VICKSBURG, Miss. (April 15, 2019) – When David Richards was a recent college graduate working his first job as a hydrologist in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, he knew that he wanted to do research and make a significant impact in that world. Fast forward about 40 years, and that impact was recently recognized with the prestigious bronze de Fleury Medal awarded to Richards for his service to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“I never thought I’d get one,” Richards said of the de Fleury. “What mattered the most was that people appreciated what I did in an official way. It’s one thing for friends and colleagues to appreciate what you do, but to be recognized officially, it’s nice.”
Richards began his research career in 1997, when he moved from Maryland to the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi. There, he worked as an engineer in the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory and helped develop the Department of Defense Groundwater Modeling System and Watershed Modeling System.
“The research was an opportunity I just couldn’t let go of,” Richards said. “At the time we were working on dredging technologies; I worked on numerical modeling. Numerical modeling was really new in those days, and (ERDC) was the place to work.”
It wasn’t long before Richards began to climb the career ladder; he was named the Technical Director for Computational Science and Engineering at the Information Technology Laboratory in 2002. In that role, he began pursuing military work.
“The military things were very similar to civil works,” Richards said. “The informatics and computations weren’t really that different, we just worked on different platforms.”
With that attitude in mind, Richards joined a group of people who were working to build a new business area for the ERDC — Engineered Resilient Systems.
ERS is a multi-Service initiative aimed at developing high-performance computing solutions to the military’s toughest acquisition problems. Under Richards’ leadership, ERS tools and techniques have been used to visualize, simulate and complement physical testing of complex DOD weapon systems.
“It’s just fun to use computers to predict what the real world is going to do,” Richards said, adding that his simulations have been used for warfighters, as well as harbor and channel navigation design. “That’s perhaps key — it’s not an academic exercise. It’s something that someone will use and care about, and that’s a pretty cool thing.”