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NEWS | Nov. 19, 2021

NSWCDD Hosts Virginia University Leadership Partnering Summit

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

On Oct. 26, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division’s (NSWCDD) Innovation Lab hosted the Virginia University Leadership Partnering Summit. Senior leadership from NSWCDD and six universities gathered to discuss opportunities to expand strategic academic partnerships between the warfare center and Virginia’s top institutions of higher education.

A briefing for attendees from the University of Mary Washington, Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Old Dominion University and George Mason University outlined some of the future missions and research areas at Dahlgren such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, quantum sensing, quantum computing, and virtualization. The group also discussed NSWCDD’s existing academic engagement efforts, and how that program might be expanded in the future to increase the warfare center’s engagement with university students and faculty.

The event was led by NSWCDD Commanding Officer Capt. Stephen ‘Casey’ Plew, Acting Technical Director Darren Barnes and the Chief Technology Officer Jennifer Clift. Throughout the day, the summit leaders opened the floor for questions, comments on research and development thrusts throughout the universities, and constructive dialogue concerning future partnerships that will mutually benefit the universities and NSWCDD. Following the summit, the attendees were invited to tour the Laser Lethality Lab for a directed energy demonstration.

Dahlgren has strong connections with the local academic community through both its work and workforce. According to the federal funding database USASpending.gov, partnerships between the Navy and institutions of higher education in Virginia have led to $446 million in grant funding over the last decade, primarily supporting basic and applied scientific research. In addition, Navy prime contract awards within the same group and timeframe have totaled $81.7 million, supporting a vast array of academic activities. The Navy also provides support to universities and colleges in the Commonwealth through sub-awards, sub-grants and additional funding vehicles. NSWCDD specifically utilizes the Naval Engineering Education Consortium (NEEC) grant vehicle to support basic and applied research that is relevant to the Navy.  In Fiscal Year 2022, NSWCDD expects to award approximately $2 million for continued and new start grants. 

As one of the nation’s premier centers for cutting edge science and engineering, the people of NSWCDD disproportionately hail from STEM backgrounds. Approximately one third of the workforce holds advanced degrees. Employees have also developed more than 500 patents. During the partnering summit, Plew and Barnes noted that they hope to use relationships with area universities to further expand NSWCDD’s pipeline of talent and meet workforce needs of the future. “Collaboration with university students and faculty is critical in emerging technology areas such as artificial intelligence to advance the Navy’s capabilities, and to increase student’s awareness of career opportunities with the Navy upon graduation” said Mr. Barnes.

Students can find professional opportunities at NSWCDD though a highly-lauded internship program or through events such as the new series of hackathons that debuted in 2021. Opportunities such as the NEEC give both students and professors another way to conduct research at NSWCDD with a pathway to future employment. Also, participation in the Office of Naval Research Summer Faculty Research Program provides university faculty the opportunity to participate in research alongside NSWCDD scientists and engineers.

Senior leadership from NSWCDD are currently planning in-person visits to these universities to continue the conversation on how to effectively partner on science, technology, engineering and mathematics student projects, potential collaborative research and development agreements with university research faculty, and investigating the viability of indefinite delivery indefinite quantity contracts. All parties recognized enhanced collaboration as a mutually beneficial opportunity.