ECBC Employees Honored at 2018 NMTC Visionary Awards

Researchers recognized for STEM innovation, mentorship

CCDC Chemical Biological Center Public Affairs | March 1st, 2018

ECBC Employees Honored at 2018 NMTC Visionary Awards

Michael Simini, Ph.D., and Alena Calm were respectively awarded with the mentor and innovator awards at the NMTC awards.

EDGEWOOD — Two employees of the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) were honored on Feb. 22 at the 2018 Northeastern Maryland Technology Council’s (NMTC) Visionary Awards for STEM Education and Technology & Innovation Advancement.

A prestigious award in the region, the NMTC Visionary Awards recognize those who contribute to building on a STEM-educated workforce, advancing technology, and innovation. Attended by STEM leaders, corporate sponsors, and leading educational institutions, the awards recognize rising stars, innovators, mentors, leaders, and visionaries in the region’s STEM field.

The NMTC awards recognize leaders in the STEM field who advance outreach and technology.
The NMTC awards recognize leaders in the STEM field who advance outreach and technology.

ECBC’s awardees, Alena Calm and Michael Simini, Ph.D., were honored for their commitment to community involvement and STEM outreach.

“For years, it has been tradition for ECBC to engage students in the classroom and the local community to help grow the next generation of scientists and engineers,” said Frederick Cox, Ph.D., ECBC’s acting director of research and technology, who attended the ceremony. “Outreach is critical to our mission, and we hope to build on it in the future. We’re incredibly proud of Mike and Alena for the hard work they do to promote STEM in the community.”

Calm won the NMTC’s innovator award, which recognizes “exceptional personal efforts in development and implementation of innovative program(s) measurably benefiting building our STEM-educated workforce.”

“Alena Calm has been a powerhouse STEM promoter for many years, sharing her love of science and in particular the bio-sciences with many students,” reads the nominating letter. “As a biologist for the U.S. Army ECBC, she earned the title of Outreach Hero and has been recognized as a Shining Star, supporting more than 6 outreach events in a one-year period.”

Calm’s STEM outreach includes supporting a STEM Day at Churchville High School, judging science fairs in Harford and Cecil Counties, and helping Good Shepherd Catholic School develop its STEM program by helping to design a laboratory.

Often, her outreach is hands-on and interactive. Calm has taught students how to extract iron from cereal and how iron is used in the human body. With the support of ECBC, she has also taken her show on the road, travelling to Virginia and even to Las Vegas, Nevada, to teach students about immuno-assays.

“It only takes one positive interaction with science to hook a child’s imagination and create a desire in them to be a scientist,” Calm said. “That was the case for me, and I am committed to helping as many people as I can to be more ‘science friendly.’ For many of these kids it is the first time that they ever get to hold a pipette, their hands shake, they are nervous. It gives me such a thrill when a student matures in front of my eyes and masters something that they never imagined they could do before.”

Simini won the NMTC’s mentor award, which goes to someone who is “consistently volunteering their knowledge, experiences, and wisdom by going above and beyond in using their personal time and resources simply for the love of stimulating and inspiring greatness in students or teachers or organization proteges.”

For 20 years, Simini has been involved in the community through the Kids and Chemistry program. He is also involved in the Engineering in Elementary program, and he chairs the Chesapeake Chapter of Sigma Xi Scientific Research Honor Society which annually recognizes an outstanding Junior STEM student from every high school in Harford County with a certificate, graduation cord and name plate on a plaque displayed in each school.

“I always try to give back to the community,” he said. “It’s something I think is really important, getting young people interested in STEM at an early age. I truly enjoy sharing my passion for science with elementary school students, and I think this is the perfect time to start sparking students’ interest in STEM career fields.”

Simini works at ECBC as a research biologist, and he takes his work into the classroom.

“In my every day job at ECBC, I analyze the way harmful pollutants affect the survival and reproduction of living organisms like earthworms and develop models that monitor environment toxicity levels to support the sustainability of military testing and training ranges,” he explained. “When I visit schools, I give a talk on ecosystems and how we can use earthworms to see if the ecosystem is healthy.”

“They get excited about it,” he said, “which gets me pumped up.”

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.