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General Johnnie Wilson, a retired Army four-star general and founding member of the Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) Stars and Stripes Committee, is one of several individuals that have been asked to serve on the 2022 Defense Business Board. Wilson last served as the commanding general of the Army Materiel Command. He was a former director of the Washington First Bank.

According to the defense department, the Defense Business Board provides the Secretary of Defense and Deputy Secretary of Defense with independent advice on business management issues. Members are appointed by the Secretary of Defense or Deputy Secretary for a term of 1 – 4 years serving as special government employees. Board Members volunteer their time to work on various subcommittees (task groups) on studies/issues requested by the Secretary or Deputy Secretary.

Other BEYA winners on the board include Joseph Anderson, chairman and CEO, TAG Holdings (Lifetime Achievement Award). The 2018 award was presented by Gen Wilson and Lloyd Austin, the current secretary of defense.

Also named to the Defense Business Board is Gen Larry Spencer, retired vice chief of staff of the Air Force; president, Armed Forces Benefit Association, and 5Star Life Insurance Company (Career Achievement in Government Award).

In related news, the Department of Defense, through the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, announced awards totaling $15 million for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to establish Centers of Excellence in Biotechnology and Materials Science.

A merit competition conducted by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering’s HBCU and Minority-Serving Institutions Research and Education Program selected two HBCUs to conduct cutting-edge research in the two defense priority areas over a five-year period. The awards were issued by the Army Research Laboratory and made by the Army Contracting Command.

The two awardees are North Carolina A&T State University, Center for Biotechnology, and the Morgan State University, Center for Advanced Electro-Photonics with 2D Materials.

North Carolina A&T, and collaborative partner, Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine, will lead research to develop technology for detection and monitoring of chemical and biological threat agents using an integrated micro-engineered organ equivalent system. The proposed system will be used to characterize the effect of various pharmacological and toxicological agents—including threat agents relevant to national defense.

Morgan State will partner with Johns Hopkins University to explore the technological potential of an emergent class of two-dimensional (2D) materials for use by the Defense Department. The projects will target properties of 2D materials for wearable photovoltaics and thermally-managed photo-sensors as well as hybrid PV thermoelectric technologies for use by individual warfighters.

The centers of excellence will provide training to underrepresented students pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, particularly those of critical importance to the defense department to further enable a diverse and capable STEM workforce.

Collectively, the centers will prioritize STEM education to promote the scientific advancement of undergraduate and graduate scholars in addition to providing internships at defense laboratories with collaborations from DoD researchers to address science and technology challenges.

To foster early awareness of DoD research priorities, the Centers will also offer training to K-12 students to strengthen the talent pool entering the STEM pipeline.

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