NATICK, Mass. – Two employees from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, or DEVCOM SC, have been recognized by the Department of Defense’s Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation, or SMART, Scholarship for Service Program. DEVCOM SC’s Joseph Palomba, Ph.D., and Joshua Uzarski, Ph.D., were chosen as the FY2022 SMART Scholar and Mentor of the Year in the Phase 2 – Service Commitment category.
Palomba was recognized for his contributions to the development of new technologies for chemical and biological protection. He received a SMART SEED grant, and his work was published in several technical publications. Palomba’s work led to follow-on funding from the Joint Science and Technology Office for Chemical Biological Defense, Defense Threat Reduction Agency. He also received a Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego.
Uzarski was recognized for his technical assistance and support on Palomba’s SEED grant project and his support in growing a research network conducive to collaboration.
Uzarski and Palomba believe the SMART Scholarship for Service Program is important, as it increases awareness in young scientists about defense research as well as opportunities in civilian service.
“The SMART scholarship is important because it provides another vital method to attract and retain new talent to the DoD research and development world,” said Uzarski. “Defense research is not often well-known in academia, especially at the undergrad level. Some very bright young scientists may never know they could apply their talents to such a significant mission without programs such as SMART.”
“The SMART Scholarship for Service Program is important for finding scientists who are passionate about the DoD's mission and giving them a clear path to civilian service,” said Palomba. “Personally, it was key to begin my career as a civilian from day one and to start to integrate myself into the system and lay the foundation for my research and development portfolio by participating in proposal writing, SBIR/STTRs (Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer), and other programs during my first two years.”
Uzarski observed that the SMART program brings experienced researchers together with young scientists, benefitting the warfighter.
“The SMART program enabled me to pursue a mentor role, which allowed me to share my career experiences with a younger scientist,” said Uzarski. “This helped me shape the focus of a young scientist with bright ideas toward problems with potential high impact to serve the warfighter. With my guidance, they could more readily navigate the DoD environment and focus on their scientific goals.”
Palomba believes that as a scholar, the SMART program gave him the opportunity to make connections and provided a path to use his skills developed in academia and apply them to the mission of supporting the warfighter.
“From my perspective, SMART positioned me to directly take advantage of the skills I developed in my Ph.D. projects,” said Palomba. “I had the opportunity to have some of my research supported by Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) during my Ph.D. to look at fundamentals of chemical hazards and protection. Through this I met scientists at the Soldier Center, and they encouraged me to apply to SMART and helped me understand the mission of supporting the warfighter. Then my final project of my Ph.D. was influenced by the connection to Soldier Center through SMART and also became part of the expertise I continue to develop in my role on the Chemical and Biological Innovative Materials and Ensemble Development Team, all of which accelerates the connections, science, and eventually the equipment the warfighter uses.”
Uzarski feels honored to be recognized by SMART.
“This is a tremendous honor and I feel very proud to have received this important recognition,” said Uzarski. “Being a strong mentor and advisor to other scientists is a very important part of my job that I take great pride in. I was advised by fantastic mentors throughout my academic and early DoD career and it’s very important to me to do the same to the younger scientists that have followed me.”
Palomba feels grateful for being mentored by Uzarski and for the support he has received from other DEVCOM SC employees.
“I feel a great sense of gratitude,” said Palomba. “There is a long list of people who have helped me in my graduate work and transition to my role at DEVCOM Soldier Center — Josh Uzarski, obviously as my SMART mentor, but also my supervisor Nazli El Samaloty has been extremely supportive of me learning and growing, as well as my current team members at Soldier Center who are smart, patient and helpful. I am grateful to my Ph.D. advisor, Prof. Seth Cohen, for believing in me and providing a lot of the tools I use in my role at Soldier Center, as well as the mentors I had in his group, which is an even longer list. The SMART Program believed in me as well and Dr. Brandon Cochenour's introduction of the SEED program to support fundamental research in Phase II was a huge success for me.”
Who benefits more from the relationship — the scholar or the mentor? It’s a win-win.
Uzarski sees the mentor/scholar relationship as mutually beneficial.
“The relationship is beneficial as it provides major benefit to both the mentor and scholar,” said Uzarski. “For the mentor, it provides a satisfying opportunity to help start and grow the career of a young scientist, resulting in a strong, mutual trust. For the scholar, it provides a great opportunity to ‘learn the ropes,’ so to speak, of the DoD research environment. It also allows the mentor to bring the scholar into their professional network, providing new collaboration opportunities that might not otherwise be possible.”
Palomba sees the scholar/mentor relationship as critical.
“The scholar/mentor relationship is critical at a service lab like Soldier Center, where you have to learn your new role and the community simultaneously,” said Palomba. “Josh as my mentor helped me navigate the flood of information you are given when you start and also introduced me to people inside and outside our organization to build successful collaborations and that actually led to my partnership with Prof. Keith Brown at Boston University that became my SMART SEED project and is continuing on into new programs.”
Palomba and Uzarski share a passion for solving problems and serving the warfighter.
“My favorite part of the job is coming up with new ideas for approaching difficult problems,” said Palomba. “At Soldier Center, I am surrounded by people who understand the intricacies of the problems with materials in many different warfighter systems and I get to brainstorm with them and work with some of the smartest academic and industry partners to try to tackle them. It's very exciting.”
“The favorite part of my job is the ability to pursue my scientific curiosities while chasing problems of critical importance for Warfighters,” said Uzarski. “Being a scientist was a childhood dream, and doing so for such an important mission is endlessly satisfying.”
About DEVCOM Soldier Center: The DEVCOM Soldier Center is committed to discovering, developing, and advancing science and technology solutions that ensure America’s warfighters are optimized, protected, and lethal. DEVCOM Soldier Center supports all of the Army's Modernization efforts, with the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Teams being the DEVCOM Soldier Center’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. DEVCOM Soldier Center 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.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) outreach and mentoring the next generation of scientists and engineers are also an important part of the mission of DEVCOM Soldier Center. The mentoring of students by Army scientists and engineers benefits the students and their communities. It also increases young people's awareness of potential Army job opportunities and helps provide the Army with potential new talent, helping to fuel innovative ideas that benefit the nation's warfighters and the nation as a whole.
DEVCOM Soldier Center is part of DEVCOM. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, DEVCOM 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. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.