By David McNally, ARL Public AffairsOctober 17, 2016
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Army scientists and engineers continue to reach out to academia hunting for increased opportunities for technology advancement to enable the Soldier of the future.
Dr. Michelle L. Pantoya, a Texas Tech University mechanical engineering professor, visited the U.S. Army Research Laboratory to share research and collaborate on future discoveries in materials science Oct. 14, 2016.
Pantoya gave a seminar on energetic materials for Army scientists at the Rodman Materials Research Laboratory before touring laboratory facilities.
"I feel like the work that we do will literally help you in the work that you do," Pantoya told the scientists. "We study energetic materials and you work with them daily. Anything we can do to help facilitate your work is rewarding to me."
Pantoya has published more than 120 scholarly papers, but she stressed that the research presented at the seminar was a team effort.
"What I'm going to talk about today is work that came from a lot of people" she said. "It's really a collaborative effort. Even though I'm the one talking, it's really everyone's successes."
The seminar focused on the potential of composite materials delivering chemical energy, a topic of great interest to Army scientists.
"What we want to do is to optimize the energy available in these materials," Pantoya said. "In order to do that, instead of making these broad, sweeping observations, we want to start to really understand what's happening at the surface."
Pantoya is a 2004 Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, or PECASE, recipient, who went on to become the Texas Tech's J. W. Wright Endowed Professor in Mechanical Engineering.
PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their research careers.
"She is a close partner with ARL and has been funded by the Army Research Office through Program Manager Dr. Ralph Anthenien for over 10 years," said Dr. Brad Forch, senior research scientist for ballistics at ARL's Weapons and Materials Research Directorate. "She is remarkable -- one out of a million. She has a large research group and publishes many papers which are significantly impacting our research goals."
Plans for expanded Open Campus research initiatives with Pantoya are in the works, he said.
The laboratory funds research in academia as part of its Extramural Basic Research Campaign, which is focused on "identifying, forming, driving and transitioning innovative research discoveries in the physical sciences, information sciences, life sciences and engineering sciences that are critical to the Army's future technological superiority."
In addition to collaborating on important research, Pantoya encourages her students with potential to apply their skills in support of Army science.
"I left Dr. Pantoya's group at the end of 2008, so it was great to see the research they're currently conducting," said Dr. Steven Dean, a former Texas Tech student who worked as an Army post-doctoral fellow before becoming a federal employee. "They've come a long way since my time, and are moving in some really exciting directions."
Dean said since he started working for the Army he sees the importance of academia's role.
"Not only in conducting basic research of use to the Army, but also in training future researchers to work at ARL and other DOD labs," he said. "It's often said that people are the lab's most valuable asset, and without professors like Dr. Pantoya we wouldn't have the highly qualified personnel needed to fulfill our mission."
Dr. Eric Collins, also a former Texas Tech student who worked as an Army post-doctoral fellow before becoming a federal employee, joined Dean in introducing Pantoya at the seminar.
"It is nice to see collaboration between my former mentor and my colleagues at ARL," Collins said. "There is a lot of overlap in the research and I think that both parties will benefit from working together."
Pantoya told seminar attendees that her team's vision is to promote cleaner, safer and more effective energetic materials through a basic understanding of their combustion behavior.
"It's very exciting for me," she said. "It's definitely something we're going to be working on for a while."
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.