TITLE: Research biologist
COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 3.5
EDUCATION: Ph.D. and M.S. in animal science and B.S. in environmental science, University of Connecticut
Dr. Genevieve Flock
by Susan L. Follett
Recently returned from a four-month assignment in Frankfurt, Germany, Dr. Genevieve Flock is hoping that international contacts she developed can help keep American Soldiers safe around the world.
Flock is a research microbiologist on the Food Protection and Innovative Packaging Team (FPIPT) in the Combat Feeding Directorate at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center (CCDC-SC) in Natick, Massachusetts, and supports the mission of testing food and water safety technologies and conducting applied research with the goal of understanding and preventing food and water safety risks that could affect warfighters.
“Being a part of the Army Acquisition Workforce allows me to be part of the greater mission and contribute to improving capabilities—a noble cause that’s not driven by profit,” she said. “I feel lucky to work for an organization that is driven by scientific and engineering solutions and is committed to training future leaders.”
As part of that training, Flock completed an assignment with the International Technology Center (ITC) – Northern Europe, part of CCDC – Atlantic. In all, there are nine ITCs worldwide, tasked with engaging with academia, industry and foreign defense ministries to facilitate international collaborative research and development. Flock’s 120-day tour, funded by the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund, provided her the opportunity to learn about international collaborations involving Army modernization priorities and understand the tools that are available to make these engagements successful.
“I was intrigued to apply for this opportunity to learn about international collaborations and be immersed in diplomatic meetings to increase my understanding of the Army’s mission abroad,” said Flock, who has been in acquisition for nearly four years. “In this early stage of my career, I think it’s important to be continually challenged and exposed to new ways of thinking in order to increase my effectiveness in my current position and for future positions. What I liked about the ITC assignment was the opportunity it presented to increase my soft skills in networking, diplomacy and cultural relations.”
The assignment “was even more rewarding than I could have imagined,” she said. “Involvement with career-broadening meetings and working with ITC members provided me with new perspectives.” She also gained a better understanding of the international collaboration tools, including Foreign Technology Assessment Support (FTAS) funding, basic and applied research grants and Coalition Warfare Program (CWP) projects. FTAS is an Army program that awards funding, usually for a year, to conduct technology assessments, basic research studies and test and evaluation efforts on unique foreign technologies. CWP, governed by the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, provides funding to DOD organizations to conduct cooperative research, development, testing and engineering programs with foreign partners. Funding is focused on projects that increase coalition capabilities in support of operational, technological or political objectives.
“I am now able to confidently discuss these funding opportunities to facilitate research projects with foreign partners, and I’ll pass along information to CCDC-SC project officers to ensure they are aware of the benefits of collaborating internationally,” Flock said.
She noted that the assignment also exposed her to “strategic thinking and the effort to broaden U.S. research relationships with numerous countries. I hadn’t had a lot of exposure to that kind of big-picture thinking before.” It also “reinvigorated my curiosity and interest in looking for technological solutions from nature. Meeting creative scientists conducting research in synthetic biology and invertebrate vision reminded me to think outside the box in my own research objectives and underscored the importance of interdisciplinary collaborations.”
Her work wasn’t limited to biology, she noted, and provided the opportunity “to work alongside excellent mentors,” including Lt. Col. Marc Meeker, ITC director; Mark Cumo, ITC technical director; and Tony Lee, a research engineer at ITC who is part of the CCDC Ground Vehicle Systems Center.
“I had never worked with vehicle systems before, and in working with Tony, I learned a great deal—how threats to the system are always changing, for example, how the vehicle is designed to keep up with those threats, and how exploring whether international partners might have already developed solutions for some of those challenges,” she said. “In CCDC-SC, our focus is on the modernization priority of Soldier lethality, and it was great to work on issues in other priority areas.”
Now back in the states, she has stayed in touch with the ITC members about possible collaborations with CCDC-SC. “I am happy to continue to help find the right connections within the Soldier Center to ensure new technologies are being passed along to the most applicable subject matter expert within the Army research labs,” she said. “Also, I’ve been looking at the way we do things with a different perspective and trying to identify places where I can incorporate the approaches I saw at ITC in the work we do here.”
Flock recommends the assignment to scientists or engineers in an earlier stage in their career who want to broaden their understanding of the Army mission and receive training in diplomacy, leadership and international engagements. “Anyone with an interest in seeing a different side of grants and data exchange agreements would benefit from this experience,” she said. “It is always worth applying to an opportunity that places you outside your comfort zone in order to facilitate learning and career growth.”
And for those just starting on an ITC assignment, Flock had this advice: “Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. The ITC staff are knowledgeable and really helpful—and if they don’t know the answer to a question, they can put you in touch with someone who does. And don’t be afraid to get involved in areas outside of your expertise,” she added. “The best way to learn is by doing, and this program is a great opportunity for that.”
Flock joined the Army Acquisition Workforce in 2016 after completing her master’s degree. “At the start of the position I was introduced to acquisition terminology and was encouraged to learn about technology transition and where research and development fits into this process. I am encouraged to be creative and collaborate with innovative researchers from academia to accomplish goals more effectively.”
Even in her relatively short tenure in the Army Acquisition Workforce, she has noticed changes taking place. “Project timelines are becoming shorter,” she said. “We used to see a lot of four-year projects, but now they’re three years or fewer. Fortunately, programs like ITC and the contacts I’ve made through my assignment can contribute to overcoming that challenge: I’ve learned about the value of collaborating with industry and academia, both domestically and internationally, which provides more tools and options for getting projects completed on shorter deadlines.”
“Faces of the Force” is an online series highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. Profiles are produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers to feature Soldiers and civilians serving in various AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please go to https://asc.army.mil/web/publications/army-alt-submissions/.
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