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U.S. Army Soldier & Biological Chemical Command
U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
(508) 233-5340

Date: May 10, 2001
No: 01-30

Students participate in Practice School

NATICK, Mass. -- Seven University of Massachusetts students finished the Natick Soldier Center (NSRDEC) Practice School program April 27 by presenting their research findings at the Conference Center.

The presentations were the capstone of the Practice School program that provides a hands-on research opportunity in a research and development environment. Students receive three credits for spending approximately 100 hours conducting an experiment, running tests, drawing conclusions, writing a paper and presenting their findings to an audience of project mentors and professors.

Presentations are open to the NSRDEC work force, and the audience is allowed to question the students on their results and conclusions.

"I learned a lot from the program and would definitely recommend it to others," said Charles Roche, a junior in plastics engineering at the Lowell campus. "The most important lesson I learned was how to give a briefing!" Roche was so impressed with his experience at Natick that he has offered to continue his research during the summer. Other participants have also benefited from the unique practical experience.

"There aren't many opportunities like this that takes you out of the academic environment and into a real world setting. With our mentor helping us along, we were able to apply what we've learned in school and use it to make recommendations and actually affect change and in the process, help the soldier," said Patrick Gallagher, UMass Dartmouth Practice School participant.

It's not only the students who gain from the experience. Rick Cowan, a first-time mentor, said his experience with the students positively impacted his work.

"As a first time Practice School mentor, I thought the experience was great because the students came in with fresh ideas and approaches to problem-solving, and given guidance, you get to see them work through various situations," he said.

One of last year's program participants was so pleased with her Natick experience that she has applied for a Career Related Experience in Science and Technology (CREST) internship at Natick. Faculty members are satisfied with the program as well.

"The mentor-student interaction seems to work very well to enhance student exposure to the real world environment and improve their communication skills," said Alton Wilson, interim chairperson of the Department of Textile Sciences at UMass-Dartmouth. "We have had nothing but complete success with this Natick Practice School/UMass Dartmouth relationship."

The Practice School program is one example of the cooperative spirit between UMass and U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center. Many UMass alumni have chosen career paths with the Natick Soldier Center while maintaining their ties with the university by working on joint projects.

Last year, UMass President William Bulger and Natick Soldier Center Director Philip Brandler signed a Memorandum of Understanding, formalizing and strengthening the relationship between the two institutions. Since the agreement, the Practice School has been expanded to all five UMass campuses across all disciplines. The program is an example of the positive impact students and project officers can have on each other when working together.

The UMass students who completed the program and received a NSRDEC certificate of recognition are:

Development of Facilitated Transport Membranes for Chemical Biological Protection--Debbie Chaves and Catherine Duffy (UMass-Dartmouth), Charles Roche (UMass-Lowell).

Characterization of Camouflage Uniforms through SWIR Camera--Victoria Tsatsis and Patrick Gallagher (UMass-Dartmouth).

A Blown Film Extrusion Study of Nanocomposites--James Biggins and Jon Whitney (UMass-Lowell).

Natick is part of the U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM). For more information about SBCCOM or the Soldier Systems Center (Natick), please visit our website at