Minority Undergraduate Student Internship Program Continues to Offer Opportunities

College Juniors and Seniors Immerse Themselves in Scientific Experience

CCDC Chemical Biological Center Public Affairs | July 26th, 2019

Front row, from left: Charles Anderson, Jake Nikkila, Orshuntis Cross, Andrew Pfadenhauer, Brooke Fortune. Back row, Lawford Hatcher, Jelani Dula, Keven Haley. Afsatu Simpson not pictured. Photo by Jack Bunja.

June ushered in the summer 2019 interns for the Minority Undergraduate Student Internship Program (MUSIP) aimed at providing undergraduate students with the opportunity to work with top scientists and engineers on challenging research projects in support of the nation's defense.

Nine students are participating this year in the opportunity to enhance their education by working on real-world science, technology and engineering research projects alongside Center researchers. The program also supports the Center’s ongoing goal to strengthen its workforce, promote diversity and encourage students to pursue careers in science and engineering.

Brooke Fortune, one of only two young women in the program, and a junior at the University of Tennessee, is off to a good start.

“I really like where I’m working. It’s called the TREB — Testing Reliability Evaluation Branch,” Fortune, a bio-medical engineering major, said. “I’m working with testing filtration systems and filters with DMMP [dimethyl methylphosphonate, an irritant] pumping through them in different tests.”

Fortune is working with a small group of engineers and chemists, and is looking forward to the lab work.

“I think I will like what I’m doing. It’s a process. I think the hardest thing to learn is all the abbreviations for everything,” she revealed.

Like Fortune, each student was assigned a Center researcher who acts as a mentor throughout the 10-week internship.

Andrew Pfadenhauer – of rural Monkton, Maryland, has been reading standard operating procedures to prepare for his work under mentor Jana Kesavan in the Center’s Sensors, Signatures, and Aerosol Technologies Branch. It may be exactly the right entry point for the Towson University cellular & molecular biology major.

“This is my first true lab experience outside of school,” Pfadenhauer said. “I’ve worked in labs before, but I never had lab responsibilities like I will here.”

But Pfadenhauer’s skills of observation are serving him well. “You don’t really think of the decontamination and filtration that they do. You just think of chemical and biological weapons and manufacturing,” he said. “You never see the side of scientists going overseas and dismantling other people’s chemical and biological weapons. It’s very interesting.”

Fortune also found that aspect of the Center’s work of interest. Following a tour of the building that houses the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System (FDHS), Fortune found her interest sparked by the equipment that was deployed aboard a U.S. Maritime Administration cargo ship to destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile in 2014.

“The thing that got me into engineering is the hands-on, adrenaline-pumping stuff,” Fortune said. “With the right training and knowledge, you can assess the problems and take care of them like they did (during the Syria stockpile mission), which I thought was really awesome.”

For Orshuntis Cross, a bio-chemistry major at the University of Miami, the professional labs and high level technology have captured his attention.

“Right now I’m just doing lab training, but I’ll be working with Alena Calm on her IDEAS project,” Cross said. “I’ll be growing magnetic and non-magnetic nanoparticles. The final goal is to, hopefully, separate them and put them in an aerosol can so it’s a foaming spray.”

Aside from lab duties, students will also tour multiple post facilities, interact with Center director, Eric L. Moore, Ph.D. and learn essential communications skills like goal setting, networking and developing and presenting an effective briefing — all important aspects of a career in science.

This summer’s participants include the following students:

Charles Anderson Harford Community College (transferring to Morgan State)
Orshuntis Cross University of Miami
Jelani Dula Morgan State University
Brooke Fortune University of Tennessee
Keven Haley University of the District of Columbia
Lawford Hatcher University of Alabama
Jake Nikkila Clemson University
Andrew Pfadenhauer Towson University
Afsatu Simpson University of Delaware

The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Chemical Biological Center (CCDC Chemical Biological Center) is the Army’s principal research and development center for chemical and biological defense technology, engineering and field operations. The Center has achieved major technological advances for the warfighter and for our national defense, with a long and distinguished history of providing the armed forces with quality systems and outstanding customer service. The CCDC Chemical Biological Center is located at the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.