SEDD military officer earns doctorate in bioengineering

June 14, 2011

Story Highlights

  • ARL major receives doctorate degree in bioengineering under recently-discontinued Uniformed Army Scientist and Engineer (US&E) Program
  • Innovative research area expected to address bio-contamination challenges in logistics fuels
  • Solution could help arrest corrosion in tanks and engine parts

Maj. Christopher Byrd, a research scientist in ARL's Electro-Optics & Photonics Division, Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate (SEDD), recently earned a doctorate degree in bioengineering from the University of Maryland College Park under the Uniformed Army Scientist and Engineer (US&E) Program.

The US&E Program was established in 2003 by the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) to grow and manage a pool of acquisition officers with scientific and engineering knowledge. Officers, including Byrd, served as experts supporting the Army's scientific and engineering needs across a broad spectrum of assignments to achieve real time technology solutions to immediate battlefield requirements while looking forward to provide technical leadership to meet future program needs. The program was officially discontinued in January 2010.

"This program presented a unique opportunity for ARL because it allowed Maj. Byrd to directly integrate his research and experience into our biotechnology program," said Associate Division Chief, Dr. Patti Gillespie.

Byrd's dissertation, "Local and Global Gene Regulation Analysis of the Autoinducer-2 Mediated Quorum Sensing Mechanism in Escherichia coli", focused on understanding the role a particular biomolecule plays in intercellular signaling.

Earlier this year, he and SEDD researcher Dr. Matthew Servinsky were awarded a 2011 Director's Research Initiative grant to investigate the use of a quorum sensing approach to detect the presence of bio-contamination in logistics fuels. Bacteria and fungi that grow in diesel fuel tanks cause bio-contamination, and the black stringy-like slime can plug filters, corrode tanks and engine parts, or cause equipment failure. Byrd and Servinsky's project investigated the use of quorum sensing to detect microbial induced corrosion (MIC) in fuels.

"To accomplish this sensing, they've engineered a form of E. coli to use as a sensor for the molecule that will detect the MIC. Their experiments were successful and they've now established that engineered E. coli can be used as part of a sensing system to detect MIC in Army fuels," explained Gillespie. "Previously, detection of such corrosion was difficult and such corrosion adversely impacts the performance of fuels in vehicles.

"Why is detection currently so difficult? Water exists with fuel in most containers, but they naturally separate. The current detection methods rely on extracting the organisms that live at the fuel-water interface, and most of these organisms grow anaerobically, or without air, and die when exposed to oxygen. The new sensors can be put into the fuel-water mix and it will be stable and act as a sensor in situ."

Byrd was commissioned in 1995 as a second lieutenant from the University of Central Florida, where he earned a bachelor of science in Design Engineering. Following his commissioning, Byrd was assigned to the 43rd ASG, Ft. Carson, CO, where he served in various positions including HET Platoon Leader, Executive Officer, Operations Officer, Assistant Battalion S-3, Battalion Transportation Officer, and Company Commander. He was next assigned to Arden Hills, Minnesota, at the 1/340th IN TSB where he served as a team chief, coordinating and conducting training for Army Reservists throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Byrd joined the Army Acquisitions Corps and began duties at the Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Md.

"I would like to thank all of the ARL leadership and fellow researchers who have been exceptionally supportive throughout the doctoral process," Byrd said. "I consider myself fortunate to have worked with the world-class facilities and people that are part of ARL, and sincerely hope to return to ARL in the future in order to continue bioengineering research."

During his ARL tour of duty, he deployed in support of the rapid transition and Soldier training for theJoint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization Gizmo Project in RC-S, Afghanistan as a response to Joint Urgent Operational Needs. There, he led a team responsible for fielding equipment and training interservice U.S. and NATO forces in and around Kandahar.

His awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.


Last Update / Reviewed: June 14, 2011