Thursday, March 28, 2013

Jerry Wagner, CBARR chemical equipment engineering technician, retires after 31-year career at APG

Innovative. That’s the word Jerry Wagner used to describe his 31-year career at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. The chemical equipment engineering technician has spent the last 27 years with the Chemical Biological Application and Risk Reduction (CBARR) Business Unit of the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, fabricating and installing equipment in support of various projects, including the decommissioning and demolition of the Pilot Plant complex.

Wagner also served as the maintenance team lead for the Chemical Transfer Facility (CTF) and Thermal Treatment Facility, but his most notable achievement was his instrumental role in the design of a remote drill for the Chemical Agent Transfer System at the CTF. Wagner also set up equipment to support the deploy-ment of CBARR personnel for a project in England to support the Project Manager for Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel.

“Jerry was a ‘go-to guy’ on the job. If you needed something, he more than likely had it,” said Tim Evans, chief of the Chemical Equipment Maintenance Branch, and Wagner’s supervisor for the past 14 years. “His experience and knowledge within the organization was unique. There have been a lot of changes in the organization over the years, from regulations and the way we work, to environmental and safety awareness. Jerry has worked with the equipment and processes within these changes, which has made his experience invaluable to CBARR.”

Prior to working at APG, Wagner was drafted into the U.S. Army from 1965-1967 and served as a power genera-tor repairman. He attributes his fascination with machinery to his childhood when he would watch his father build things from scratch. Ever since then, Wagner has been creating, molding and problem solving maintenance issues for the CBARR organization, and is recognized as a vital team member in the safe handling and destruction of chemical warfare material around the world. At the end of a distinguished career, he reflected back on his favorite part of the job—the equipment—and is glad to have been part of modernization of new technology.

“I’ve really enjoyed my job down here and am definitely happy with my experi-ence,” said Wagner. “But now my challenges are really going to get me good—I’ve got three grandchildren to take care of!”

Wagner was born in Maryland and has family all across the country, from the Northeast region to Florida, Texas, Colorado and North Carolina. He said he looks forward to spending more time with his family and grandchildren, and is even contemplating a cross-country trip in his RV.

“There’s a lot of United States I haven’t seen yet,” he said.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Women in Science and Engineering Blog Series Part Four: Amanda Dubbs

In recognition of Women's History Month, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) presents a special blog series featuring candid responses from female ECBC employees and leaders on their experiences as females in the science and engineering fields. The final blog in this series features Amanda Dubbs, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's Public Affairs officer.
Finding an equal balance between work and life is one of the biggest challenges women face today.  Pregnancy doesn’t mean you have to choose between mother and employee.  Instead, you realize that you can handle both work and life. Working moms are amazing jugglers who fulfill many roles.  Balance is a feeling we all hope to achieve, yet none of us feel we have mastered. At the end of the day, however, we have. The fact that you did it today and will do it again tomorrow means to me that you have mastered it as well as anyone else.

When I walk out the door in the evenings I have an hour on my drive home to turn my work brain off and turn my mommy brain on.  I discovered that I thought about work more often when I had just one child but after my second, I quickly realized that my time must be devoted to them at home.  They grow up too fast.  I am fortunate to have a spouse that helps out at home so we can spend our weekends together doing family things.  You realize that the laundry can wait a day because your kids are only little once.

I didn’t take advantage of this piece of advice after returning to work with my first child, but this year, when I returned from maternity leave after my second child, I decided to try it and it is wonderful:  ME TIME!  As part of being a working mommy, you will occasionally need to plan some time to reconnect with your femininity and take care of yourself: exercise classes, a day at the spa and learning how to relax, are all ways that you can take care of yourself. Taking care of this aspect of your life is just as important as spending time with the kids and being a top professional in your industry.
Amanda graduated from Penn State in 2004 with a Bachelor's degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with a minor in Chemistry. She later earned a Master’s of Science in Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins in 2007. Amanda started working at ECBC in 2004 as a biologist, then served as the Engineering Directorate's Executive Officer in 2010 and 2011, before serving in her current role as  ECBC's Public Affairs Officer in June 2011.  Amanda has been married for six and a half years and has two daughters: 2.5-year-old, Allison, and  5-month-old, Abigail. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, Department of the Army, Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

