By Ms Joyce Conant, ARLAugust 15, 2012
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground hosted a visit on June 21 for 30 Meyerhoff Scholars Program freshmen from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
The Meyerhoff Scholars Program, according to its website, has been at the forefront of efforts to increase diversity among future leaders in science, engineering, and related fields. The UMBC Meyerhoff family is now more than 1,000 strong, with 700 alumni across the nation and 300 students enrolled in graduate and professional programs.
The students spent the morning visiting the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, the Vehicle Technology Directorate and the Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate.
"The VTD tour included a demonstration of our unmanned vehicle research in autonomous mapping and the simulation tools we use to support our robotics research," said Dr. MaryAnne Fields. "In addition, the students toured the combustion research laboratory and the heat engine systems altitude test facility."
The students are on a four-year science, math and engineering scholarship to UMBC with the majority of the students coming from Maryland schools. One of the students is from California and another from Arizona, said Sheryl Coleman, ARL, who helped coordinate the tour.
"The students were very knowledgeable of the materials presented and full of questions for all of the presenters," said Coleman.
In addition to the students, three assistants and the Meyerhoff Scholars Program director Michael Goodwyn also attended the visit. Goodwyn said the students must maintain a 4.2 to a 5.0 grade point average prior to applying to the program.
Jeffrey Avery, one of the assistants and also a May 2012 graduate of the program, worked for Dr. Shashi Karna at WMRD during his freshmen year in the program. He worked on the development of a graphical user interface (GUI) for a legacy quantum chemistry code, PHOTON, which was developed by Dr. Karna and colleagues in the mid-1980s and is extensively used for calculating electronic structure and properties of small molecules and quantum dots.
Karna said that traditionally, PHOTON, similar to other legacy codes used formatted input in a text file from the user and required a thorough familiarity of the code by the user. To simplify its use, Karna said that Avery developed a GUI that allows a user to interactively input the required data when prompted by the software in windows boxes. Avery's work has made the code very simple and user friendly.
"It was a pleasure working with Jeff," said Karna. "In addition to him being talented, and highly motivated, he had a very high work ethics -- that especially impressed me about this young man. Although he only worked with me one summer, he has kept in touch and informed me of the progress in his pursuits of higher education."
The nomination-based application process for the Meyerhoff Scholars Program is open to prospective undergraduate students of all backgrounds who plan to pursue doctoral study in the sciences or engineering and who are interested in the advancement of minorities in those fields.
The program's success, according to its website, is built on the premise that, among like-minded students who work closely together, positive energy is contagious. By assembling such a high concentration of high-achieving students in a tightly knit learning community, students continually inspire one another to do more and better.
The program has been recognized by the National Science Foundation and the New York Times as a national model.