By Meg DePanise ’15
Experiential learning is a hallmark of a Hood education, and for budding scientists and technologists there is no shortage of opportunities. Located in a hive of top R&D firms, biotech and pharmaceutical companies, and nearby federal and private laboratories, Hood is well connected to the best. No company has been more connected with Hood than Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc. Together, Hood and Leidos Biomed are turning connection into opportunity and launching initiatives that will benefit Hood students and faculty, Leidos Biomed employees, and the larger Frederick community.
Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc. (formerly SAIC-Frederick) is the operations and technical support contractor for the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, one of 42 federal national laboratories and the only one focused exclusively on biomedical research. For decades, success story after success story has been born out of the relationship between Hood and the Frederick National Lab.
Always buzzing with nationally significant programs and leading-edge research, Hood offers students and faculty the unique experience of conducting research in the entrepreneurial environment of Leidos Biomed. Employees at Leidos Biomed have found their way to Hood, too, pursuing master’s degrees through the company’s education assistance program.
“Both institutions are committed to education and experiential learning opportunities, and both are a huge part of what makes Frederick, Maryland, a great place to live and work,” said Joy Miller Beveridge ’82.
Beveridge, director of general operations for the clinical monitoring research program at Leidos Biomed, majored in biology at Hood and now plays a significant role in strengthening and formalizing the partnership between the two institutions.
Since October 2016, a group of key leaders from Leidos Biomed and Hood have been meeting to brainstorm ways to expand opportunities for collaborative student research experiences and mentoring and training initiatives.
“We are highly energized by the dynamic and innovative partnership between Leidos Biomed and Hood,” President Chapdelaine said. “As reflected in our strategic plan, partnerships are viewed as a cornerstone of building an even stronger Hood and providing a quality educational experience for our students.”
This year, Woman to Woman Mentoring, Inc. (W2WM)—in partnership with Hood, Frederick Community College, and the Frederick National Lab (operated by Leidos Biomed)—is launching a new mentoring program to bring the Million Women Mentors movement to Frederick County. The goal is to build a viable mentoring program for women in STEM careers in the Frederick region.
The pilot program, which will run through the fall, includes a meet-and-greet for mentees and mentors, a panel discussion by professional women in STEM, creation of personal development plans and goal setting for mentees, tips for standing out in the industry, and training for networking with professionals in the STEM field. The one-on-one relationships are expected to continue in the months after the workshops are complete.
The overarching goal of the Million Women Mentors program is to increase the interest and confidence of girls and women to persist and succeed in STEM programs and careers by 2020. Leidos Biomed is also formalizing the experiential learning opportunities through which Hood students work at the company while enhancing connections between Hood and other community entities. Leidos Biomed staff are working with the directors of Hood’s master’s programs in cybersecurity, biomedical science and bioinformatics to identify and promote opportunities.
“We plan to bring in the first of these students in the summer of 2018,” said Sanya Whitaker, Ph.D., senior alliance manager at Leidos Biomed. “The projects will be most likely aligned with capstone requirements, with the students spending about 20 hours a week in the lab over a number of months.”
The program will make experiential learning opportunities more accessible to students, and it will benefit Leidos Biomed, where more than 100 employees—five percent of its workforce of about 2,100—are Hood graduates. A workforce pipeline of this proportion has been important to Leidos Biomed in recruiting and retaining talented graduates.
Beveridge said the partnership between Hood and the Frederick National Lab has been in place for many years, recalling the internship she completed there in 1981.
“Working alongside Hood graduate colleagues for many years, and more recently with my friends at the College, continues to make me Hood Proud,” Beveridge said. “The ongoing and enhanced collaboration between our two institutions is a huge win for Hood students, the local Frederick community and every other institution with which we each engage.”
Take Lauren Procter ’08, M.S.’17, whose professor introduced her to the man at Leidos Biomed who hired her shortly after graduation. Then she returned to Hood to earn her master’s in biomedical science (more about Procter and other alumni here).
As Hood’s graduate program offerings continue to grow, the number of Leidos Biomed employees with Hood degrees grows as well. Of the 105 alumni currently employed, two have earned Master of Arts degrees, 12 have earned MBAs and 59 have earned Master of Science degrees. Currently, there are 11 students—one undergraduate, nine graduate and one doctoral—studying at Hood while working at Leidos Biomed.
Leaders at Leidos Biomed have been working with Hood leadership and faculty to further address workforce gaps by creating new programs. With the high demand for training for bench-based scientists interested in transitioning to project management roles, Hood has begun developing project management certification curriculum.
Hood’s bioinformatics program was developed similarly, with the needs of Leidos Biomed and other local biotechnology companies in mind. The program, which launched in 2016, meets the growing demand for science professionals to demonstrate expertise in the experimental design and data analysis of biology studies that examine genes.
Leidos Biomed has also worked in collaboration with Hood to fill speaking opportunities for Fort Detrick’s Gains in Engineering, Math and Science (GEMS)—a summer STEM enrichment program for middle and high school students—and plans to continue this into next summer. Community engagement and service opportunities are being identified, too.
The new initiatives are being documented in a proposed Memorandum of Understanding to help formalize the growing role of Hood students and alumni in tackling the toughest challenges in defense, intelligence, homeland security, civil and health markets, fueling a better future for us all.
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