Department of Defense eyes students for jobs

The Department of Defense (DoD) is looking for a few good men and women — especially minorities — to fill civilian jobs.

“Taking the Pentagon to the People” was a two-day event hosted by the College of Engineering & Computing at the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs. The goal was to educate students about engineering jobs available with the DoD. FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg gave the official welcome.

“There is a great opportunity at this time for our engineers to serve this nation,” said John L. Volakis, dean of the College of Engineering & Computing. “It’s a win-win – the DoD benefits from workers with diverse backgrounds while our students get stable, good-paying jobs with great benefits and potential for growth.”

The DoD is the country’s oldest and largest government agency, with roots dating back to pre-Revolutionary times. When people think of working for the DoD, they assume it’s serving in the military, which includes the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard. However, this event centered on recruiting civilian workers and also covered funding research projects, particularly in STEM fields.

It is estimated that 40 percent of STEM personnel in the DoD will be eligible to retire five years from now, creating an urgency to fill those jobs. According to Michael J. Cacccuitto, III, chief of  Technology Integration and Outreach Division at the Army Research Office, there are 13,800 workers within the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) – about 11,000 of them are assigned engineers.

FIU already has a working relationship with the DoD, as President Rosenberg pointed out in his address. The Army, Navy, Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have all supported ongoing research in the College of Engineering & Computing in the areas of secured power distribution grid, advanced communication systems, advanced materials and nanotechnology, and neurotechnology and prosthetics.

Also, for the past four years FIU’s Applied Research Center has developed a strong partnership with the DoD’s Test Resource Management Center. As part of the program, researchers are developing cybersecurity test technologies while supporting workforce development and training for minority students. Students are selected as cyber fellows and participate in summer internships at DoD facilities across the country. So far, nine of those cyber fellows have gotten jobs with the DoD after completing their internships.

Leonardo Babun

A job is what Leonardo Babun, a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering, is hoping to find. Babun is currently part of CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service at FIU – a National Science Foundation program that provides scholarships to students and provides stipends to full-time students attending a participating institution. (Stipends are $22,500 for undergraduate students and $34,000 for graduate students.) Upon graduation, students must serve in a cybersecurity-related position for a time equivalent to the length of the scholarship.

Babun arrived in the United States from Santiago, Cuba, in 2007 and didn’t speak English. Since then, he’s earned his master’s degree and is now pursuing his Ph.D. “I wanted to learn about the different programs I can apply to,” he said about the DoD event. “I want to be involved in cybersecurity research and possibly work in one of the government jobs.”

Babun, like other aspiring engineers such as students Rebecca Dupuis and Steve Cortina, who were also in attendance, has many options. Each of the military branches offers multiple opportunities. The research arm of the Air Force, for example, offers labs specializing in space vehicles, munitions, directed energy, materials and manufacturing, sensors, aerospace systems and more. The goal is to provide revolutionary scientific breakthroughs to maintain military air, space and information superiority, said Edward J. Lee, a program coordinator for STEM K-12 at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research in Arlington, Virginia. “We invest in keeping the fight unfair.”

Students also learned about internships and recent graduates programs, such as Pathways; the benefits of working for the government, including travel; and useful tips for not jeopardizing security clearance. Hint: keep good credit and be careful how you portray yourself on social media.

Faculty also benefitted from the event, receiving information about ways to fund their research, such as the Summer Faculty Research Fellowship offered by ARL. The 10-week summer fellowship focuses on computational sciences, materials research, sciences for maneuver, information sciences, sciences for lethality and protection, human sciences, and assessment and analysis.

”The College of Engineering & Computing is at the forefront of groundbreaking research, and this was a great opportunity to showcase our talent as well as to inform the faculty about opportunities to fund their projects,” said Arvind Agarwal, associate dean of research.

As part of the event, there was a networking reception held in the SIPA lobby. SIPA also has an ongoing partnership with the DoD, providing student internships with the U.S. Southern Command, intelligence fellowships at the Defense Intelligence Agency and a host of defense research opportunities through the Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy and Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center.