Australian researcher engages U.S. Army peers in exchange program

Australian researcher engages U.S. Army peers in exchange program

May 26, 2016

By ARL Public Affairs

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (May 25, 2016) – Australian scientist Dr. Shannon Ryan spent a year with U.S. Army Research Laboratory colleagues working on the challenges of armor technologies and analysis tools.

"My main project was looking at the development of an integrated armor that could defeat a range of different threat types," Ryan said. "I was a research engineer within the Armor Mechanisms Branch, but also worked with members of the other protection division branches."

As part of the laboratory's Science for Lethality and Protection campaign, Army scientists experiment with solutions for protecting Soldiers against shaped charge warheads, kinetic energy projectiles and explosively formed projectiles.

"Working in cooperation with the Multi-Threat Armor Branch, we were able to significantly improve the performance of some candidate armors against kinetic energy penetrators," he said. "In addition to that, I worked on a wide range of other projects looking at either armor development or evaluation. One of the most exciting projects was trying to implement machine learning tools to predict the outcome of terminal ballistics events. One day we may even be able to use those tools to design complex armor systems."

Ryan came to ARL as part of the Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program, known as ESEP. The Australian Defence Science and Technology Group, his home organization, funded his travel and salary.

"The DST Group is the government science and technology lab for all of Defence in Australia, responsible for the air, land, and sea domains," he said.

Getting used to life in America wasn't difficult for Ryan, he's lived in Houston and his wife is American.

"The huge snow fall over winter was a pretty unique thing though," he said. "It was the first time my daughter had seen the snow and she absolutely loved it. I know that my wife will miss being near family the most. For me I loved the proximity to so many great areas of the United States, such as New York City and Washington D.C."

Ryan earned his doctorate at RMIT University in 2007 for research completed at Germany's Fraunhofer EMI. His undergraduate degree is in aerospace engineering, which he put to use as a postdoctoral research fellow with the Lunar and Planetary Institute at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston from 2008 to 2010.

Under the laboratory's Open Campus initiative, ARL collaborates with national and international academia, industry, small business and other government partners in forward-reaching research in areas of strategic importance to the Army.

"I think the Open Campus concept is a great idea," Ryan said. "ARL has some incredible experimental facilities as well as scientific staff that are truly world-leading. I probably generated enough data to keep me busy with analysis and report writing for the next three years." Australia and the United States have an agreement on sharing certain technologies.

"An important aspect was the development of relationships with the ARL team," Ryan said. "We have a long-standing bilateral Data Exchange Agreement on armor technology between the two labs. A goal of my posting was to strengthen those ties and setup some ongoing collaborative programs."

There are plans for at least two multi-year projects, which will provide some level of burden sharing, but also use the unique capabilities of the two labs, he said.

Ryan returned to Australia in May.

"I'm back at DST Group in the Land Vehicle Survivability area and will be leading our effort in armor for penetrating threats, such as bullets, fragments and projectile forming IEDs," he said.

"The ESEP program works both ways – incoming where our partners send scientists and engineers to the United States and outgoing where we send scientists and engineers to other countries," said Dr. Sandra K. Young, Strategy lead and materials engineer for the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command International Cooperation and Exchange Office. "There are 17 partner countries with ESEP agreements." The next opportunity to apply for ESEP may happen as early as June 2016 with an application deadline of October 2016.

"If selected, participants would begin the program in October 2017," she said.

The Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army, Defense Exports and Cooperation is the overall manager for the Army's program, which selects top-performing, early-to-mid-career level engineers and scientists from across the Army every year for assignment to an allied military establishment. Assignments complement a participant's background and offer tangible benefits to both the Army and the overseas host. For Ryan, he said he felt more than welcome during his participation in the program.

"Actually quite a lot of the engineers and scientists I worked with had been to Australia as part of our cooperation agreement," he said. "I handed out some classic Australian cookies which went down well. I also helped correct some pretty bad fake Australian accents and slang that the range technicians tried out on me."

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.


Last Update / Reviewed: May 26, 2016