It’s no secret that the University of California, Riverside (UCR) is home to one of the most diverse student populations in all of higher education and boasts a talent pool of workers that benefit businesses and industries across a wide spectrum. That fact is not lost on the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), which visited the campus on October 6-7 to recruit students for jobs and internships as well as tour facilities at the College of Natural & Agricultural Sciences (CNAS).
The DOD’s visit – “Taking the Pentagon to the People” (TTPTTP) – was carried out via the organization’s Diversity Management Operations Center. The Center’s mission at UCR included informing students of opportunities for employment, internships, and scholarships in science and other fields; connecting students and graduates directly with DOD senior leaders, executives, and recruiters; and providing information for UCR faculty and staff regarding research, fellowships, sabbaticals, contracts, and grants.
According to Clarence A. Johnson, Director of the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity at the DOD, TTPTTP focuses its ongoing initiative on emerging talent to ensure that the DOD can successfully attract, recruit, develop and retain a highly-skilled force capable of meeting current and future mission parameters that impact vital readiness. “In addition,” he said, “we invite colleagues from across DOD to share information about research and development programs, small business options, and unique opportunities across their various agencies.”
In his remarks, UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox said UC Riverside lives at the intersection of research excellence, access, student success, and community service, and he underscored UCR’s mainstay as a magnet for diversity. “As both a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (AANAPISI), we strive to find new pathways and opportunities for underrepresented students, especially in STEM disciplines,” he said. “We are grateful for the chance to partner with DOD in this mission.”
The DOD’s visit featured a rich array of seminars, Q&A’s and breakout sessions that addressed such topics as “Student and Faculty Opportunities: Connecting with the Office of Naval Research,” “Make an Impact with DOD Civilian Service,” “The Department of Air Force Funding Opportunities,” “DOD STEM Overview and National Defense Education Program Activities,” “The Boren Awards Scholarship Program” and many others.
CNAS in the Spotlight
A highlight of the two-day event was a UC Riverside research tour of CNAS and Bourns College of Engineering (BCOE) given to Barbara McQuiston, the DOD’s Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Science and Technology. In her role, McQuiston serves as the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering’s principal advisor for the entire DOD Science and Technology portfolio.
McQuiston’s CNAS tour, which was organized by CNAS Divisional Dean Isgouhi Kaloshian, included three key facilities: the Analytical Chemistry Instrumentation Facility (ACIF), the Plant Research 1 Facility (PR1), and the UCR Nanofabrication Facility.
“The tour was organized to give Ms. McQuiston a flavor of the diverse research facilities CNAS houses,” said Dean Kaloshian. “She was impressed with what she saw and realized she needed to spend more time with us, and promised to visit campus again to further explore UCR and interact with our faculty and students.
“As a minority-serving university (MSI), UC Riverside has been successful in applying for and receiving DOD grants,” Dean Kaloshian continued. “This success is in part because of the availability of state-of-the art research facilities. Therefore, showcasing a few of such facilities and meeting with DOD-funded faculty who use these facilities was a natural part of Ms. McQuiston’s visit.”
The “center for characterization of molecular structure at UCR”
The first stop on the tour was the Analytical Chemistry Instrumentation Facility (ACIF), the center for molecular characterization at UCR. Housed in the Department of Chemistry, the facility offers state-of-the-art measurements in Mass Spectrometry, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), Spectroscopy, Optical Spectroscopy, X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy, and X-ray Crystallography.
“ACIF offers our services to any researcher at UCR and the broader Southern California community,” said Matthew Conley, Associate Professor of Chemistry and the ACIF’s Director. “We partner with industrial and incubator companies to provide services to increase their research output. Our technical staff is happy to engage with researchers to discuss their needs and to tailor our services to their molecular characterization needs.”
Professor Conley was on hand during the tour of ACIF and said that McQuiston was very interested in the mission of UCR and the college’s role as a leading research institution as well as an MSI.
According to Professor Conley, McQuiston was excited to engage with students using the NMR spectrometers in real-time. “We also took her up to Chris Bardeen's lab where she spoke with two graduate students and one undergraduate about their future career goals.”
ACIF plays a major role in molecular science research at UC Riverside. “We are the center for characterization of molecular structure at UCR,” he said, “and understanding molecular structure is critical to design state-of-the art-materials, understand biological structure and function for disease treatment/diagnosis, generate a diversity of small molecules for drug candidates, and design new low energy catalysts to produce chemicals with less waste and environmental harm. These are just a few of the many cutting-edge topic areas requiring the various spectroscopies supported by ACIF.”
A “one-of-a-kind” Facility
The next stop on McQuiston’s tour was Plant Research 1 (PR1), a component of the living laboratories at UCR. In the view of Peggy Mauk, Professor of Cooperative Extension and Director of Agricultural Operations at CNAS, PR1 is “one of a kind.”
Professor Mauk said the two-story state-of-the-art facility includes 16 greenhouse modules that encompass different climate zone ranges. “On the tour, everyone fell in love with that design, which was growth chambers down below and greenhouses above,” she said.
Each greenhouse module at PR1 is programmed to control humidity, temperature, lighting, and other conditions, and can maintain environmental conditions from tropical/temperate forest, savanna, scrubland, desert, to tundra ecosystems. The settings can be controlled and monitored remotely. PR1 also includes plant growth chambers for specialized research, capacity for conducting experiments, and houses equipment that enables biotechnology research.
PR1 is part of CNAS’ living laboratories, which includes Agricultural Operations, the Botanic Gardens, Natural Reserves, plant collections, among others that serve the UCR community. Research in these living laboratories address climate change and the exploration of sustainable approaches to ensure an abundant and nutritious food supply, protection of natural resources, healthy people and communities, and economic and ecological viability for California, the nation, and the world.
A CNAS and BCOE Collaboration
The final stop on McQuiston’s CNAS tour was the Nanofabrication Facility, a partnership between CNAS and BCOE, which currently operates two cleanroom facilities on campus. The first, located in Bourns Hall, is a state-of-the-art Nanofabrication Research facility available 24/7 to qualified users. The facility is approximately 2,000 square feet and includes significant safety and operational monitoring capabilities. The second 8,000 square foot cleanroom is located in the Materials Science and Engineering building.
The UCR Nanofabrication Facility enables world-class research and graduate student training in all areas of nanotechnology. It fosters interdisciplinary research and cooperation among scientists and engineers.
In addition, the facility ensures adherence to the highest international academic standards, integrity, maintains the optimum level of safety, and facilitates cooperation with the high-tech industry in the Inland Empire and California.
The DOD’s two-day to UCR reaffirmed the constructive ties that both organizations share with each other and the need to grow that relationship. “CNAS has always enjoyed great synergy with the DOD,” said Kathryn Uhrich, Dean of CNAS, “and we look forward to developing an even stronger and mutually beneficial partnership for years to come.”