NATICK, Mass. – During the pandemic, Ramanathan Nagarajan, Ph.D., ST – Senior Research Scientist Soldier Nanomaterials, initiated a series of ongoing virtual seminars to ensure employees at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, or CCDC SC, continue to have opportunities to advance their learning, as well as to continue building relationships and partnerships with academia, industry, and other Department of Defense organizations.
Nagarajan, with help from Debra Anderson from the Office of the Chief Scientist, has put together a series of virtual seminars covering a wide range of topics such as soft electronics, impact of cognition on situational awareness, silk-derived food packaging, bone quality and skeletal fragility, soft robotics, assessment of mental workload, nanoengineered materials for advanced energy and water technologies, E-textiles, concussion biomechanics, and advanced 3d printing of soft materials and specifically designed polymers. Thirty seminars were made available over the course of 45 working days in April and May, and Nagarajan has continued organizing two seminars per week.
The virtual nature of the seminars makes attendance possible for those working from home and also enables learning, career growth, and networking to continue unhindered during these trying times, during which social distancing is necessary to help keep workers healthy.
“The value of the seminar series is part of the lessons learned during this time,” said Nagarajan. “It’s possible to meet with, and talk to, people anywhere. Virtual options are going to be used long-term. I think this should be an ongoing activity and not something that is done at just this point in time. I’ve found that we can get specialists from literally any part of the world to speak to us to address any topic we are interested in. It’s a very nice way to engage with the outside world.”
“The virtual seminars have been a valuable resource for staying engaged with the broader research community in areas closely related to CCDC SC's mission, especially as in-person meeting attendance is not currently feasible,” said Kathleen Swana, Ph.D., a researcher at CCDC SC. "Dr. Nagarajan has done an admirable job of inviting excellent speakers in topics that are of great interest to the SC workforce.”
Virtual learning also saves on travel costs and allows for more flexible scheduling, bringing scientific and engineering expertise right to your laptop at home.
“We are focusing on science and engineering, not only materials science, which is my background, but also cognitive science and biomechanics,” said Nagarajan. “Indeed, I want to also cover social science problems of general interest to our community.”
The series has hosted a very distinguished group of experts.
“We had a speaker who is a member of all three National Academies (Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine), multiple speakers who are members of one or another National Academy, speakers from start-up companies, and a speaker from the UK,” said Nagarajan.
Nagarajan has also tried to engage younger faculty for fresh perspectives. He also believes that diversity is important and he has sought out women, as well as minority, speakers.
“The idea is to help people see how widespread the knowledge base is,” said Nagarajan.
One goal of the platform is to increase connections with other labs and organizations throughout CCDC and the Army Futures Command. Another goal is to foster connections with academia and start-up businesses.
“It can be used to increase our external academic engagement,” said Nagarajan. “In addition to providing educational opportunities, we can also identify academic researchers for engagement and collaboration. Also, start-up companies have a lot of new ideas and this could be a way to reach out to them.”
"During our relative isolation to protect ourselves from COVID-19, Dr. Nagarajan recognized an opportunity for virtual seminars,” said Richard Green, Ph.D., director of the Soldier Protection and Survivability Directorate at CCDC SC. “Not only have these seminars helped our scientific community maintain contact, but they have increased our ability to hear cutting-edge science from our academic partners. Our researchers get to hear from top scientists, interact with them, and have their questions answered in a low-threat environment. By conceptualizing the seminar series and doing the groundwork to make it a reality, Dr. Nagarajan has done a great service for the Soldier Center, our academic partners, and potential future partners."
Nagarajan believes that the virtual seminars also provide an opportunity to increase internal communication within the Soldier Center.
“It gives people the chance to become more aware of what other scientists and engineers are working on throughout the organization,” said Nagarajan. “I think we could also expand this effort to include talks on things of general interest, including health, aging, and work-life balance. I’ve always wanted to do something for everybody at Natick doing all types of work. The idea is to build a greater sense of community throughout the organization.”
Anyone wishing to attend the seminars may contact Nagarajan at firstname.lastname@example.org to become a Virtual Seminars Team member.
About CCDC SC: CCDC SC is committed to discovering, developing, and advancing science and technology solutions that ensure America’s warfighters are optimized, protected, and lethal. CCDC SC supports all of the Army's Modernization efforts, with the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Teams being the CCDC SC’s chief areas of focus. The center’s science and engineering expertise are combined with collaborations with industry, DOD, and academia to advance Soldier and squad performance. The center supports the Army as it transforms from being adaptive to driving innovation to support a Multi-Domain Operations Capable Force of 2028 and a MDO Ready Force of 2035. CCDC SC is constantly working to strengthen Soldiers’ performance to increase readiness and support for warfighters who are organized, trained, and equipped for prompt and sustainable ground combat.
CCDC SC is part of CCDC. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, CCDC leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.