GEMS creates a shining star

Summer intern shines as a stellar example of the benefits of student programs

August 20, 2015

By Tracie R. Dean, ARL Public Affairs Office

Story Highlights

  • Jacqueline Le, a junior at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art studying mechanical engineering, wisely took advantage of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's array of summer student programs and internships for the past eight years
  • Collectively these programs offer opportunities for students to gain valuable research experience in a premier, state-of-the-art research facility working alongside top scientists and engineers.
  • Le attributes her academic success to the overall classroom and hands-on experiences she gained while participating in the various summer student programs.

As this summer draws to a close, students across the country will reflect on whether they have engaged in meaningful summer experiences. For one student, Jacqueline Le, a junior at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art studying mechanical engineering, there is an easy conclusion. For the past eight years, Le wisely took advantage of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's array of summer student programs and internships.

Collectively these programs offer opportunities for students to gain valuable research experience in a premier, state-of-the-art research facility working alongside top scientists and engineers. Beginning in 2007, during the latter years of middle school, Le was introduced to, and participated in, ARL's Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science (GEMS) program.

GEMS is a nationwide Army-sponsored hands-on research program offered to middle and high school students designed to cultivate interests in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The program provides students with in-depth STEM enrichment experiences based on a multi-disciplinary educational curriculum and research mentoring from top scientists and engineers.

During a recent visit to the STEM and Education Outreach Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Le briefed a class of GEMS students about her insights and experiences after having served eight years of internships at ARL.

"GEMS was critical in developing my interests in math and science so I encourage others to pursue this week long program. It offered an opportunity to see many different labs, experiments and gain hands-on experience," said Le.

Le's GEMS interning continued throughout middle school. Beginning in 2010, upon entering high school, she transitioned into the Science and Engineering Apprentice Program (SEAP) in which she remained through 2012.

SEAP provides foundational research experience for students that will encourage them to pursue a research oriented career. As a SEAP participant, Le has conducted a significant amount of research, noting that:

"In 2010, my research was on metal alloys and this year it's on composite helmets, more specifically Enhanced Combat Helmets (ECH). Most of the research I've done deals with failure and fracture of ceramics and damage evolution in composite armors."

While participating in SEAP, Le further honed her research skills by attending the Science and Math Academy (SMA) at Aberdeen High School. At SMA, she leveraged the ARL laboratory facilities in completing her senior capstone project entitled "The Effective Strike Face Geometry on the Dynamic Delamination of Composite Back Plates."

"The SMA is a magnet program for math and science. The curriculum emphasizes math and science more than a traditional high school and is geared toward students looking to pursue science majors in college. There is also a four-year course called Science, Research, and Technology (SRT) which is project based and culminates with a senior capstone research project.

"The electives I took and SRT has helped me in college. My college attracts bright students where many of them come from magnet programs like the SMA. The classes I took at the SMA taught me the right work ethic I needed to stay ahead throughout college," said Le.

In 2012, Le began her college studies at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art at which time she also transitioned to the College Qualified Leaders (CQL) program.

CQL provides follow-on research experience for students already interested in the STEM field with special emphasis on focusing their interests in Army related research.

Le attributes her academic success to the overall classroom and hands-on experiences she gained while participating in the various summer student programs.

"SEAP and CQL introduced me to different concepts that I didn't see in school until I was in college. For example, I didn't learn many details about stress and strain until my sophomore year at Cooper Union. It made some of my classes easier because I already had some exposure to it," explained Le.

In 2014, Le studied abroad in Germany where she researched environmental nanotechnology, and then returned to ARL this summer to continue her research on "fracture and failure of advanced ceramic-composite armor."

Continuing her research efforts, this summer Le explored non-destructive evaluation techniques for detecting damage in the Enhanced Combat Helmet (ECH).

In addition to her academic accomplishments, Le has also been a competitive swimmer for nine years, enjoys recreational tennis and has played the violin since the age of seven.

When asked what impact ARL has had on her future goals Le replied, "the most important part of my ARL experience is that I've had a taste of what it's like to do research and work at a research laboratory. Moreover, I like that I've gotten the chance to speak with various people about the different career paths I could possibly take after I graduate."

One ARL employee who has had a profound influence in Le's journey has been her mentor, Dr. Shane Bartus, technical area manager for Soldier Protection, in ARL's Weapons and Materials Research Directorate's Armor Mechanisms Branch.

In reflecting on serving as Le's mentor, Bartus noted, "she has taken full advantage of eight years' worth of STEM/Army Educational Outreach Programs (AEOP), and has a distinct advantage in securing an excellent post-graduate seat upon graduation from the prestigious Cooper Union University, NY, NY with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. I highly encourage other researchers here to look into these aforementioned programs as a great opportunity to work with exceptional students while helping to further ARL's mission work."

Le's future educational goals include the pursuit of a master's degree and possibly even a Ph.D. For more information on ARL student programs and opportunities please visit www.arl.army.mil.


The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is the nation's premier laboratory for land forces and is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC delivers it.

For more information, visit www.arl.army.mil, follow @ArmyResearchLab on Twitter and follow the lab on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ArmyResearchLaboratory.

 

Last Update / Reviewed: August 20, 2015