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NEWS | March 22, 2023

NSWC Crane manager leads team in battery testing capabilities for the Navy

By Sarah K. Miller, NSWC Crane Corporate Communications

Cecilia Pierce was studying for her Master’s degree in Indianapolis, Indiana when she saw an advertisement for a contracting role in the newspaper. She was unfamiliar with the Navy lab in southern Indiana, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane), but interviewed for environmentalist and chemist positions.

Pierce took a role in an ordnance group as an analytical chemist for several years and spent time as an explosive safety specialist. She later became a project engineer in the power and energy group—where she is now the Branch Manager.

Pierce says her path to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) wasn’t obvious from her childhood interests.

I didn’t really think about engineering,” says Pierce. “I was more of an English and literature nerd in school, but went into STEM in college. Now I really enjoy it, and geek out about STEM.”

NSWC Crane is home of one of two Navy abusive battery testing facilities. The Energy Systems Specialized Test and Evaluation Branch that Pierce leads is a battery testing team of engineers and technicians. They perform safety and abuse testing on lithium-ion batteries that are used widely across military systems, such as aboard ships, aircraft, and electrical vehicles where fuel options may be more difficult to use. One battery testing capability includes the High Energy Test Facility.

Pierce says this battery testing capability provides unique value to the Fleet. 

“You can’t just test lithium-ion batteries in any facility,” says Pierce. “We are one of the two technical agents who review and provide recommendations to the Navy for safety testing—we have tested what could happen where batteries are used, mitigate hazards, and make sure risk is accepted at the appropriate level. We do standardized testing and are engaging in more specialized testing and high voltage testing. Battery systems are getting larger and energy needs are increasing in the Navy. Energy is the future of the Fleet; what we do here informs that community.”

Pierce says the rigorous testing conducted at the Indiana facilities provides sailors peace of mind in the Fleet for years to come.

“It’s exciting to see things in the news and make it happen for the Fleet,” says Pierce. “You don’t have to go far to see how you impact the Fleet--being able to support service members by getting them the energy they need to safely complete their mission. With future testing capability, planning hasn’t just been for the next five years—but strategy has been put into place to ensure readiness for the next twenty years.”

Pierce has volunteered in different focus groups and organizations at NSWC Crane and in her community. She is a member of her local Tri Kappa, co-founded a women’s book club, and joined the Lean-In circle at NSWC Crane. In her career, Pierce says she has had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

“You have to notice when there aren’t opportunities available, find communities to interact with, and speak up,” says Pierce. “In our book club, we are a group of women who may not normally hang out. If you don’t see an opportunity—make it. If you are going through a challenge, share it. No one can help you if you keep to yourself.”

Pierce says there is a stereotype that those in STEM careers have been solely interested in STEM since their childhood.

“Maybe you’re an English nerd like me,” says Pierce. “You don’t need to pigeon hole yourself. You have to put yourself out there in your career. Don’t think that for a job you want there is someone else who is a shoe-in.”

She says nontechnical skills are part of the bigger picture for a successful career. 

Cecilia Pierce photographed receiving the recognition of "Rising Stars" in 2018 from the National Safety Council National Award Celebration.

“You have to be flexible and be a self-starter,” says Pierce. “If you’re a good communicator, and can break things down to a level everyone can understand, that makes a team. You can be the smartest engineer but if you can’t communicate it can break a team. When I look at resumes, I look at the ability to be on a team and communicate technical and non-technical information.” Cecilia Pierce receiving her certificate of completion from Crane Division University's Leading from Within program.

She has found there is the ability to build a career at NSWC Crane.

“There are a lot of unique opportunities at NSWC Crane that you wouldn’t find just anywhere,” says Pierce. “Other jobs or roles can be more like a grind—at NSWC Crane you can make it as diversified as you want. Crane has a lot of opportunities—there are plenty of testing opportunities to get involved with. You can challenge yourself every day.”

About NSWC Crane | NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.

Join Our Team! NAVSEA employs a diverse, highly trained, educated, and skilled workforce - from students and entry level employees to experienced professionals and individuals with disabilities. We support today's sophisticated Navy and Marine Corps ships, aircraft, weapon systems and computer systems. We are continuously looking for engineers, scientists, IT and cyber specialists, as well as trade and other support professionals to ensure the U.S. Navy can protect and defend America. Please contact NSWC Crane Human Resources at crane_recruiting@navy.mil.