WASHINGTON -- Several employees for the Research, Development and Engineering Command were recognized for their contributions in science, technology, engineering and mathematics during the 2011 Black Engineer of the Year Award STEM Conference conducted Feb. 17-19.

The BEYA conference gathers representatives from STEM education and professions to celebrate and promote academic and professional achievement. BEYA's goal is to strengthen the foundation of America's STEM workforce through involvement from K-12 and higher education, government and corporate STEM employers.

Dr. Paul Ruffin, senior research scientist at the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, was awarded the Professional Achievement Award at BEYA's Emerald Honors Dinner on the opening night of the conference Feb. 17.

"Dr. Ruffin is a world-renowned scientist who has been awarded six patents. His latest patent disclosure revealed a non-invasive technique for treating cancer patients. In 2003, Paul was promoted as the senior research scientist, the highest rank a scientist can achieve in government service, and the first African American to do so in the United States Army," Mr. Gary Martin, executive deputy to the commander, RDECOM, said when introducing Ruffin.

"I was raised in a small town in south Alabama. Although my parents never graduated from high school, my mother made sure that I got a good, solid foundation in education that lasts," Ruffin said when accepting the award.

Dr. Thomas Davis, supervisory engineer, Chief Weapons Branch of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, was recognized as a modern-day technology leader during a luncheon at the conference Feb. 18. According to BEYA, modern-day technology leaders are "enterprising technologists and engineers who spend their days expanding possibilities and developing opportunities."

Davis has served nine years in the Army, earning the rank of Staff Sergeant, and receiving numerous awards, including the Army Commendation Medal.

Michelle Goddard, mechanical engineer with RDECOM's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, was awarded Special Recognition at the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Engineering Deans' Power Breakfast on Feb 19.

"Since joining RDECOM in 2005, Michelle Goddard has worked to focus all of her efforts on testing the equipment that we use to protect our forces against chemical and biological threats. Let me tell you, she is an inspiring role model," Maj. Gen. Nick Justice, commanding general, RDECOM, said when introducing Goddard.

"Growing up, my parents instilled in me a capacity and love for learning. Their active support set me free to achieve personal success. When I was a little girl, they bought me a chemistry set and they monitored my experiments and also cleaned up my messes afterward. In college they told me engineering would open doors. As parents usually are, they were right," Goddard said when accepting the award.

Justice had numerous speaking engagements throughout the conference. He also spoke to hundreds of middle and high school students participating in the BEYA K-12 program during a luncheon Feb. 18.

"I want you to choose to take challenging courses in school. If you choose the hard courses, you won't be bored. You take math. You take science. You take the courses that are the building blocks to your future," Justice said.

He also expressed the need to recognize family members and mentors who have helped the students in their lives and stressed the importance to listen to their advice.

"You get to be Army strong not because you are the strongest, but because your team is the strongest. Your leaders are strong and that's what you need to remember. You can't do this by yourself," Justice said.

It was a point Justice expounded on when he addressed college students and their mentors later that evening at the BEYA Student Leadership and Scholarship Dinner.

"Now I'm going to offer you something that you may not have thought about. I want you to consider public service. I'm not just talking about the military, but consider being researchers, developers and engineers in the Department of Defense or Department of Homeland Security or in the heath care field. I'm talking about public service where you know that you are giving back more than you take. That is how you pay back the people that you owe the debt of gratitude to for your successes," Justice said at the dinner.

RDECOM also had a presence at the Army's display booth at the conference. One of its unmanned robots was on display and an information table for the eCybermission -- a free, web-based science, technology, engineering and math competition for students in grades six through nine -- was also available at the booth.