Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

Reflecting on DON’s Dedication to STEM in 2020

by Alexandra M. Landsberg, Director, Mathematics, Computer and Information Sciences Division, Office of Naval Research | 18 December 2020

by Alexandra M. Landsberg, Director, Mathematics, Computer and Information Sciences Division, Office of Naval Research | 18 December 2020

I am deeply impressed by the Department of the Navy’s dedication to STEM. The Naval STEM Executive, Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Lorin Selby, says it best: “Let us state it up front and in unmistakable words: Strong Naval STEM efforts are critical to America’s future, and are a matter of national security.”

When I joined the Office of Naval Research one year ago, I was excited to be the new Division Director for Mathematics, Computer and Information Sciences, and to lead Naval STEM.  Stepping into a new position always comes with challenges, but I never imagined what was in store. 2020 proved to be a year like no other. Almost every aspect of our lives experienced disruptions that required new, innovative ways of operating, thinking and living. Here at Naval STEM, we faced what appeared to be daunting challenges—how to provide meaningful STEM experiences for students and educators when we can’t meet in person or bring them to our facilities to show off all the cool science and technology we do. However, with the support of our Naval STEM network, we were able to adapt and overcome to design and deliver new virtual STEM efforts and provide extraordinary STEM experiences for students across the country!

As we approach the New Year, I'd like to reflect and share with you just a few Naval STEM accomplishments in 2020:

  • In April, the DON began converting in-person STEM efforts scheduled for the summer into virtual STEM programs. We supported 15 pilot STEM efforts across the department, including virtual tours, virtual career fairs, educational videos, teacher training and instructional materials for virtual learning and university online challenges. These new virtual STEM initiatives were designed to reach tens of thousands of students.
  • Also, the DON participated in the first virtual National Junior Science and Humanities Symposia (JSHS) Program, providing 26 judges. The virtual event resulted in $200,000 in scholarship and awards for 48 high school students.
  • In June, the Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP) was re-cast into a virtual internship program, providing full 10-week virtual internships. This internship program was complemented with additional internship efforts crafted by individual naval organizations.
  • In October, the Naval Horizons challenge was released to raise student awareness of the real-world science and technology challenges of today. This proof of concept was designed to reach a large number of students (3,000) with the goal of introducing them to opportunities within Naval STEM. 
  • Starting in November, our NREIP Fall Engagement provided 179 short-term virtual internships to students who were not able to complete a 2020 summer internship. This pilot program is the first time the DON has operated a virtual internship during the academic year. 

Collectively, when things got hard, we leaned on each other and dug in together. We did not let the “norm” limit the possibilities. As we continue to re-imagine Naval STEM, we will move forward with the mentality of innovation and with the same tenacity that we have now.  

I wish you and your family safe and happy holidays!


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