Students begin internships in Army labs

RDECOM C&B Public Affairs | July 9th, 2018

MUSIP intern Irving Baker takes a close look at one of the 3D printers in RDECOM C&B’s Additive Manufacturing Laboratory.

Nearly a dozen undergraduate college students from across the United States have begun 10-week internships with the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command Chemical & Biological (RDECOM C&B) Center.

With diverse backgrounds in physics, chemistry, biology, engineering and math, the students come from as far as North Carolina and are enrolled in the Minority Undergraduate Student Internship Program (MUSIP). Through MUSIP, students will work with their mentors, conduct research for RDECOM C&B Center, and produce presentations on topics of their choice at the conclusion of their internships.

To kick off their internships, students met several RDECOM C&B scientists and toured a number of labs and facilities.

“You guys have a lot to contribute,” research scientist Steve Harvey, Ph.D., told the interns. “This is pretty exciting for us. Just because we’re older doesn’t mean we know it all. You have fresh, new ideas. We need help with new ideas.”

From the onset of their visit, students engaged with scientists, asking questions and learning more about the Center. While touring the Advanced Chemistry Laboratory, students learned about nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy — a technique using magnetic fields and radio waves to analyze chemicals and reactions.

“With this tool, we can see the structure of a molecule from the peaks of the audiowaves. Exact chemical structures can be illustrated,” said Dennis Bevilacqua, an RDECOM C&B contractor. “Why do we think we might need to do that?”

“So we can identify what we’re working with,” answered Anika Zamurd, a Havre de Grace native studying at Harford Community College.

Zamurd, a chemist, is focusing on chemistry and biology in her time with the MUSIP program.

“I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned already and I’ve been exposed to a lot of equipment that I haven’t used before,” Zamurd said. “There’s new equipment and programs I’ll be using soon to be able to simulate reactions with enzymes and proteins.”

Charles Anderson, a computer scientist who studies at Harford Community College, found out about the MUSIP program the Black Engineer of the Year Awards Conference. His internship has him tasked with working with SharePoint and batchloading processes.

It’s been great to learn a lot of new things and take on some new projects,” he said. “I’m hoping to learn more about batchloading and SharePoint processes. I’m just soaking up as much as I can. This has been great for me so far.”

Chelsey Makell, from Fairmont State University in West Virginia, said she applied to numerous internships, but RDECOM C&B was closest to home and looked like a good opportunity.

“It was really cool to see new things like this on such a large scale,” she said. “I didn’t know the Army had so many branches and opportunities.”

While observing one demonstration, Kurt Kunkle, a junior bioengineering student at University of Maryland, asked if researchers could put two reactants in the system and then evaluate the reaction.

MUSIP students learn about the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System, which RDECOM C&B used to destroy 600 tons of Syrian chemical warfare material at sea in 2014.

“Absolutely,” answered Bevilacqua, “you can see the reaction and the byproduct. Each experiment would look unique — we do that all the time.”

Kunkle, a rising junior, said he knew about the Center from using its data for his own class projects, and he was curious about working at the Center. He’ll be working with his mentor to identify proteins with mass spectrometry.

“I really like a lot of the work here, and I’ve used data in a lot of my classes,” he said. “Now I get to see how the experiments are performed.”

The RDECOM C&B 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 RDECOM C&B Center is located at the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.