AFRL, University of Arizona foster collaboration at tech collider event
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) — The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, held the University Tech Collider Working Group at the Rotunda at Science and Technology Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico, April 13-14, 2023. The event was hosted in partnership with New Mexico Tech, the Southwest Innovation Alliance and the University of Arizona.
Over 40 participants from AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate, Directed Energy Directorate, University of Arizona and others met to address critical needs for information sharing and collaboration between university partners and AFRL.
“This venue allowed an exchange of both understanding of what opportunities exist within the Air Force Research Lab for university collaboration and provided a sense of current expertise and research activities ongoing at [the University of] Arizona,” said Dr. Nicholas J. Morley, senior scientist, AFRL high power photonics.
The two-day event featured scientific presentations and AFRL tours seeking to improve knowledge of career opportunities for University of Arizona students, advanced technological development in the state of Arizona and expanded science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education outreach initiatives throughout the Arizona educational system, said Shannon Carr, project manager, AFRL Directed Energy Directorate.
“We had the opportunity to present and talk to folks in AFRL with expertise in disciplines that our faculty are pursuing in their own research endeavors,” said Dr. Cody Nicholls, associate director for national security programs at the University of Arizona. “To be able to have those conversations with the experts at AFRL and have conversations about what our faculty are working on was very helpful.”
Historically, AFRL and its Directed Energy Directorate in particular, have a strong connection with optical science at the University of Arizona, and the tech collider event worked as a branching point to expand into other engineering and science disciplines that also touch on the need for high-powered directed energy research, Morley said.
“You just cannot beat the in-person nature of these opportunities,” said Nicholls. “To share, learn and iterate ideas face-to-face in a setting facilitated for an open exchange of thought really gets at what we were hoping to accomplish. For AFRL to arrange lab tours allowing our faculty to see some of the specific research efforts, it was tremendous.”
Carr said that an event like the University Tech Collider Working Group has been in the works since 2018, but coronavirus concerns held up any in-person events. A small virtual event occurred in 2020, and while it was considered a success, the decision was made to pursue a larger, in-person event.
“We wanted to expand it,” said Carr. “One of the most valuable parts is that people can meet each other in person and have the time and space to talk face-to-face with the people who do the work.”
In the future, AFRL would like to use the tech collider event as a branching point to expand into other engineering and science disciplines that interact with AFRL’s needs for high-powered directed energy research, according to Morley.
“This event serves as an element of a broader push to better capitalize on the regional expertise throughout the Rio Grande corridor,” Morley said. “We’re reaching out to [the University of] Arizona and other technical schools that border New Mexico to try to enhance that regional collaborative experience.”
The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit www.afresearchlab.com.