Women in Science and Engineering Blog Series Part Three: Jody Gostomski

In recognition of Women's History Month, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) presents a special blog series featuring candid responses from female ECBC employees and leaders on their experiences as females in the science and engineering fields. The third blog in this series features Jody Gostomski, a biologist for the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's BioSensors Branch.
Being a biologist for the U.S. Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center for the past nine years has been an extremely rewarding and challenging endeavor.  Throughout my career at ECBC, it has been apparent to me that our senior leaders and management have built this Organization upon a solid foundation that supports and encourages professional and personal growth opportunities to all.  Personally, this environment has proven to be an invaluable reminder that the obstacles and shortcomings that are endured from time-to-time in the workplace are not based upon our gender or ethnicity but rather the limitations that we place upon ourselves.

My genuine advice to young women pursuing a science or engineering career is to remove any limitations that you control. That is the only way to most efficiently develop and surpass your career path.  Pursue research avenues that excite you, because your inner enthusiasm drives the most innovative research and leads to the highest level of achievement and satisfaction.  Strive to see each and every goal you create come to fruition. Work diligently on developing professional networks across all directorates through participation developmental programs that are offered.  Eagerly pursue and accept all opportunities that are presented to you.  Most importantly, be active in the recruitment and training of future leaders in order to motivate and mentor those who strive to follow in your footsteps.

Jody Gostomski is a biologist for the BioSensors Branch within the Research and Technology directorate at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center.  Currently, she is earning a master’s degree in Biotechnology at the Johns Hopkins University.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, Department of the Army, Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

Women in Science and Engineering Blog Series Part Two: Kato Killops

 In recognition of Women's History Month, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) presents a special blog series featuring candid responses from female ECBC employees and leaders on their experiences as females in the science and engineering fields. The second blog in this series features Kathryn "Kato" Killops, a scientist with Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's Chemical Biological Filtration Branch .
It can be daunting to transition from an undergraduate or graduate research program in academia into a government agency with its own long history of research and development.  When I started at ECBC after my graduate work at University of California Santa Barbara, I found it difficult to navigate and align my expertise with that of my new research institution.  However, there were a few strategies that helped me into ease into my position and have continued to be useful to me as I design and conduct research projects here at ECBC.

Carve out a niche for yourself.  Being one of the only polymer chemists at ECBC led me to pursue research funding and collaborative opportunities that aligned both with the Army mission and with my own interests and skills. It may not be immediately obvious to you as to how your skills can benefit an established research project.  With that said, I found it to be beneficial to attend workshops, events, and seminars outside my branch in order to meet other researchers and discuss potential collaborative efforts.

Identify potential funding sources. Having the freedom and flexibility to pursue your own research projects is tremendously empowering, and often results from having funding to support those goals. Shortly after starting at ECBC, I began working on several original research proposals to submit to various funding agencies for basic research resources. The ECBC and Army In-house Laboratory Independent Research and the Surface Science Initiative have enabled me to orchestrate my own research projects.  I recommend having ideas or summaries of proposed research ready in case there is an announcement for seedlings, proposals, or white papers.

Use your connections. The connections I’ve made with people that I met in graduate school, or at conferences and seminars, have been invaluable to me as resources for initiating my own research projects. For everything from proposal and manuscript reviews, to full collaborative efforts, my network has helped me be more successful than I ever would have been on my own.

If you need something, ask for it. There’s no harm in asking.  Likely, you can connect with someone who has access, or knows how to get access, to what you need.  Sometimes that’s the simplest, and most effective, solution.

So there you have it – these strategies proved to be vital in helping me transition from my graduate research program at UC Santa Barbara into working for a government agency with different goals.  What strategies most helped you transition to the ECBC working environment?

Kato Killops joined the CBR Filtration Branch in March 2011. Kato received her B.A. in Chemistry from Whitman College, and her Ph.D. in Materials Chemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, Department of the Army, Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

Women in Science and Engineering Blog Part One: Nicki Freeze

In recognition of Women's History Month, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) presents a special blog series featuring candid responses from female ECBC employees and leaders on their experiences as females in the science and engineering fields. The first blog in this series features Nicki Freeze, General Engineer at Edgewood Chemical Biological Cneter Rock Island.

