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

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

Students Develop Advanced Skills Through Army Lab Internships

Students Develop Advanced Skills Through Army Lab Internships

Brad Kroner

Nearly a dozen undergraduate college students from across the United States participated in a 10-week internship experience with the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (RDECOM ECBC).

With diverse backgrounds in physics, chemistry, biology, engineering and math, the students came from as far as North Carolina to participate in the Minority Undergraduate Student Internship Program (MUSIP). Through MUSIP, students worked with their mentors, conducted research for RDECOM ECBC and produced presentations on topics of their choice at the conclusion of their internships.

To kick off their internships, students met several RDECOM ECBC 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 ECBC 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 focused on chemistry and biology during her time with the MUSIP program. “I was amazed at how much I had learned already. I was exposed to a lot of equipment that I hadn’t used before,” Zamurd said. “There was new equipment and programs I had the privilege of using 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 had him tasked with working with SharePoint and batchloading processes.

“It was great to learn a lot of new things and take on some new projects,” he said. “I was hoping to learn more about batchloading and SharePoint processes. I just soaked up as much as I could. The experience was so beneficial to me.”

Chelsey Makell, from Fairmont State University in West Virginia, said she applied to numerous internships, but RDECOM ECBC 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.

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

Kunkle 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 worked 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. “I had a great opportunity to see how the experiments were performed.”

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