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Home : Media : News
NEWS | Feb. 15, 2024

NSWC Crane scientist leads in the lab and in the Division

By Sarah K. Oh, NSWC Crane Corporate Communications

Branden Burns, a Failure Analysis Scientist at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane), has worked in the Strategic Microelectronics Division for five years. Burns started working at NSWC Crane after he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from Purdue University. Figure 1: Branden Burns, a scientist at NSWC Crane, photographed in the lab where he conducts failure analysis microelectronics testing.

“When I first came to NSWC Crane from college, there was a lot to learn when it came to the technical approach to working with microelectronics,” said Burns. 

Burns conducts root cause analysis of microelectronics, which requires hands-on work in the laboratory. If there is some kind of electronic failure, it gets sent to the lab where Burns studies, tests, and finds its root cause. The results of these tests are used to mitigate future failures, which is a crucial component to the maintenance, testing, and development of the systems containing these microelectronics. 

“The data we work with is important for people being able to formulate decisions,” said Burns. “With science and technology, there are a lot of ways to go about generating results, but integrity is important. We must be diligent about producing quality data. Even after that, having ‘perfect data’ is not the only focus—the impact of the data we’re collecting also relies on how it is communicated. I aim to be an impartial but reliable source for data, so people can make important decisions.”

He said that understanding the bigger picture has been a driving factor in his efforts.

“It’s also nice knowing that what I do doesn’t just go into a black box,” said Burns. “Knowing that the work we do is something meaningful, with the end goal of supporting the warfighter.”

Figure 2: Branden Burns pictured with NAVSEA Executive Director Ms. Giao Phan at the conclusion of the NEXTGEN Leadership Program in Washington D.C. Balancing technical work and division support

In addition to his responsibilities as a Failure Analysis Scientist, Burns represents the Strategic Microelectronics Division as a member of the Global Diversity Leadership Council (GDLC). He also enjoys talking to students on his visits to universities across Indiana as part of his role on the Corporate Hiring and Recruiting Team (CHART) and has taken part in leadership development programs like NEXTGEN, which is one of NAVSEA’s three Leadership Development Continuum (LDC) programs available to employees.

“I’ve slowly stepped into leadership type roles – there’s a lot of opportunity to exhibit my leadership skills. I’m working to develop myself for the future. I’m building experience. Crane has opportunities to lead in roles while I continue my work in the lab. You can shape your career where you want it to go—it’s been rewarding so far.”

Burns said he enjoys doing both lab and division support.

“Being able to balance both technical lab-work as well as strategic division and base support is not something I thought I would strive for when I first started my career here, but it has been a rewarding experience. From meeting NAVSEA leaders, to providing failure analysis data for our warfighters, or to recruiting the next generation of prospective teammates—seeing the impact I have had on various levels of the organization has made my still-growing career very fulfilling.” Figure 3: Burns is pictured at the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) conference where he participated as part of the hiring and recruiting team.

As part of his role with GDLC, Burns has researched material and content to share with his coworkers for Black History Month. 

“Part of that role is helping to improve workplace morale and that sense of inclusion and connection we feel across the organization. I believe highlighting different experiences during these observance months is a great way to help create that positive culture for the workplace.”

Through CHART, Burns said engaging with students as they prepare for their careers post-graduation is a way to give back to those who supported him.

“It’s great to connect with students outside of Crane—people have helped me, and I want to pay it forward. I interview and talk with candidates to help them make the best decision for their future.”

Sharing stories in Black history

“What we study in history—the black and white pictures—feels like a long time ago, but in many cases, it really wasn’t,” said Burns.

Through researching stories for Black History Month, he has learned how small acts make a big difference.

“A lot of small things contribute to major advancements. There are a lot of key Black contributors that made the building blocks for major contributions. I’ve been researching Black people within the Navy and their specific contributions. It’s an example of a lot of small instances where you might not know where your efforts fit in—but contributions are worth doing whether they are big or small.”

Burns said these stories provides valuable historical context for everyone in the workforce.

“We are raising awareness and understanding–the information we present is relevant to everyone, not only Black people. Having that knowledge is helpful for everyone to understand.”

Figure 4: Burns pictured at an NSBE conference as part of NSWC Crane's hiring and recruiting team.Forging his own career; making it his own

Burns noticed the team-oriented atmosphere when he joined the Strategic Microelectronics Division.

“I really like the teamwork aspect of what we do at NSWC Crane,” said Burns. “When you come into a project, you can’t do things alone. The NSWC Crane environment is very collaborative and it’s nice to be within that environment. I want to be a positive contributor because people have helped me. Your career is what you make it.”

Burns reflects on what it was like to come to NSWC Crane after graduate school. He puts himself in students’ shoes when he engages with them today about their future careers.

“Generally, everyone wants you to succeed,” said Burns. “Right out of college, I thought I was expected to know all the answers—and of course you want to be capable and knowledgeable. There may be fear in the beginning--but your team wants you to be successful. People aren’t going to bring you down. When I’m recruiting, I tell students to understand it’s a team with a common goal. I want others to know that people have helped build me up to where I am today.”

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 Electromagnetic 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