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Diversity In Action

Office of Naval Research seeks diverse interns and faculty

Internships and faculty programs are win-win, providing opportunities and a pipeline of talented and diverse minds to work on R&D; projects for the U.S. Navy


To meet the U.S. Navy’s goal of increasing its STEM capabilities, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) has established a program devoted to increasing minority participation. The historically black colleges and universities/minority institutions (HBCU/MI) program office sponsors naval research enterprise internships for undergraduate and grad students in its laboratories, offers scholarships and sponsors fellowships for university faculty.

These scholarships, fellowships and internships help ONR increase HBCU/MI participation in naval R&D;, strengthen educational institutions’ research capacity, and increase the quality and quantity of minority STEM students and professionals.

The spectrum of projects
“When private industry does R&D;, the outcome is profit,” says HBCU/MI acting director Bill Ellis. “When the Department of Defense does R&D;, we are working toward what we consider ‘the navy after next.’ We are looking years down the road.”

Current projects include research on air, land and sea vehicles, crew safety, robotics, anti-terrorism, chemistry, biology, acoustics, laser communications, hardware and software development, avionics, night vision, analysis of viruses, and traumatic brain injury.

Interns at U.S. Navy’s Carderock Division experimental facility (Bethesda, MD) might be engaged in projects like the recent testing of hydrodynamic designs for new ships and submarines. Interns serve at twenty-three Navy facilities in thirteen states. In 2013, 312 interns came on board from Howard University (Washington, DC), Bowie State University (MD), Morgan State University (Baltimore, MD), Spelman College (Atlanta, GA) and the University of the District of Columbia.

These interns worked at the Materials Engineering Laboratory (Jacksonville, FL), the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (Orlando, FL), the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Corona (CA), Naval Surface Warfare Center-Dahlgren (VA) and Naval Surface Warfare Center-Carderock (Bethesda), and the Naval Medical Research Center (Silver Spring, MD). Eight worked at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC and three at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, RI.

Students may apply directly through the ONR website or connect with Ellis and his staff at recruiting events at the HENAAC/Great Minds in STEM, NSBE or BEYA conferences. Students may also learn about the program from faculty members who have participated in the summer faculty research program or faculty sabbatical leave program.

The internship experience
Interns are paid for the ten-week summer internships, and the amounts paid depend on their education level. They also receive a travel allowance.

Students are eligible to apply as early as sophomore year, although juniors and higher have an advantage. Graduate students are welcome to apply, and former interns are encouraged to apply for additional years. U.S. citizenship is required at most labs, but some will consider permanent resident alien status.

A 3.0 GPA is the minimum requirement. But other internships, organization memberships and participation and other qualities are equally important considerations. “As we read a resume, we’re looking at the person’s potential to be a good team member,” Ellis says.

Applicants can indicate three preferences for where they would like to work. Applications are received at the HBCU/MI office, where they are sorted in areas of interest and forwarded to the appropriate laboratory. Those that aren’t suitable for the applicant’s first choice are re-submitted to the second or third choice to find an appropriate position. Each lab then has its own interview process.

“We match the applicants with what the labs are looking for,” Ellis says. “The scientists select the students. No one size fits them all.”

Once on board, each lab provides specific projects for interns. Each lab begins the internship experience with an in-depth orientation. The students perform under the supervision of the labs’ professional scientists. Interns work directly with naval active duty and civilian scientists who become their mentors.

Interns gain insight into the overall work of the lab they are assigned to as well as the individual project they work on. Each intern is expected to write weekly reports about the work they do and give a presentation about their project at the end of the summer.

Programs for faculty
HBCU/MI and American Indian tribal college and university faculty members can spend ten weeks as research Fellows in ONR’s summer program or one semester to one year in its sabbatical program. Both programs involve working closely with ONR scientists.

“These relationships develop into continuing research partnerships on campus,” says Ellis. “In some cases, Fellows can bring a student along for the summer. Stipends make up the difference between sabbatical pay and the faculty member’s regular salary. Relocation and travel expenses are also provided.”

It’s a win-win
Internships and faculty fellowships improve the partnerships between their campuses and government defense agencies and defense industries, one of the HBCU/MI’s goals, Ellis reports. The office is broadening its scope to involve more minority institutions.

Involving diverse talent with ONR work is a win-win situation, particularly in the case of the student internships. “It’s a chance for that young person to have an extended job interview, to show what they bring to the table,” Ellis says. “For the navy, it’s an opportunity to get a hands-on look at the quality of young people and recruit them into permanent employment.”

D/C




Office of Naval Research
www.onr.navy.mil

Headquarters: Arlington, VA
Employees: 40,000
Business: Basic and applied research

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