AFMC Command News

Academia, workforce mutually benefit from new radiation effects and testing lab

  • Published
  • By Catherine Sprague
  • Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. – The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL’s, Space Vehicles Directorate held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new University of New Mexico, or UNM, COSMIAC Radiation Effects Lab, or CREL, Dec. 8, 2023. 
Students of UNM COSMIAC, the university’s primary research center for engineering, began their mentor-mentee partnership with the Space Vehicles Directorate in the fall of 2019. Currently, the subject matter experts, or SMEs, of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate serve as the primary mentors for UNM CREL students. The new lab will help facilitate the professional development of AFRL’s future experts in radiation testing and evaluation with pointed and hands-on experiences. AFRL SMEs mentor UNM graduate students, passing on skills and expertise that those students can use to later mentor UNM undergraduates. This creates a pipeline of experienced and adept professionals, funneling them directly from academia into the workforce.
“This helps not only AFRL, but also all parts of the U.S. Department of the Air Force to guide what direction should be taken in terms of radiation reliability in flight processing hardware,” said Space Electronics Technology Deputy Lead Windy Slater. “Workforce development is a crucial topic that is currently being discussed, and we really believe this is effectively addressing that.”
Workforce development within the new lab is mutually beneficial for AFRL and UNM, said Jesse Mee, AFRL senior scientist for Radiation Hardening Technologies.

“It is of critical importance that the DOD step up efforts to invest in workforce development on the subject of radiation effects testing and analysis,” Mee said. “[In AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate], the space electronics group has a mission to explore the limitations of commercial-off-the-shelf technologies in a space radiation environment.”
Certain aspects of testing that have been somewhat challenging, Mee said. The new lab, however, will allow for the development of proper methodology as well as the workforce to execute it, ultimately serving the space electronics team mission.
Future efforts for the new lab will focus on mentorship continuity and collaboration.
Slater shared that leadership is hopeful that the success of the lab and its effect on STEM outreach will promote external funding to further workforce development, benefitting both degree-seeking students and the warfighter alike.
About AFRL
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 12,500 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