ADELPHI, MD -- A scientist at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory was recently selected as the 2017 fourth quarter Department of Defense Laboratory Scientist of the Quarter.

Dr. Ronald Polcawich, of ARL's Micro and Nano Devices Branch was recognized for his distinguished accomplishments in the piezoelectric microelectromechanical or PiezoMEMS field of systems.

PiezoMEMS is part of an Army investment to develop actuators and sensors using thin film that could give Soldiers much better awareness of danger compared to current technologies.

"Over the years, my team and I have had a strong emphasis on developing the technologies that can improve capabilities for our warfighters," said Polcawich, who is currently on a detail assignment as a program manager in the Microsystems Technology Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

"In the area of Radio Frequency systems for instance, we have created ways to enhance the agility of operations in ever changing complex electromagnetic environments," Polcawich said.

In the area of position, navigation and timing, also called PNT, the team has been heavily involved with coordinating activities across the Army for research to influence navigation in GPS-denied environments.

"I am proud of the work we have been able to do most recently in developing relationships with the Naval Research Laboratory and several academic institutions to identify the fundamentals behind radiation effects in ferroelectric and piezoelectric materials and MEMS devices," Polcawich said. "This three-year project has resulted in more than five publications over the last two quarters of this year, along with conference presentations."

Polcawich is known for giving credit across the team, according to the deputy branch chief of the Micro and Nano Devices Branch, Gabriel Smith, who has worked with the DOD awardee since 2009.

"When I started working here, and someone asked a question, often times the response was, go ask Ron," Smith said, only half-jokingly. "From clean room to contracts, he is a library of information."

According to Smith, Polcawich brings vision, holistic focus and tenacity.

"Ron built a team from the ground up at in the area of PZT and PiezoMEMS," said Smith, whose research specialty is MEMS and micro additive manufacturing technology. "It is the leadership on his part that created synergy."

Everyone has their own motivation for working hard. His is that from the time he arrived at ARL more than 10 years ago, he wanted to manipulate "smart" materials -- robotics with a motion and sensors -- from development to a final product in one of the only places at the time where it was possible, Polcawich said.

It is a great honor for not only him, but also for his research team that the team's hard work could get highlighted by awards such as the DOD Lab Scientist of the quarter, Polcawich said.

"I think of Ron as a great person to work with, but also as a friend," Smith said. "Actually, I think that is how the whole team here thinks of him."

Dr. Kang Xu, Army Research Laboratory, Weapons and Materials Directorate, Energetic Materials Science Branch was the second quarter Department of Defense Laboratory Scientist of the Quarter awardee.


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.