Symposium showcases new generation of defense researchers

August 17, 2018

By ARL Public Affairs

Story Highlights

  • The U.S. Army Research Laboratory held its 12th annual Summer Student Symposium Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018.
  • Over 100 students participated in poster sessions, where the top three finalists in each category, undergraduate and graduate, received gold, silver and bronze medals as well as cash prizes.
  • The symposium served as an opportunity for many students to reflect upon how their research at ARL over the past several weeks shaped their goals for the future.

ADELPHI, Md. (Aug. 16, 2018) -- Undergraduate and graduate student interns presented their research during the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's 12th annual Summer Student Symposium Aug. 9 as one final demonstration of their time spent at the lab.

The symposium was designed to recognize the students and their mentors for their research efforts over the summer as well as celebrate their achievements in science and technology.

This year, a total of 168 students from all six directorates participated in the poster session, exhibiting projects about topics ranging from automatic speech recognition to fuel cell development.

During his opening speech, ARL Director Dr. Philip Perconti emphasized how this summer experience gives students a chance to work on research projects that directly benefit Soldiers, perhaps one day saving their lives.

"One of the reasons the Army Research Lab exists is to train scientists and engineers for the future," Perconti said. "Hopefully, you will take away from this experience a little bit about what it means to do science and engineering and serve our nation in a way that is somewhat different than wearing a uniform."

The symposium served as an opportunity for many students to reflect upon how their research over the past several weeks shaped their goals for the future.

Senior undergraduate student Benjamin Kolarik agrees that his research experience working at ARL served an important role in his education.

Over the past eight weeks, Kolarik, a computer science major, worked with the Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate to create a 3D virtual reality environment that could better visualize and represent the results of ballistic simulations that go into designing a military vehicle.

"It's a lot of valuable experience," Kolarik said. "A lot of schools don't teach you all the tools that are going to be involved in the work you do. But here, I've been working in an actual production environment where we're trying to produce real software that people are going to use. It's a good experience that teaches you how to do things in the work environment."

For several students, interning with ARL was their first chance to actively participate in their field of interest.

Another undergraduate student, rising junior Andrea Sipos, mentioned how her summer internship gave her a different perspective on the field of robotics.

"Before I came here, I had no experience on neural networks or robotic operating systems, and I never worked with a non-hobbyist robot platform," Sipos said, who worked at the Human Research and Engineering Directorate to develop technology for neuro-inspired robotic grasping and manipulation.

"These are all things that are going to come up when I'm finishing my undergraduate degree," Sipos said. "They're going to be necessary for me to work on as I go onto get my master's and maybe doctorate in the industry."

According to ARL Sgt. Maj. Keith Taylor, reaching out to undergraduate and graduate students brings new ideas to the table for ARL.

"I think the symposium is absolutely phenomenal," Taylor said. "We have the opportunity to include younger people in defense research and use their ideas to solve Army-unique problems. If we really want to stay ahead of our adversaries, we need leaders out there trying to determine what the next generation technology will look like. I see a lot of concepts in this symposium that can serve our Soldiers during combat right now."

Six exceptional students were rewarded for their work after being carefully selected as finalists by a panel of judges led by Dr. Rose A. Pesce-Rodriguez from ARL's Weapons and Materials Directorate, Energetic Materials Science Branch.

The judges then named one student each from the undergraduate and graduate category among the finalists as the first place winners of the competition.

After much deliberation, undergraduate student Nikita Kozak and graduate student Jamee Gray were awarded the gold medal for this year's Summer Student Symposium.

Kozak, a rising junior at Iowa State University majoring in mechanical engineering and minoring in mathematics, worked with the Vehicle Technology Directorate to computationally investigate the influence of combined rotor and stator blade articulation on gas-turbine engine performance.

By designing engines that perform better in unfavorable conditions, Kozak hopes that his work will help improve the functionality of turboshaft engines and give Soldiers access to vehicles that can fly longer and faster than before.

"Being exposed to the unique and real challenges of the Army and able to assist in finding novel solutions to those challenges is something that I found very interesting and has allowed me to learn so much," Kozak said. "Not only did I learn countless things about turbomachinery, fluid dynamics and high performance computing, but I also learned so much about research outside of the academic setting and about the technologies being developed for the Army. This experience has further solidified my decision to pursue graduate school in mechanical engineering and obtain a position that focuses on research and development."

Similarly, Gray spent her summer with WMRD studying how additive manufacturing may allow for more lightweight engine design, improving engine performance reliability and fuel efficiency.

"This was my first time working in a research environment, and I can say with absolute certainty that it has been my favorite place to work so far," Gray said. "The knowledge and experience I gained while at ARL has been truly valuable and will be extremely beneficial to me going forward."

In both undergraduate and graduate categories, first, second and third place recipients were awarded with $500, $300 and $200, respectively.

By hosting and recognizing summer interns, the Army hopes to inspire the next generation of STEM leaders while infusing its efforts with innovative concepts.

"Diversity of thought is so important because we want to bring people who have all kinds of ideas," Perconti said. "That's really what discovery is: It's connecting those ideas."

Top Honors for 2018 Presentations

Undergraduate Category Winners:

  • Gold: Nikita Kozak, Vehicle Technology Directorate, Computational Investigation of an Adaptive Gas Turbine Engine
  • Silver: Bria Crear, Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate, The Synthesis of Lithium-ion Conducting Solid State Electrolytes for Potential Use in Lithium-ion Batteries
  • Bronze: Oliver Bentham, Computational and Information Sciences Directorate, Applying Semi-Supervised Learning to German Automatic Speech Recognition

Graduate Category Winners:

  • Gold: Jamee Gray, Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, Feasibility of Additive Manufacturing for Major Internal Combustion Engine Components
  • Silver: Benjamin Kirk, Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate, Implementation of Radar Signal Processing and Spectrum Sharing Algorithms for Cognitive Software Defined Radar
  • Bronze: Lucia Donatelli, Computational and Information Sciences Directorate, Natural Language Dialogue Annotation with AMR for Human-Agent

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: August 17, 2018