By Amanda Rominiecki, RDECOM CERDEC Public AffairsFebruary 19, 2014
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Feb. 19, 2014)-- Two U.S. Army computer scientists were recognized for their individual contributions to the scientific community at the annual Black Engineer of the Year Award STEM Conference Feb. 8.
Donald and Courtney Coulter, scientists for the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's communications-electronics center, known as CERDEC, received special recognition awards for their accomplishments at the Black Engineer of the Year Award, or BEYA, conference, held in Washington D.C., Feb. 7-8.
Donald received his award for his work developing advanced mission command computer technologies for the Army while working for CERDEC's Command Power and Integration Directorate. He has since transitioned to CERDEC's Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate, where he will contribute to the directorate's cybersecurity initiatives.
"[Donald] is a consummate professional and epitomizes what our Army is looking for in its future civilian leaders," said John Willison, director of CERDEC CP&I. "He will continue to be a top performer in our community, whose broad technical talent as a respected engineer establishes him as an innovator and developer."
In addition to his scientific contributions, Donald is actively engaged in community outreach. Each year he participates in eCYBERMISSION, an online STEM challenge for students across the U.S., junior science symposiums and a technology advisory group for Harford County schools.
Not to be outdone by her husband, Courtney, a project manager for CERDEC's Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate, develops biometric and forensic analytic tools to help the Army catch criminals linked to roadside bombs that injure U.S. Soldiers.
"I have worked alongside [Courtney] for over two years on a daily basis and seen her develop into a first class engineer, program manager and business manager," said Robert Foresta, an Army G-2 technical manager, in a letter of recommendation for the BEYA award.
"Her personal and professional demeanor, her knowledgeable and thoughtful decision making ability and her total dedication to the advancement of critical intelligence technologies in support of the Soldier all attest to Ms. Coulter being deserving of this recognition," he wrote.
Donald and Courtney are the first husband and wife pair to receive individual awards concurrently from BEYA. The pair met while undergraduate students at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla., and have supported each other as they progressed through their educational and professional careers at CERDEC. They celebrated ten years as a couple Feb. 13.
"This award is full circle. We went from taking engineering classes together to receiving engineering awards together," Courtney said. "It's a testament to how we have leaned on each other to make it to where we are today."
"And it's not just what we've accomplished, but all the people who mentored us to be where we are. It's really a joint award between not only the support we provide each other to get here, but support provided by CERDEC, our colleges, our peers and our mentors," she said.
While laughing, they both agreed working in separate directorates at CERDEC benefits both their personal and professional lives.
"It's very lively discussion at the dinner table -- we're both very opinionated about the direction of engineering and computer science. We have learned to compromise, but we're happy we are not in the same directorate," Courtney said. "At the same time, it's great being in different directorates because we can give each other a unique perspective."
"It helps us network as well for projects we've worked on. Operations and [intelligence] convergence is a heavy topic right now in CP&I and I2WD, and it helps having those separate set of friends and colleagues that we know and can share and interact with. It helps us make strides on those projects," Donald said.
The pair received their awards during a breakfast ceremony at the BEYA STEM Conference, along with a number of other scientists recognized for their accomplishments as minority engineers.
"It is recognition of all the hard work that we've put in both here at CERDEC on technical projects that we've been involved with, but also the community service that we do outside of work both in the STEM fields and other community activities," Donald said.
"It was extremely humbling. To be sitting amongst people who are minorities in engineering who have achieved so much -- we're talking about retired colonels, one person had 150 patents, aspiring astronauts -- just to be mentioned among those people was humbling and inspiring," Courtney said.
The BEYA STEM Conference recognizes technology leaders for their professional achievements, but also identifies individuals who have worked to inspire young students of color to pursue careers in STEM areas, as stated by the BEYA website.
"We have to continue the pipeline of people who are qualified in this area," Donald said. "It's particularly important for the Army, and the CERDEC and APG communities because there are a lot of positions that will be available, and even in the commercial community. Our influence around the world is dependent upon qualified, innovative people."
"You see these very senior level people [at the conference] and when I look at them, I think 'Wow, that could be me in 20 years if I keep working hard,'" Courtney said. "So I want to make sure I'm that same role model for someone younger than me. To see me, a black woman, who is a computer engineer -- that it would inspire a young girl, who doesn't think girls code or do math, that she could do it too."
CERDEC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, 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 -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC delivers it.