The best advice I ever received was to not worry about what other people think of you.  I would give this same advice to young women as well.

Don’t be intimidated to pursue a career in science or engineering.  Don’t think that you’re not smart enough or that you don’t have enough of a technical background to be a scientist.  You ARE smart enough and capable of learning technical skills.  Don’t believe that male counterparts have some ‘technical leg up’ just because they were born a male.  No specific gender is born more inherently technical than the other.  If science or engineering interests you, and you like to solve problems, then there’s your answer.  Never let fear hold you back.

Sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to prove we’re as good or as smart as the next person, but the truth is we have nothing to prove to anyone but ourselves.  Let your work speak for itself.  Always remember that you can learn something from every person.  Everyone has different experiences and different strengths, don’t be afraid to explore them.  Diversified backgrounds add to the quality of the final engineering solutions.  Don’t feel that asking for project background or additional insight makes you look weak.  Understand that all people provide value and be open to considering others’ opinions.   Don’t box yourself into an isolated corner because you don’t want to ask for help (whether due to fear or stubbornness).

Working for the Army and specifically ECBC, I haven’t had any real issues working with mostly men.  I’m not saying that we have evolved to a place where our career field is gender neutral (we’re not even close).  Gender bias exists; but don’t let that hold you back in any way.  I honestly believe my male co-workers value my opinion and enjoy working with me, not because I am a female or because I am intelligent, but because I am dependable, I work hard and  I follow through.  Work ethic is far more important than your gender will ever be –as it should be.

While I believe it’s important to encourage young women to pursue science and engineering fields, I think we could all do a better job of encouraging ALL of our young people to pursue science, engineering and math as viable career paths, not just females.

Nicki Freeze is a General Engineer at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Rock Island (ECBC-RI).  She supports the JPEO-CBD Enterprise Fielding & Surveillance (JEFS) and TACOM Life Cycle Management Command Surveillance teams to schedule and prioritize A12 managed chemical biological gear for shelf life extension testing.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, Department of the Army, Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

ECBC engineers, chemists visit Darlington Elementary School to help students ‘engineer’ real-world solutions

Contributed by Darlington Elementary School Teacher Annmarie Steltzer

Six chemical and environmental engineers from the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center recently supported Darlington Elementary School’s fourth- and fifth-grade science curriculum by providing students with fun, hands-on learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

 Participating ECBC teams turned the fourth and fifth-grade classroom into laboratories. They supplied proper equipment including safety glasses and gloves and an array of different materials such as coffee filters, cotton balls, carbon, wooden spatulas, twist-ties, and play dough to effectively engage students in real-life STEM experiences.

Based on the Engineering is Elementary (EiE) scenario in the storybook “Yi Min’s Great Wall,” the Center’s Engineers Jadey Pareja, Chad Gross and David Love offered students the opportunity to design, build and test a protection wall or fence to withstand wind, water, and impact.  After completing their designs according to specific requirements and running tests, students were encouraged to improve their structures as the final step of the engineering process.

“It made me think about the job of an engineer and it was fun to hear about what they do. They related everything we did to their actual jobs,” shared fourth-grade student Derek Caiazzo.

Fourth-grade teacher Jennifer Nealy added, “It was neat to see my student engineers work side-by-side with real-world engineers. What a wonderful experience for my students!”

In fifth grade, Engineers Bruce Steltzer, Cindy Learn, and Steven Yurechko described what their jobs entailed and then provided the students with a hands-on demo of the engineering principles behind water filtration based on the EiE unit “Saving Salila’s Turtle.”  Students first created a plan, which laid out the types of materials they would use and how they would layer them to create the most effective filtration system.  

Charlie Marts, a fifth-grader at DAES, stated “I think it was cool to learn different ways that real engineers and scientists filter water or air.”

"The students really enjoyed learning about the real-world application of filtration techniques in gas masks and Army helmets. They were fascinated by the possible engineering career opportunities both within and outside of the military,” added fifth-grade teacher, Angela DeLuigi.

