BALTIMORE - Engineering students from across the country got a glimpse at career opportunities that support the Warfighter as the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command recently participated in the 2008 Society of Women Engineers Conference at the Baltimore Convention Center.

The three day conference brought industry leaders and college students together for discussions, a career fair and an awards banquet honoring the achievements of engineers. SWE aims to empower women to succeed in engineering and recognize their contributions.

Dr. Melanie Cole, an Army Research Laboratory scientist, was honored at the conference with the SWE Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor given by the organization. Cole delivered the keynote address and shared advice with young engineers and students.

"You must take negative motivators and turn them into positives because bad things will inevitably happen. Most importantly, you must never, ever give up. And lastly, you can have it all, but you can't have it all at the same time," said Cole.

Virginia Connolly, president of the Society of Women engineers, said "[Cole] has provided wonderful inspiration for all of those whose career paths have not gone in a straight line."

Cole stressed the importance for RDECOM to reach out to women because they can help accomplish the mission.

"Our research is not race or gender specific so it is critical for us to reach out to everyone and get the best ideas," said Cole. "I'm glad we're participating in the SWE conference and so proud to play a part in this."

Cole and other scientsts and engineers invited students to visit an ARL facility to kick off the conference. More than 30 students and young engineers toured labs at the Rodman Building, a research facility at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

Jamie Jabal, an engineering student at the University of Idaho, said she joined the tour to learn about research in a specific area.

"It's impressive to see so many female engineers excelling in key positions here," she said. "My research is in nanotechnology so I'm hoping to learn more about ARL research and job opportunities."

The wide variety of research opportunities within the command were on display during the conference career fair as representatives from five RDECOM elements interacted with students. Yolanda Hinton, an ARL engineer, said she stressed the end result of research.

"I tell students that there are many educational opportunities as an engineer in the Army and a broad range of career paths and that all of the research is supporting the Soldier so there is a definite application," said Hinton.

RDECOM representatives helped educate students about what it means to work in science and technology for the Army.

"Some students don't know what we do at RDECOM so we try and clear up any misconceptions," said Marnie de Jong, an electrical engineer for the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center. "They think that all of the research is devoted to weapon systems, but we explain that there is a lot of work done in communications, electronics, power and other areas."

While some students were unfamiliar with RDECOM, others had previous knowledge of the command. Angela Griffin, a senior at Tufts University, said she first learned about the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center while attending a career fair in Massachusetts.

"I'm especially interested in Natick because of the research they do with food; it's really cool," she said.

Many students showed an interest in robotics, according to Dana Mohre, a chemical engineer for the Edgewood Chemical-Biological Center. ECBC displayed the Chemical, Biological, Radiation and Nuclear Unmanned Ground Reconnaissance Vehicle. CUGR technology incorporates sensors on a PackBot.

"The robotic portion of this technology has attracted a lot of students who want to do research in that area," said Mohre. "At ECBC, our input in the CUGR technology is the sensors we integrated that detect various types of contaminates."

The final day of the conference, students had the opportunity to pose questions during panel discussions. Cole and several engineers from private industry sat on a panel focused on obtaining a career in research.

Cole noted during the panel her research with ARL has focused on thin film electronic materials. SWE credited her "for pioneering research contributions, experimental creativity and innovation in developing a fundamental understanding of the complex relationships between the structures, processing and properties in thin film electronic materials."