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Patricia McDaniel

Patricia McDaniel
Science & Technology Policy Fellowships

2008-10 Diplomacy Fellow at the U.S. Department of Defense

You might say the military is in Patricia McDaniel’s blood. She was born on The Tachikawa Air Force Base in Tokyo, Japan where her father had been stationed. He is now retired from the Air Force and Patricia’s husband is retired from the Navy. She has always felt comfortable in the armed services setting. Yet, walking through the doors of the Department of Defense (DOD) Combating Terrorism Technology Support Office (CTTSO) in 2009, Patricia wasn’t sure what to expect.

After seven years at NASA as a chemist in aerospace research and several years as a corporate research product development manager, Patricia was seeking new challenges. She’d always wanted a position contributing to the nation’s service  members and her AAAS S&T Policy Fellowship provided that opportunity.

Patricia was energized by the common purpose of the DOD agencies and programs to protect America’s soldiers and citizens from harm.  “I collaborated on research programs that develop new technologies to protect the troops and had the opportunity to be involved in projects from their inception to seeing the final products placed in a soldier’s hand on the frontlines,” she said. “You realize that someone’s life depends on your effort and it’s meaningful work.”

Leveraging her position as a AAAS Fellow, Patricia was an ambassador for the DOD and used the fellowship network to make connections with other agencies. That effort opened the door for her to chair the planning committee for a multi-agency conference involving the State Department, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and several others. It was one of the largest conferences ever held for the explosives detection community.

While the conference topic was somber, the organizers added levity with a relay race to demonstrate the effectiveness and limitations of new detection methods. The interactive exercise engaged participants as they cheered on their teams. “We had high-level federal employees wearing bomb suits weighing 100 to 120 pounds running through an aircraft hanger and testing simulated explosives to understand the process,” Patricia explained. “The idea was to simulate a high anxiety situation similar to what one might encounter if suspicious materials or packages were to be found at a transportation site. This work is critically important. It’s about saving lives and can be very intense. Enabling a fun atmosphere for some of the training eases stress and fosters valuable teambuilding.”

Patricia is now a fulltime DOD team member. Following her second fellowship year she accepted a position as senior program analyst in the CTTSO, where she is able to continue applying science to fight the global war on terrorism and support the warfighter.