program, ideally stationing an engineer or technician from the Center in each RFAST rotation. Currently Colin Graham, an engineer from ADM, is serving a six-month term with RFAST.

“There are always three technicians in Bagram at one time,” Schlein said. “The plan, as employees are available, is to have a technician from ECBC in Bagram at all times along with representatives from the other RDECOM subordinate organizations.”

Both Schlein and Washok emphasize the personal commitment required by RFAST participants, noting that the program requires more of an employee than just interest.
“This is a totally volunteer-based program. You have to be willing to give up three to six months of your life,” Schlein said.

With regard to the personnel sent to the programs in Afghanistan and in other locations like Iraq, Schlein says ECBC has been complimented on the fact that it has a robust number of volunteers to go overseas.

“We feel confident that here at ECBC we have several very good technicians and engineers who can replace Colin following his rotation,” Schlein said. “We intend to continue to support this for as long as needed and as long as we have people willing to apply.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

ECBC Celebrates Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center is hosting a special blog series featuring historical facts and insights of notable African American inventors and ECBC personnel. We invite you to follow the series this February here on the Center’s official blog site.

Name: Damon G. Smith

Title: Environmental Scientist

Years of Service: 26

What moment in black history do you find to be the most significant moment for you, the community, or the Nation? Why?

For me, the most significant moment in back history was on December 1, 1955, when Rosa Louise McCauley Parks, an African American, defied the order of the white bus driver to give up her seat on the segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, so that a white passenger could sit. Parks in that moment typified the inner strength and determination of millions of black men and women of her era to be seen as equals in a world where blacks were treated as second class citizens; more often they were treated worse and left to eke out a living in degradation and mortal fear. On that day, Parks rose up or rather sat down and said enough is enough, I am human, I am American, we are equal and we are one.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Senior Scientist Advises NATO Panel on Sensing, Builds International Collaboration Opportunities

Augustus W. Fountain, III, Ph.D., second row, second from the left, poses with other NATO RTO members at the Cardiff, Wales meeting.
Augustus W. Fountain, III, Ph.D., the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center’s (ECBC) senior research scientist (ST) for chemistry, is garnering international recognition for ECBC while helping to advance defense science and technology.

Fountain was appointed in 2009 by Thomas Killion, Ph.D., then the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for research and technology, to serve a three-year term as the U.S. representative at large to the NATO Research and Technology Organization (RTO) Sensors and Electronics Technology Panel. One of just five U.S. representatives to the panel, Fountain advises NATO countries – as well as members of the Partnership for Peace – on technical approaches to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) sensing.

“Participating on the Sensors and Electronics Technology Panel provides a great forum for us to identify international opportunities for collaboration and cooperation,” said Fountain.

Fountain serves as the panel mentor for a biological background study that is being led primarily by Norway. “The United States, Canada, Germany and Turkey are participating, and Australia is also involved,” said Fountain. “We’re about a year into the study, and the group is putting together a report to provide NATO with guidance on future of biological aerosol sensing.” ECBC’s Dottie Paterno is the U.S. representative on the study.

“Loosely defined, sensing is an augmented or instrumented ability to detect the presence of a material of interest that is either undetectable by the unaided senses or is in an enhanced form that could be detected by sensors,” said Fountain. A material of interest may be enhanced to make it more clearly stand out from the background, allowing people to observe it from a distance for safety reasons.

Service on the Sensors and Electronics Technology Panel involves semiannual meetings accompanied by frequent virtual communication throughout the year. The meetings focus on a theme, such as autonomous sensing and multi-sensor integration, and involve a technical conference, RTO business, and collaboration discussions. Discussions focus on technology needs.

“At the fall 2011 meeting, I was asked to write a technology watch paper on graphene-based sensors for chemical sensing,” Fountain said. “Technology watch papers focus on topics of interest that help advise NATO on what technology areas they should be monitoring – whether for defensive reasons, their own advantages or new capabilities that a nation is trying to propose.”

The meetings usually occur in Europe. “We traveled to Cardiff, Wales, for our fall 2011 meeting,” Fountain said. “I was very interested to learn that, because of their new limited autonomy, there’s been a resurgence in the Welsh language. In fact, 26 percent of the population – mostly the younger generations – speaks Welsh as their primary language. It’s an ancient, very difficult language, very different than anything I’ve ever heard.” Fountain noted that everyone speaks English, so communication was not a problem.

