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NEWS | June 14, 2024

NRL Researchers Receive Navy’s Top Scientists and Engineers Award

By Emily Winget, Corporate Communications U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory scientists and engineers received the prestigious Department of Navy Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientists and Engineers of the Year Award, June 12, during an awards ceremony hosted at the Pentagon.

“The Top Scientists and Engineers of the Year award program recognizes and acknowledges the excellence of our highest performing scientists and engineers in support of the Department of the Navy," said Frederick J. Stefany, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (ASN (RD&A)) Acting. "Workforce technical competence and agility will continue to be imperative in achieving Naval dominance in an ever-changing world.”

The Etter Award is presented annually to scientists and engineers who have demonstrated a superior accomplishment that is technically outstanding and highly beneficial operationally to the Department of the Navy and national defense. Nearly 35,000 Navy scientists and engineers are eligible each year to receive the award. Selected honorees demonstrated exceptional scientific and engineering achievement in their field during the preceding calendar year.

Dr. Etter, a former ASN (RD&A), established the award in 2006 to recognize Navy civilian and military personnel for superior scientific and engineering achievements, and to promote continued scientific and engineering excellence.

The NRL recipients honored as the 2024 Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientists and Engineers for achievement in Calendar Year 2023 are:

Mr. Trey J. Morris, Emergent Engineer

 

Morris demonstrated leadership and excellence in developing the capability to use machine learning models and artificial intelligence algorithms to rapidly search vast ocean areas for surface vessels. 

This development has enabled analysts to quickly locate vessels at sea and classify them as merchant, combatant, potential smuggler or illegal fishing vessel in hours instead of days. Morris has been able to synthesize advances from the private sector and multiple academic fields to match them to the unique requirements and stressful workflows of the warfighter. 

His ability to integrate a broad set of critical science and technology efforts has enabled NRL to extend its legacy of scientific and technological achievements, and has resulted in groundbreaking intelligence and warfighting capabilities for the U.S. Navy, Department of Defense (DOD), and Intelligence Community.

Dr. Todd H. Stievater, Individual Scientist

 
 
Stievater has made a number of scientific and technological discoveries in integrated nanophotonics that have been incorporated into advanced systems for the DOD.

“I am very proud to be recognized by the Dolores Etter Award,” said Stievater. “Though it is an individual award, it highlights the collaborative work of a whole team of scientists and engineers in our Branch at NRL. The award recognizes the crucial role that nanophotonics will play in future Navy technologies, such as radar signal processing, chemical and biological defense, and optical communications, all designed to keep our Sailors and Marines out of harm's way.”

By combining advanced semiconductor nanofabrication with nonlinear and electro-optic materials, he has demonstrated the use of photonic integrated circuits for leading-edge chemical detection and electronic warfare systems. In particular, his discovery of waveguide-enhanced Raman spectroscopy has added a new class of analytical tools for low size, weight, and power systems for threat agent detection.

Dr. Richard O. Stroman, Individual Engineer

 

Stroman is recognized for conceiving and leading the development of the energy-focused mission-planning tool for unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), called POTION that extends range and endurance by helping aircraft operators use energy intelligently. 

“I am honored to receive this award and appreciate the recognition it brings to our team at the Naval Research Laboratory and our partners at the Naval Postgraduate School and Platform Aerospace,” said Stroman. “This software addresses important Navy needs by enabling autonomous systems to operate farther and with greater endurance, which is why we are continuing to refine and expand it.”

In September 2023, Arctic flight-tests of a POTION guided UAV demonstrated the range and endurance of the aircraft were significantly extended, enabling them to reach farther into contested areas and stay on station longer. POTION also improved the energy situational awareness of aircraft operators in order to respond to changing conditions quickly. The flights were the culmination of seven years of work at NRL and Naval Post Graduate School. They conclusively demonstrated the benefits of software like POTION for improving the operational capability of long range and endurance UAVs for the Navy and Marine Corps.

