The University of Massachusetts Lowell and the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), known locally as Natick Labs, announced the creation of a new partnership called HEROES - Harnessing Emerging Research Opportunities to Empower Soldiers - a project dedicated to improving the survivability and protection of U.S. troops.
The research and development program, the first project launched under a system-wide agreement between the University of Massachusetts and Natick Labs, was unveiled Feb. 7 at the Olney Hall on UMass Lowell’s North Campus- the 5,000-square-foot space that will house the HEROES program.
Guest speakers, U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan, Natick Soldier Systems Center Director Jack Obusek, UMass President Robert Caret and 1st Sgt. Brian Gemmill, a Natick Labs employee and a veteran of service in Iraq and Afghanistan were on hand during the ceremony.
Under the HEROES program, UMass Lowell students and researchers from the fields of plastics engineering, mechanical engineering, physics and chemistry, will work side-by-side with Natick Labs scientists at both locations.
The research teams will address scientific and engineering problems that affect soldiers’ safety and mobility including military protective wear and fire resistant fabrics, the creation of portable power sources - those that
power small devices or charge batteries and food packaging capabilities.
Each project will house a team of two to three students with a collective 10 scientists from Natick Labs visiting the campus for two to three days per week. Natick Labs will serve as a testing location for all newly developed products.
“From an educational perspective, students are definitely looking forward to doing projects which have a real world application or relevance,” said HEROES Faculty Director and UMass Lowell’s Associate Professor of Plastics Engineering, Ramaswamy Nagarajan to Mass High Tech. “Here, there are real projects with real purpose that will help soldiers.”
In an email to Mass High Tech, UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan said the HEROES program is an opportunity to combine organizational specialties to save soldiers’ lives.
“Natick Labs and UMass Lowell, in 5,000 square feet of space the university has allocated for this initiative, will bring together some of the best minds from both organizations to brainstorm new solutions to the challenges military personnel face,” Meehan said. “By achieving a critical mass of research, all aimed at helping our troops, we will surely save lives.”
Leading the charge with Nagarajan is Natick Labs Chief Scientist Lynne Samuelson, who earned her Ph.D. at UMass Lowell and serves as an adjunct faculty member and Julie Chen, UMass Lowell’s vice provost for research.
“HEROES is a unique and powerful opportunity to find creative and effective solutions to improve the safety, agility and sustainability of our soldiers, Samuelson said. I am extremely grateful to UMass Lowell for the commitment it has made in providing our Natick Labs scientists and engineers a home from which they can now collaborate on site with UMass Lowell faculty and students.”
In addition to the Olney Hall facility, HEROES program staff - students, researchers and scientists, will have access to UMass Lowell’s new, $80 million, 84,000-square-foot, education and research-based Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center, officials said.
The HEROES partnership is an example of “great synergy,”Nagarajan told Mass High Tech, because it taps into human capital, resources and the collective ingenuity of both organizations.
“This partnership is for the future and we are hoping it will grow further, and together, be more competitive and competent in solving army related problems,” Nagarajan said.
Related links: Natick, TechFlash