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AFRL scientists to receive national science and technology awards

  • Published
  • By Jeremy Dunn
  • Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, OHIO (AFRL) — Three science and technology professionals from the Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, have been selected to receive the 2024 Black Engineer of the Year Award, or BEYA. The awards will be presented at the BEYA science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM Conference at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland, Feb. 15-17, 2024:
Dr. Nathaniel Bridges, research biomedical engineer in AFRL’s 711th Human Performance Wing, or 711th HPW, and currently Special Assistant to the Chief Scientist of the Air Force, will receive the Outstanding Technical Contribution in Government Award.
Col. Janelle T.H. Jackson,  Detachment 14 commander at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, or AFOSR, will receive the BEYA 2024 Science Spectrum Trailblazer Award.
Dr. Marcus Smith, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound, or SMART, Deputy Program Manager and Phase 2 SMART Scholar, was selected as the 2024 BEYA Stars and Stripes Federal Agency Leadership Award recipient.
“I want to thank BEYA, my nominators and family for giving me the opportunity to receive this award,” said Bridges. “It represents the symbiosis of three drivers: 1. multidisciplinary talented engineers, scientists, and business professionals, with 2. strategic organizational processes aligned by 3. a common mission to develop capabilities.”

BEYA awards are granted for achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. The BEYA STEM Conference will offer K-12 and college students, corporate organizations, government, military professionals and industry employers three days of learning, networking, celebrating excellence, and showcasing STEM career opportunities.
In a AFRL Lab Life podcast interview last year, when asked what advice she would give to individuals who want to get involved in STEM fields, Jackson emphasized the importance of community and a willingness to learn from missteps.
“[L]ook at what you like to do, what are you interested in, and what are you willing to try,” Jackson said in the January 2023 episode. “It is okay to make mistakes, just learn from them … learn the lesson and drive forward. Make sure you have a community, people who are going to support you, encourage you and challenge you.”

Jackson will be recognized at the BEYA Technology Recognition Event Feb. 16, 2024, during the BEYA STEM Conference. At AFOSR, Jackson helps manage the Air Force’s global basic research investment. Jackson’s previous assignments include positions in multiple program offices, the intelligence community and legislative affairs.
Bridges will receive his award at the BEYA Gala Feb. 17, 2024. In his role at the 711th HPW, Bridges led the Individualized Neural Learning System, or iNeuraLS, a program designed to develop next-generation brain-machine interface technology. As program lead, Bridges directed the technical and programmatic efforts of scientists and engineers spanning three AFRL technology directorates, Sonera Magnetics, Teledyne Technologies, Microsoft and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratories.

As a materials engineer at AFRL, Smith authored multiple journal articles, including “Coupled Whispering Gallery Mode Resonators via Template‐Assisted Assembly of Photoluminescent Microspheres,” published in Advanced Functional Materials. The paper introduced a technique to promising substantial advancements in light-emitting technologies such as high-resolution displays, lasers and detectors, surpassing the capabilities of traditional methods. In November 2023, Smith was promoted to his current role as SMART deputy program manager, overseeing the very program that helped to advance his career as a Department of Defense civilian engineer.

“My advice: you don’t have to be the most talented person in the room to make a difference,” said Bridges. “My success has come from empowering and enabling people. I challenge you to do the same, regardless of title. Ask yourself now, ‘How can I make the people around me better?’”
About AFRL

The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 12,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit