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AFOSR develops Next Generation Scientists

Students (left to right): Paul Warkentien, Evan Kolodey, Miranda Ghrist, Elena Cintron, delved into hypersonics research for the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, via a partnership between AFOSR, NASA, a private company and a community college, gaining experience in laboratory settings. (Photo courtesy of Regan Silvestri)

Students (left to right): Paul Warkentien, Evan Kolodey, Miranda Ghrist, Elena Cintron, delved into hypersonics research for the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, via a partnership between AFOSR, NASA, a private company and a community college, gaining experience in laboratory settings. (Photo courtesy of Regan Silvestri)

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Some of the best and brightest ideas can come from young scientists eager to innovate and advance the world of science, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research is always searching for ways to harness that knowledge and talent to advance future U.S Air Force operations.

Like many AFOSR Program Officers, Dr. Ali Sayir believes that - breakthroughs in science come where there is diversity of thought and several great minds working together. That is why he facilitated a partnership between a small technology transfer business, a partner Federal research agency, and a local community college in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio to give students an amazing internship opportunity. “I take care of all the technical stuff, this program is all about the students’ hard work,” said Sayir.

AFOSR has partnered with NASA and S.D. Miller & Associates, an Arizona company that works with NASA Glenn and NASA Langley to fund four students from Lorraine County Community College. Through this subcontracted grant the students have had the opportunity to learn from experts in their field, gain experience in a lab setting and develop proficiency in scientific concepts.

Paul Warkentien, Evan Kolodey, Miranda Ghrist and Elena Cintron are the young scientists that participated in some extraordinary work on Heterogeneous Porous Media for Thermal Transport Mitigation in Hypersonics.  Two students are on-site at the NASA Glenn Research Center working under PhD researcher, Fred Dynys. The other two students are working on campus at Lorain County Community College. The students began in May and August of 2018 at their respective sites.

“Programs like this are so important for students interested in pursuing a STEM career as they not only offer students a way to be sure that this is what they want to do, but they allow students to get the experience and knowledge they need to be able to hit the ground running,“ Warkentien said.

STEM standout Elena Cintron, is a phenomenal example of a young scientist going above and beyond to achieve academic excellence in the name of science. Cintron is soon to complete the Early College High School program at Lorraine Community College, making her a first generation college student with two associates degrees and her high school diploma. Cintron was featured in Opportunity Magazine as well as local television news for her active participation in the Hypersonics project.

“I have been able to become a beacon for my college and even had the opportunity to go on the news! I will hopefully be able to continue on with my NASA career, and I know that I will have many job opportunities to bloom in the future,” Cintron said.

Cintron will attend Case Western University to pursue a degree in chemical engineering with a minor in material science.

Kolodey is a former Marine Embassy guard with eight years in East Asia.  He is attending community college to extend the funds in his GI bill as he will transfer to a four year school next year to complete his bachelor’s degree in engineering.

Ghrist returned to community college as an adult to pursue her passion in computer engineering.

Warkentien is an active student on campus studying mechanical engineering, upon completion of his BA he will pursue a master’s degree with a focus on Materials Science.

“Providing people with the chance to find out first-hand what work in STEM disciplines is like has the potential of improving and increasing the talent pool. Students often show their true abilities when given a chance to take a concept and focus on applying it, not merely being spoon-fed answers and assessed on their ability to recite it back a short period of time later,“ Ghrist said.

All of the students hard work has paid off, in the coming months Ghrist and Cintron will present their work at the Ohio Space Grant Consortium Student Research Symposium. Kolodey and Ghrist presented their project at the Ohio Academy of Science Annual Conference in April. All Four students presented their project at the American Chemical Society in May.