Ms. Yadira Bordlemay-Padilla, Dr. Michael T. Carter, Dr. Damien H. Chua, Mr. Nathan B. Rich, Dr. Arnaud F. Thernisien: The Compact Coronagraph Team for the Design, Assembly, and Delivery of the Compact Coronagraph
 

 
The Compact Coronagraph (CCOR) team of federal employees demonstrated the extraordinary achievement of designing and building the CCOR instrument and preparing it for launch. The groundbreaking design of CCOR achieves the performance of a much larger scientific instrument in a very small volume. 

Coronal mass ejections (CMEs), the explosive release of mass and energy from the solar surface, are a primary driver of space weather and play a central role in understanding the conditions in the Earth’s magnetosphere, ionosphere, and thermosphere. Thus, the ability to detect the onset of a CME is critical to the proper functioning of many space-borne and ground-based systems that naval operations depend on.  

The NRL Space Science Division has had a long history of leading the development of scientific instruments for observing the Sun’s extended corona from space. For example, in 1971 NRL researchers were responsible for the first detection of these coronal transients. The Space Science Division’s efforts to produce state-of-the art coronagraphs culminated with the NRL-led international consortium that proposed, designed, built, and operated the Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph Experiment (LASCO), which launched on the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) mission in 1995. 

LASCO is widely regarded as one of the most impactful solar instruments ever flown, producing over 2,000 papers in the peer reviewed literature. Further, LASCO transformed our ability to detect CMEs and predict their arrival at Earth. Over time, LASCO has become a de facto operational instrument used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for space weather forecasting. 

The reliance on an aging space asset for performing such a critical function has been widely recognized as the most significant vulnerability in our national space weather infrastructure. The challenge has been to reproduce the performance of the science coronagraphs, which are about 2 meters in length, into the much smaller volume that can be accommodated on a dedicated operational space weather satellite. 

In response to this need, NRL’s Space Science Division proposed to NOAA to build the CCOR, which will provide performance similar to the previous science instruments in about half of the volume. NRL delivered CCOR to NOAA in February 2022 and integration into the Geostationary Operation Environmental Satellite-U (GOES-U) satellite was completed in 2023. The GOES-U launch is currently scheduled for June 2024. 

Dr. Arnaud Thernisien, the CCOR Principal Investigator, responsible for overseeing the scientific direction and management of the program, led the CCOR federal team. Dr. Tim Carter was the CCOR Systems Engineer, and was responsible for ensuring that various subsystems function together to achieve the instrument requirements. Dr. Damien Chua was the assembly, integration, test lead, and was responsible for overseeing the assembly of the flight instrument and verifying its performance. Ms. Yadira Bordlemay-Padilla made significant contributions to the assembly of the flight instrument. Finally, Mr. Nathan Rich was the ground software lead and responsible for verifying the operational capabilities of the instrument. In addition, other support staff at the laboratory contributed to the project assisted the team. 

Dr. Attilio Arcari, Dr. Derek Horton, Dr. Edward Lemieux, Dr. James Martin: NAVSEA COLUMBIA Class Shaft Life Risk Assessment for Exceptional Scientific and Engineering Achievement Team Award:

For outstanding contributions to an extensive analysis of the COLUMBIA Class shaft design. The COLUMBIA Class Shaft Life Risk Assessment Team quantified the risk to meet the twelve-year shaft life requirements critical to the Navy’s number 1 Acquisition Priority. The team’s work allows the Navy to meet operational and materiel availability key performance parameters, and implemented improvements to shaft life design that can be adopted by other submarine classes in the Fleet. The assessments of the team quantified the risk of shaft crack initiation and propagation of the COLUMBIA Class shaft, recommended the number of spare shafts required to support the class life cycle, and provided the COLUMBIA Class Program Office the confidence to retire the risk of shaft failure over the required service life. This ensures the COLUMBIA Class Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN) will be able to meet the nation’s strategic deterrence needs.


About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory 

NRL is a scientific and engineering command dedicated to research that drives innovative advances for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps from the seafloor to space and in the information domain. NRL is located in Washington, D.C. with major field sites in Stennis Space Center, Mississippi; Key West, Florida; Monterey, California, and employs approximately 3,000 civilian scientists, engineers and support personnel.

For more information, contact NRL Corporate Communications at (202) 480-3746 or nrlpao@nrl.navy.mil. 

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