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Dr. George E. Carruthers was a senior astrophysicist at the Naval Research Laboratory when he won the inaugural Outstanding Technical Contribution Award at the BEYA STEM Conference.  As a research physicist, Carruthers (1939-2020) was a leader in developing low-cost approaches to conducting experiments in space, especially from the space shuttle.

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In 1987, Carruthers told US Black Engineer magazine he is often asked what could be done to motivate students to pursue the sciences and technical fields as careers.

“If students are interested in the technical areas, the advice that we give is to take whatever science and math courses they can get as early as possible. Even if they decide not to go into a technical career, math, and science are increasingly important in society. For example, secretaries must be familiar with word processors. A musician might have to understand microprocessor-based synthesizers,” he said.

Meet the 2023 Outstanding Technical Contribution Award winners: Crystal Hayden is deputy chief of the contract and program management oversight office at the National Security Agency (NSA). Crystal always loved math growing up. She had a genuine interest in technology in college. She has focused her career on program and resource management. She’s a hands-off leader, but she’s always there to support her team. She prioritizes mentoring and is a member of two employee resource groups. She’s also the “team mom” for the Columbia Ravens football team and a PTA president.

“Accepting a job at NSA seventeen years ago as a young adult changed my life. I was an only child leaving everything I knew and loved for a career opportunity I wasn’t sure was a perfect fit. I’m so glad I took that risk. My biggest challenge has been helping others realize that not just the techie folks can solely develop the technical solutions. There is more to this career than just coding. Find your niche and run with it; we all have a role. It may not be easy but keep going. If God is for you, not one can be against you.”

Kelly T. Davis is a lead information technology specialist in the United States Army Communications-Electronics Command Software.
As a technical lead within the United States Army, Kelly Davis energized a talented group of engineers and led with trust. He was grounded in analytical problem-solving capabilities and solved challenging issues to ensure operational readiness while providing secure and efficient cyber products. In his free time, Kelly develops video games for his company, Nighttime Studios, which released its first game in 2019. The game is a time-manipulative platformer. Additionally, Kelly is a senior DevOps engineer with glass-wall solutions, providing sophisticated zero-trust file protection capabilities.

“Essentially, it is all about knowing you can,” he said in his acceptance speech. “That’s been the mantra throughout my life. Knowing you can, trusting yourself and the people around you, and not being afraid to ask questions. They are critical components of what propelled me to where I am today. Knowing that I can stems from my preparation and dedication has paved the way for the opportunities and chances to display my talents, hunger, desire, motivation, and professionalism.”

Bridget Beamon, Ph.D. is the principal systems engineer at Raytheon Technologies. She has years of experience in her field with a skills mix of systems of systems engineering, machine learning, data science, software architecture, and coding knowledge that makes her an incredible talent. Born in Bayou, Mississippi, Dr. Beamon is the first in her family to serve as valedictorian and earn a Ph.D. She holds several patents, including one pending for natural language processing. But, like many folks, she’s worked hard and overcome challenges with resilience.

“This honor inspires me to keep imagining what the future holds. Micelle Obama said, and I paraphrase: ‘you don’t just become something. You are always becoming, evolving.’ If I could go back in time and mentor my younger self, I would try to teach her this: you cannot do it all by yourself. Collaborate. You are more capable than you think. Believe. And you will overcome adversity, for no force on Earth can stop an idea whose time has come.”

Nalini Ambrose is the VA Health Systems & Strategy Department manager at The MITRE Corporation. In this role, Ms. Ambrose leads an interdisciplinary team of technology professionals, clinicians, and policy experts, tackling complex, system-wide challenges in healthcare. Over the course of her career, Ms. Ambrose has led teams helping to assess the safety and effectiveness of Covid-19 therapeutics, improving the exchange of digital clinical information, and developing electronic clinical quality measurement for national quality reporting programs. In addition, she mentors many within her organization and beyond, leading by example.

“Growing up in South India, I saw my mother suffer from heart disease, and I knew early on that I wanted to help people achieve better health and healthcare. Coming to the U.S. from a country with a different culture, climate, and academic system, I faced culture shock. But I knew what my calling was and that I would have the opportunity to make an impact in solving significant healthcare challenges using data and technology solutions. With the support of talented colleagues in the field, especially my colleagues at MITRE and my well-wishers, I’ve moved toward improved health and healthcare for individuals and populations in America.”

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