The next meeting is scheduled for April 30 – May 4, 2012, in Quebec City.

“This effort is an excellent opportunity for ECBC to be better known as a trusted expert internationally,” said Joseph L. Corriveau, Ph.D., director of Research and Technology at ECBC. “I’m very happy that Dr. Fountain is such an integral member of the panel and is building international collaboration.”

ECBC Chief Scientist Discusses Toxicology in the 21st Century

Harry Salem, Ph.D., ECBC's chief scientist for life sciences, stands with Rear Admiral William Stokes, Assistant Surgeon General, outside the Convention Center in Washington, D.C., after receiving his honorary coin.

Harry Salem, Ph.D., has been on the cutting edge of toxicology studies for more than 50 years. His career began in academia and transitioned to the pharmaceutical industry and directing contract labs before he came to ECBC in November 1984 as the chief of the toxicology division. Currently, as the chief scientist for the life sciences at ECBC, Salem oversees numerous toxicity testing programs and is working in the area of stem cell research, which is a key element of his long-standing goal of combating diseases while finding alternatives to animal testing.

In recognition of his commitment to finding alternatives to animal testing, Salem was awarded an honorary coin from the U.S. Public Health Service at the March 2011 Annual Meeting of the Society of Toxicology.

“For toxicity testing to advance, we need to be able to develop high-throughput screening methods,” said Salem. “Currently, there is a backlog of more than 50,000 chemicals that have not been tested, and testing on animals is a low-throughput, high-cost and time-consuming method of testing.”

In an effort to more effectively and efficiently study potential toxicity of chemical agents in humans, life scientists working under Salem at ECBC have been experimenting with stem cells, which have already yielded some promising results.

“The most exciting work we’re doing right now at ECBC is our work with stem cells in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University,” said Salem. “All organs and tissues have stem cells, which are programmed to repair certain parts of the body. Stem cells can be formed into lung cells and even nerve cells, and that’s just the periphery of the potential application of using stem cells. Eventually, we want to be able to mobilize stem cells to repair the body without having to inject them into humans.”

Salem said that the most significant challenge facing ECBC right now is procuring adequate funding to pursue major programs.

“Stem cells are a relatively new field of research,” Salem said. “There many potential applications of the research, and until we try them, we won’t really know how we can use them. For example, stem cells can be used to regenerate tissue, but if they are overstimulated, they can develop into tumors. Controlling the growth and activity of stem cells is just one of many factors that we need to be able to study. Our ultimate goal is to be able to ‘build a human on a chip,’ but even the most sophisticated model is a poor imitation of the real thing. Even on a chip, we don’t get to see the interaction of the body’s systems. We’re trying to make models that are as close as we can get to actual human beings so that we can limit animal testing.”

In addition to his work for ECBC, Salem has been one of the official representatives to the Interagency Coordinating Committee for the Validation of Alternative Methods, a visiting professor of chemical toxicology at Rutgers University, the author of 13 books and the director of ECBC’s National Research Council Research Associateship Program.

“ECBC is a great place with great opportunities for working with bright young people,” said Salem. “We have a lot of good people who do good work here.”

For more information about the National Research Council’s efforts to improve toxicity testing, visit http://dels.nas.edu/resources/static-assets/materials-based-on-reports/reports-in-brief/Toxicity_Testing_final.pdf.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

ECBC's Alonzo White and family provide safe home to foster children for 13 years and counting

As certified foster parents, Lisa and Alonzo White, an ECBC-matrixed employee to the Joint Project Manager for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Contamination Avoidance (JPM NBC CA), have kept their front door open to children in need. Despite the ups and downs of serving in the foster parent role, the couple – who also raised three children of their own ages 28, 25 and 16 – said having the opportunity to change the lives of the children who have come through their doors is one of the most rewarding experiences in the world.

Alonzo serves as a Senior Acquisition Logistician for the Joint Chemical Agent Detector program within JPM NBC CA.

“Foster parenting is an education within itself in that it gives you a real understanding of how abuse, neglect and poverty can change the course of a child’s life,” Lisa said. “Being a foster parent affords you the opportunity to impart your knowledge of parenthood, your parental teachings garnered from your parents, and to watch as the children progress from one phase to the next. It is fulfilling that you can make a difference no matter how insignificant or significant, and give back the training and love that your parents gave you.”

