USA — Research Provides Career Opportunities

WASHINGTON — Basic research not only push­es the bound­aries of tech­nol­o­gy, but also pro­vides excit­ing career oppor­tu­ni­ties for women, two researchers from the Air Force Office of Sci­en­tif­ic Research said last week.
Joan Fuller, a pro­gram direc­tor, and Air Force Maj. Michelle Ewy, a pro­gram man­ag­er, were guests on the March 31 Women’s His­to­ry Month edi­tion of the “DoD Live” pod­cast “Armed with Sci­ence: Research and Appli­ca­tions for the Mod­ern Mil­i­tary.”

The pair explained that their jobs at the office’s aero­space, chem­i­cal and mate­r­i­al sci­ence direc­torate are to seek out cut­ting-edge research projects that are par­tic­u­lar­ly deserv­ing of fund­ing.

“If we find research that seems inter­est­ing or might be promis­ing for future Air Force tech­nolo­gies, typ­i­cal­ly we either con­tact the researcher or the [prin­ci­pal inves­ti­ga­tors], and we’ll have dis­cus­sions over the phone or through e‑mail about their research and where we think it might be able to fit in our par­tic­u­lar pro­gram,” Fuller said.

It can take years to advance from the dis­cov­ery of a promis­ing sci­en­tif­ic inquiry to prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tions for the mil­i­tary. In 2001, for instance, Fuller start­ed work­ing on a high-tem­per­a­ture aero­space mate­ri­als port­fo­lio. She said she expects the result­ing engi­neer­ing advance­ments to roll out over the next 10 years.

“This port­fo­lio is unique in that it is the only basic sci­ence port­fo­lio in the world that focus­es on mate­ri­als that can sur­vive oxi­diz­ing envi­ron­ments above 1,400 [degrees] Cel­sius,” Fuller explained.

In addi­tion to pro­pelling the devel­op­ment of new tech­nolo­gies, Ewy said, Air Force Office of Sci­en­tif­ic Research projects forge part­ner­ships.

“One of the great ben­e­fits that come out of the research we fund is not just the fun­da­men­tal knowl­edge that we gain, but also the col­lab­o­ra­tions we build,” she said, not­ing that research labs involved in one project may start col­lab­o­rat­ing on oth­er work that leads to new oppor­tu­ni­ties.

For Ewy, who grew up in a mil­i­tary house­hold in Vir­ginia, sci­ence and the mil­i­tary have opened many doors. She attend­ed the pres­ti­gious Thomas Jef­fer­son High School for Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy and con­tin­ued on to earn an under­grad­u­ate degree in chem­istry and a com­mis­sion through ROTC.

“In the Air Force, I’ve had quite a few jobs, but I’ve also had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get my Ph.D. from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vir­ginia through the Air Force Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy Civil­ian Uni­ver­si­ty pro­gram,” Ewy said.

“I feel that I’ve been very, very lucky in my Air Force career,” she added. “I’ve had a lot of won­der­ful oppor­tu­ni­ties, and I think it’s giv­en me a pret­ty good van­tage point for sit­ting here as an Air Force pro­gram man­ag­er, specif­i­cal­ly as an active duty pro­gram man­ag­er, to have a good idea of how impor­tant the basic research is for our Air Force.”

Ewy said she encour­ages oth­er women to fol­low in her foot­steps.

“There are so many oppor­tu­ni­ties for young women, girls and old­er women look­ing to get involved in sci­ence,” Ewy said, and she cit­ed the mil­i­tary as a good avenue for that pur­suit.

“You nev­er know what oppor­tu­ni­ties are going to come from unex­pect­ed places,” Fuller added.

Emerg­ing Media, Defense Media Activ­i­ty
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)