Edgewood Chemical Biological Center
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Leaders at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, known as ECBC, recently completed the first stop on the inaugural campus tour for the MSI STEM Research and Development Consortium, a collaboration between minority serving institutions, or MSI, of higher education throughout the country, government agencies and the private sector. The consortium is designed to promote innovation and stimulate science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, research development.
“This campus tour will be the first of many to demonstrate to our DOD partners and advocates the good science stemming from our campuses,” said Michael Hester, president and CEO of the consortium. “This tour gives us a chance to identify new research opportunities of interest to the DOD, educate our members on ways to take full advantage of the procurement vehicle provided by the Consortium and build trusted relationships.”
ECBC Director Dr. Joseph Corriveau; retired ECBC scientist Dr. Jay Valdes; and newly appointed Director of ECBC’s Research and Technology Directorate, Dr. Eric Moore, spent a day at the University of the District of Columbia, meeting with faculty from three consortium members – UDC, Morgan State University and Howard University – as well as private-sector partners who support the program.
ECBC is taking a hands-on approach in developing the next generation of Army scientists, engineers and researchers by working directly with universities in the consortium. Valdes was the senior technologist for biotechnology at ECBC when the program was conceived a few years ago and although he retired as the consortium was officially formed in 2014, he enlisted the support of Corriveau, who has championed the cause.
“For proposals that are funded, students have an opportunity to participate in research that will impact national security,” Corriveau said to the audience. “For faculty, they have an opportunity to access funds to acquire the equipment they need to carry out important research.
“ECBC is seeking greater diversity of ideas. We use the consortium so we can go after these good ideas to solve our nation’s problems. Everybody wins.”
Corriveau has been actively involved in the development and planning of the consortium, and due to his influence ECBC is taking the lead among government agencies by being the first to sponsor the program. “It’s important that ECBC and others are actively recruiting fresh talent with imagination, who want to roll up their sleeves and get to work,” Corriveau said.
The first research projects were awarded in late 2014. More than 40 institutions throughout the country are involved, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges. Consortium members say that government research opportunities usually go to larger universities such as Michigan State, or other schools which have a track record of receiving research grants such as MIT, providing those schools with millions of dollars in research funding.
Garnering research dollars
Minority serving institutions are often overlooked for research opportunities. Two to four percent of government research dollars are awarded to MSIs, Hester said, and those are often smaller contracts that don’t provide the funding that could upgrade or improve a university’s laboratories, for example.
“Our schools are often left out of the conversation and not even invited to the table,” said Ronald Mason, Ph.D., president of UDC, who thanked Corriveau and other consortium members for opening the doors of opportunity. “With this consortium, we now have our toe in the door, and we hope to open it wider and wider. We have the brains and we know we can do the work that our nation needs us to do.”
Moore, who is a graduate of two minority serving institutions, Tennessee’s Fisk University and Meharry Medical School, lauded the program’s ability to tap into the wealth of talent resources found at MSIs.
“As a graduate of minority serving institutions, I know first-hand that MSIs have some of the brightest and most capable science, math and engineering students in the country,” he said. “If we can draw on their knowledge, skills and capabilities, we can develop new models to conduct science that create innovation and collaboration in a multidisciplinary approach.”
Membership in the consortium has not only been helpful to the institutions overall, but to the actual faculty who are leading research programs at the schools.
“I spend lots of time in the lab, but I need to know what researchers at other institutions are working on and be able to share what I’m working on,” said Rosie Sneed, Ph.D., Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, who has been in the biology program at the UDC Division of Science and Mathematics for 40 years.
DOD contracts and funding research
Corriveau, Valdes and Moore listened to several presentations from each school on current research projects that are applicable to the Army’s mission, such as advances in protective clothing and chemical sensors, all designed to improve the warfighter’s capacity in the field. All projects under evaluation must correlate with the major functional research areas of the Department of Defense and the Army. Representatives from ECBC will visit several other schools in the consortium as part of the tour in the coming weeks.
“We all knew the DOD had contracts and funding,” said Pamela Clarke, program manager in the Office of Research Development at Howard University. “We just didn’t know how to find out about those contracts so we could position ourselves to compete for those dollars. These campus tours will help us find out what the DOD is seeking and how we can tailor our research efforts to their needs. I applaud ECBC and their role in supporting the MSI Consortium.”
The tour is an opportunity for institutions that are part of the consortium to receive feedback from researchers within the Army, academia, and industry to better prepare and develop a proposal addressing identified DOD investment areas. The schools will then need to submit white papers in support of specific Army research categories. More than one project can be accepted by ECBC and schools in the Consortium can collaborate with each other on a project if they have similar research efforts already under way. Winning projects may be funded by ECBC under a cooperative agreement.