VICKSBURG, Miss.— Seven employees of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) were recently named recipients of 2021 Women of Color STEM awards. The national-level awards recognize outstanding achievements in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
ERDC awardees include Dr. Leslie Leonard, Dr. Niki Goerger, Dr. Brianna Thompson, Cheryl Wallace-Sims, Joycelynn Brooks, Melanie Sias and Lakeythia Steed, all of the Information Technology Laboratory (ITL).
“These seven women exemplify the very best qualities ERDC has to offer and are most deserving of these prestigious awards,” said ERDC Director Dr. David Pittman. “I am so proud of Leslie, Niki, Brianna, Cheryl, Joycelynn, Melanie and Lakeythia.”
Leonard earned the Outstanding Technical Contribution Award, which recognizes a woman who designed, developed, managed or assisted in the development of a product or service.
As a computer scientist in ITL, Leonard serves as a program manager for the Department of Defense High Performance Computing Modernization Program. She is the first ERDC employee to have earned a doctorate in cybersecurity. Throughout her 16-year career, she has conducted research and development in natural language processing, cybersecurity and strategic integration. Today, she manages the $8 million Vanguard Center that performs exploratory high-performance computing to address Department of Defense challenges.
Georger was awarded the Career Achievement Award, which recognizes a woman who has more than 15 years in the workforce and whose contributions have enhanced an organization. According to the award, the recipient exemplifies a leader who manages others with sensitivity, as well as strategic insight.
Goerger, a research general engineer, is the special assistant for artificial intelligence, modeling and simulation and analysis for ITL—a role in which she provides strategic leadership to the organization on disruptive technology, program development and customer engagement. Throughout her nearly 30-year career, she has served in many roles, from a research analyst in the Geotechnical Structures Laboratory to the ERDC liaison to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. She also served as ERDC’s first director for business development and established the Strategic Integration Office.
Thompson was honored with the Technology Rising Star Award, which is presented to a woman with less than 15 years of experience in the workforce who helps shape technology for the future.
In her role as a research mathematician for the Computational Analysis Branch of ITL, Thompson’s research supports hypersonic system design projects. Since beginning her ERDC career in 2019, she has served as the primary researcher for the coupling of thermal, fluid and structural high-fidelity physics models to support the design of hypersonic systems. She also serves as a member of the Air Systems team, specializing in multidisciplinary design, analysis and optimization of air vehicles, which is relevant across all military services. Her research has not only reduced the time necessary to evaluate hypersonic systems, it has improved the Department of Defense capability to field state-of-the-art technologies.
Sims, Brooks and Sias earned the Technology All-Star Award, which recognizes those mid- to advanced-level career employees who have demonstrated excellence in the workplace and in their communities.
Sims, a computer scientist in ITL, leads a team of government and contract employees through the software lifecycle for the Army Facilities Components System suite of software applications, which provides support to construction engineers and military partners across the world in planning, design and management of contingency construction missions during disaster relief operations. She administers multi-million dollar contracts to support the development and maintenance of the Joint Construction Management System.
Brooks is a librarian in ITL who serves as the lead cataloger for the ERDC Library through its Information Science and Knowledge Management Branch. In this role, she directed the migration of the ERDC Library to a cloud-based library management system, which allowed for streamlined workflows and systems. With her support, the ERDC was the first large library in the Department of Defense to implement a cloud-based Integrated Library System, saving time and money. She also holds the rare training and authorization to establish name authorities on behalf of the ERDC for the Library of Congress. Because of her dedication, the ERDC digital repository was recently accepted to Google Scholar, which increased visibility of ERDC digital documents from 20,000 to 60,000 hits per month.
Sias, a computer scientist in ITL’s Software Engineering and Evaluation Branch, currently serves as the technical lead for the Army Facilities Components System. In this role, she develops system applications using standard concepts, practices and procedures, in addition to collaborating with business analysts, as well as quality assurance and project management resources. She has also served as project manager of the ERDC Data Warehouse System.
Steed was bestowed the Top Women in Finance Award, which is presented to women in the financial sector who are leaders in their field, promote diversity and serve as role models.
Steed serves as chief of the ITL Management Integration Office, where she provides support to the Cybersecurity Engineering and Analysis Branch. She is responsible for supervising, training and mentoring more than 20 financial and budget analysts, as well as executing the laboratory’s operating budget. Steed began her ERDC career in 2014 in the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory’s Mobility Systems Branch and has a combined 16 years of experience from both the private sector and the federal government.
The seven ERDC awardees will join hundreds of others in their field at the Women of Color STEM Digital Conference scheduled Oct. 7-9.