“We want to help children discover STEM education in their earliest learning stages, because this is when they start developing their interests and abilities,” said ECBC Community and Educational Outreach Program Manager Mary Doak. “The Engineering is Elementary curriculum perfectly lends itself to teaching the engineering design process and solving real-world problems in different contexts.”

ECBC’s Community and Educational Outreach Program, partially funded by the National Defense Education Program, focuses on exposing students to STEM experiences that challenge them to solve problems using methods like the engineering design process. Due to EiE’s multi-disciplinary and student-centric approach, ECBC’s Community and Educational Outreach Program has adapted it as a main thrust into its STEM educational outreach efforts.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

ECBC graduates three from APG Senior Leadership Cohort

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – The fourth Aberdeen Proving Ground Senior Leadership Cohort graduated 49 participants from is 2013 class on Feb. 14, including three from the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center. Steve Norman, Ron Pojunas and Peter Emanuel represented all three ECBC directorates in the cohort program, which was created to build a self-sustaining leadership community among high potential GS-14/15 and equivalent level managers at APG.

The senior leadership program was modeled after the Office of Personnel Management’s Executive Core Qualifications, and was designed to develop leaders as individuals within team and organizational atmospheres in order for the APG community as a whole, better meet the challenges of a changing defense environment.

“Never lose sight of the network you have created and the cohort that has formed here today because that is invaluable,” said Kathryn A. Condon, executive director of the Army National Military Cemeteries. Condon served as the keynote speaker at the ceremony and addressed the graduates with reflections from her own leadership journey.

“What do you do as a leader?” Condon asked. “Leaders make decisions. If you’re afraid to make a decision, then be a manager. Leaders set the standard and then train to that standard and hold people accountable. There are no perfect solutions and there are no perfect answers, but don’t be afraid to act.”

Condon encouraged the cohort graduate to weigh the pros and cons of every decision, assessing what they know verses what they don’t know. People, Passion, Perseverance and Public Service were “the four P’s” Condon used to reflect on her career as she offered graduates a guideline for discovering their own leadership philosophies.

The cohort program included nine learning periods that drew upon leadership concepts and shared knowledge from coaches who have experienced similar work situation on results-driven projects. Acting change agents within the APG community, the participants completed action-based learning that required individuals to expand their comfort zones and adapt to new ways of problem solving through scheduled meetings and daily reflections. The program concluded with executive project briefings to General Officers and Senior Executives reflecting the real return on investment for the organization. The briefings are considered contributions to the on-going strategic mission as well as organizational change initiatives at APG.

Steve Norman is the Chief of the Environmental Monitoring Laboratory branch for the Chemical Biological Application and Risk Reduction(CBARR) Business Unit within ECBC’s Directorate of Program Integration. Norman oversees a branch of 55 chemists, biologists, technicians and administrative staff, and the high throughput, full service laboratory is responsible for detecting chemical and biological targets in various matrices.

Leadership philosophy: Lead by example and provide the proper amount of guidance, training and growth opportunities that help employees reach their full potential. This “Golden Rule” is paramount for interactions with employees, management and customers.

Ron Pojunas is the Associate Director for the Joint and Interagency (JIA) for the Engineering Directorate. His responsibilities include the management and direction of the directorate’s chemical and experimental agents, and toxic industrial chemical testing capabilities. ECBC’s rapid prototype development and fielding Prototype Integration Facility

Leadership philosophy: Embrace a combination of leadership styles—authoritative, affiliative and coaching—to provide an organizational culture that develops people for the future, delivers quality customer service, and grows ECBC’s core competencies.

Peter Emanuel serves as the BioSciences Division Chief within ECBC’s Research & Technology Directorate. As the biological research lead, Emanuel oversees a team of life scientists who work to discover new ways of protecting the Warfighter using biological tools and processes.

Leadership philosophy: Believe in the power of imagination. When an idea springs from the mind of a scientist or engineer, it can become a reality.

DPI Director Suzanne Milchling, who was one of the first graduates of the inaugural cohort program, served as a cohort sponsor for the 2013 class and presented each graduate with a coin during the ceremony.