Leaders Team Up with Minority-Serving Institutions
The Edgewood Chemical Biological Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground and Harford County business leaders have developed a unique partnership with minority-serving institutions (MSI) of higher education to support new research programs that may lead to additional technological advances for the Army and cultivate a new generation of Army scientists.
Leaders at ECBC and members of the county’s tech community recently completed the first stop on the inaugural campus tour for the MSI STEM Research and Development Consortium, a collaboration between minority serving institutions 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 (STEM) development.
“This campus tour will be the first of many to demonstrate to our DoD (Department of Defense) partners and advocates the good science stemming from our campuses,” says Michael Hester, president and CEO of the Consortium, which is based in Washington, D.C. “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 Joseph Corriveau, Ph.D., retired ECBC scientist Jay Valdes, Ph.D., and newly appointed Director of ECBC’s Research and Technology Directorate, Eric Moore, Ph.D., spent a day at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), meeting with faculty from local Consortium members Morgan State University, Howard University and UDC.
Also participating were private-sector partners Danny DeMarinis, Ph.D., president of the Northeastern Maryland University Research Park in Havre de Grace, and Richard Litman, a registered patent attorney and managing shareholder at Becker and Poliakoff in Manassas, Va., who will be assisting Consortium members in patent licensing and technology transfer.
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. “ECBC is seeking greater diversity of ideas,” says Corriveau. “We use the consortium so that we can go after these good ideas to solve our nation’s problems. Everybody wins.”
The first research projects were awarded in late 2014.
“For proposals that are funded, students have an opportunity to participate in research that will impact national security,” Corriveau says. “For faculty, they have an opportunity to access funds to acquire the equipment they need to carry out important research.”
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 or schools which have a track record of receiving research grants, providing those schools with millions of dollars in research funding.
Minority-serving institutions are often overlooked for research opportunities. Two to four percent of government research dollars are awarded to MSIs, Hester says, 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,” says Ronald Mason, Ph.D., president of UDC, who thanks 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 says. “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.”
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 says.
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. Representatives from ECBC also met with several other schools in the consortium during a second tour stop in North Carolina in the fall.
“We all knew the DoD had contracts and funding,” says 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.”
Victor McCrary, Ph.D., vice president of research and economic development at Morgan State University in Baltimore, says that they are uniquely positioned because of their proximity to the nation’s capital.
“You’re all within 50 miles of the Department of Defense,” McCrary says. “You have a different access than other schools that are in Florida or Texas. Seek out those opportunities to network and learn about the DoD. This consortium gives an institution the opportunity to build brand recognition and a revenue stream. It’s about partnering and prospering.” I95