AFMC Command News

AFRL scientists, engineers promote STEM careers at Spring Job Shadow Day

  • Published
  • By Erica Harrah
  • Air Force Research Laboratory

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) – Scientists and engineers from across the Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, helped to inspire the next generation of STEM professionals at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, or WPAFB, Spring Job Shadow Day, March 11, 2024. The program, which is sponsored by WPAFB’s Educational Outreach Office, offers high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to shadow professionals base-wide and learn about the varied STEM and non-STEM career opportunities offered on base.

Fourteen scientists and engineers from AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing, Sensors and Aerospace Systems directorates, and representatives from Headquarters Flight Test Operation (Airworthiness, Flight Operations and Safety), volunteered as mentors, offering students a firsthand and sometimes hands-on look at what they do.
Students began their day at the base-adjacent National Museum of the United States Air Force where they were paired with mentors like Jeffrey Leonard, a senior system safety engineer with AFRL’s Aerospace Systems Directorate.  

“Having a long and varied career, I was able to provide some insight into a lot of STEM career options, both here on the base and from my time working in the private sector as a facility design engineer and project and program manager,” said Leonard.

Since he began working at WPAFB in 2001, Leonard has done work as an electrical engineer; general engineer and program manager; energy engineer; and fire protection engineer for the 88th Civil Engineer Group. Leonard, who currently works as a safety engineer at AFRL, said many young people who participate in the job shadow program don’t realize just how much STEM-related career potential exists at WPAFB.

“Many of them don’t think they have what it takes, and I want to show them that they do,” said Leonard.

Gary Hughes, a senior electronics engineer with AFRL’s Sensors Directorate, introduced his students to the world of microelectronics as part of their job shadow experience. Hughes, who has been with AFRL since 2019, works on the fabrication of high-power transistor devices that have applications in airplane radars. 
As part of this experience, students were given the opportunity to visit the clean room that is used to produce the semiconductor wafers for the transistors.

“They were fitted into head-to-toe clean room suits for their time in the [facility] and were even able to practice a few basic processing operations for hands-on experience,” said Hughes.

Dr. LoriAnne Groo, a research aerospace engineer who works with integrating non-destructive inspection capabilities with robotics, gave students a tour of several labs within the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, offering them a closer look at one of many facets of materials science research. 

“During the day we spent some time in the lab learning about a project I lead that’s focused on robotic non-destructive inspection,” said Groo. “We also toured around several labs that focused on robotics, additive manufacturing, morphing air vehicles and material characterization.”

Jon Andorn, chief of the Airworthiness Division and deputy director of engineering delegated technical authority for AFRL, gave students a tour of HQ Flight Test Operations, which supports all flight testing within AFRL.

“I’ve had an absolutely amazing career doing some super cool stuff and have ‘been there, done that’ on a lot of interesting projects, technologies and policy developments, most of which are still with us today,” said Andorn. “Much of this was due to leaders recognizing the potential within me and mentors who opened doors, encouraged and supported me in stepping outside my comfort zone to push me to do things more challenging than I thought were possible.” 

Eighty students participated in the Job Shadow Day this spring, an endeavor that many agreed was worth their time, such as Hugh Lenz, a junior from Bishop Fenwick High School in Middletown, Ohio.

“I told my brother he should do it next year,” said Lenz. “The Air Force has so many jobs that I didn't even know existed and this is one of the only ways to really see those jobs in depth.”

WPAFB offers Job Shadow Day twice each year in the spring and fall. The number of participants is limited, and slots are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration closes when all slots are filled.

Educational Outreach Office program manager Kim Stultz-DeHart said she encourages both STEM and non-STEM professionals at WPAFB to consider volunteering to participate in this event as mentors.

“[Their] experience and enthusiasm are key to inspiring the next generation, by showing them the extensive and wide-ranging career opportunities available at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,” said Stultz-DeHart.

For more information on how to participate as both a volunteer or mentor, contact Stultz-DeHart at or at 937-656-2273.

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