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.


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