Lisa and Alonzo’s venture into foster parenting was influenced by many factors, one of them being a tragic situation that happened in Lisa’s life. Lisa’s mother was killed by a drunk driver in a car accident when she was eight years old, leaving her and her father to take care of her three younger siblings. At the time, foster care was a possible option for her and her siblings, but extended family took them in. The possibility of being split up from her brothers and sister and put into the foster system resonated with Lisa, guiding her decision to become a licensed foster parent.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

ECBC Celebrates Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center is hosting a special blog series featuring historical facts and insights of notable African American inventors and ECBC personnel. We invite you to follow the series this February here on the Center’s official blog site.

Name: Alvin D. Thornton

Title: Director of Engineering

Years of Service: 29+

What contemporary African American do you see shaping America’s future?
President Obama. I see President Obama shaping America's future because he is in the most powerful and influential position to do so. In addition he has the will, drive, motivation and what appears to be a genuine desire to make a positive difference.

Monday, February 13, 2012

ECBC's Advanced Design and Manufacturing Acquires New Facility, Prepares for 2012 Move

As a part of initial infrastructure initiatives that began in 2005, ECBC Engineering’s Advanced Design and Manufacturing (ADM) Division will be moving from their current home at the 3500 block of the Edgewood campus to Downer Hall. With this move the entire ADM Division will be consolidated under one roof.

“The plan is to move ADM into Downer Hall first and then work to transfer the non-surety environmental testing capabilities to the Hall,” said Bill Klein, Associate Director of Engineering.

The catalyst for ADM’s move to Downer Hall originated out of a larger comprehensive Engineering Infrastructure Initiative-Campus Plan effort, crafted in 2005 to create an engineering campus. The plan was a response to the lack of space and capability limitations due to facility restrictions. The campus plan was originally intended to consolidate all ECBC product development and assessment assets into two modern, state-of-the-art facilities, providing additional capabilities for an expanded workload, in support of the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense (JPEO-CBD).

Thursday, February 9, 2012

ECBC Celebrates Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center is hosting a special blog series featuring historical facts and insights of notable African American inventors and ECBC personnel. We invite you to follow the series this February here on the Center’s official blog site. The first installation of this series features African American inventor Garrett Augustus Morgan, who created a safety hood used in World War I.

Before the establishment of ECBC, then Edgewood Arsenal, in 1917, African American inventor Garrett Augustus Morgan created a safety hood that would be the precursor to the gas masks created at the Center.

Though Morgan only had a sixth-grade education, he went on to invent several products that are used even today, including mechanical traffic signals. His most significant invention, however, was the safety hood. In 1914, Morgan patented his mask, which was a hood with two tubes. Part of the device, which was held on the back, filtered smoke outward while cooling the air inside. The safety hood won accolades and wide adoption in the North. Over 500 cities bought the hood, as well as to the U.S. Navy and Army in World War I.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

ECBC Inventors Pave Way for Enhanced Nerve Agent Detection, Awarded Patent

Edgewood Chemical Biological Center’s Jim Genovese, Robin Matthews and Science Applications International Coporation on-site contractor Kwok Ong, were awarded with an official patent in November, for their latest accomplishment, the Rapid Agent Identification of Nerve Agent detector (RAIDON).

The new technology, U.S. Patent number 8057761, bridges a capability gap in the world of chemical detection, supplementing the currently fielded tactical chemical detection devices. It permits quick discrimination between classes of nerve agents in the field environment once nerve agent is detected.

“There are numerous detectors such as JCAD, ACADA, M256A1 that detect nerve agents, but the problem is they are all vanilla. They don’t tell you what family of nerve agents they fall in,” said Jim Genovese, Leader of the Innovative Development Engineering Acquisition Team.

The M256A1 kit is currently used across the Department of Defense to provide a chemical vapor detection capability at low cost, with minimal training, and without the need for a power source. An improved version, the M256A2 kit, entered production in FY10 to a standard detection method for low volatility solid and liquid agents in the field. However, it still does not provide nerve agent classification capability.

“The RAIDON provides the nerve agent classification information lacking in the existing kits by leveraging the field-proven technology and form/function of the M256A1 kit,” Genovese said. “This then enables tactical users to quickly detect and discriminate nerve agent types in the field once the M256A1 shows nerve agent detection without having to use sophisticated detectors.”