AAMP-UP, PERC aim to promote diversity and inclusion in energetics

A core component of the Advancing Army Modernization Priorities – Undergraduate Program’s (AAMP-UP) mission is to promote diversity and inclusion in the field of energetics. To accomplish that goal, staff and graduate students traveled to two national conferences, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in Houston, TX and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) in Charlotte, NC, to recruit the next AAMP-UP cohort, as well as prospective graduate students interested in energetic materials and defense research.


Photos of graduate students and staff at the SWE and SHPE events

Left: Sydney Scheirey, Jiselle Thornby and Angelique Klimek at the SWE conference. Right: Daniel Soto-Martinez, Gabriella Torres and Kerry-Ann Stirrup at the SHPE conference.

STEM educational programs, particularly those in engineering, often struggle to diversify. According to the Pew Research Center, women earn only about a quarter of all degrees awarded across all levels and programs in engineering. Additionally, Hispanic and Black students only earn 15% and 9% of all STEM degrees, respectively. AAMP-UP is hoping to change that trend within the field of energetics by recruiting students from a variety of backgrounds.

“AAMP-UP is unique in that we uphold diversity, inclusion and belonging as a key tenet of the program,” said Gabriella Torres, AAMP-UP’s education and workforce development engineer. “We are intentional with our recruitment and acceptance process because we realize that strength is brought through diversity. We intend to have our AAMP-UP ’23 cohort represent engineering and STEM undergraduate students with a wide range of majors, home institutions, grade levels, and more, just as the AAMP-UP ’21 and ’22 cohorts did.”

Representatives from AAMP-UP and the Purdue Energetics Research Center (PERC) collaborated with the College of Engineering’s graduate office to recruit undergraduate and graduate students at SWE and SHPE. The organizations shared a booth at both events and were able to network with prospective students from across the country. Mechanical engineering PhD student Sydney Scheirey and Chemical engineering PhD students Angelique Klimek and Jiselle Thornby attended SWE on behalf of AAMP-UP and PERC, while Torres, mechanical engineering PhD student Daniel Soto-Martinez and materials engineering PhD student Kerry-Ann Stirrup attended SHPE.

“The conference was such a great experience,” said Thornby. “This was my first SWE conference personally, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to recruit and represent our school and mission.” Thornby, Scheirey and Klimek, along with representatives from the graduate office, were able to engage 90 prospective students from 70 universities and companies across the country.

At SHPE, Torres, Soto-Martinez and Stirrup promoted PERC and AAMP-UP at the conference’s career/graduate fair as well as its “Graduate Track” events, which consisted of talks and panels where individuals provided advice and shared their experiences with graduate school.

The Graduate Track events were a highlight for Stirrup, who says they were heavily attended by undergraduate students: “Because it was a more informal setting, I got to chat with many students and let them know about Purdue and the fabulous undergraduate research opportunities we have, including AAMP-UP and PERC, in a situation where they weren’t stressed out.” In addition to attending career/graduate events, Stirrup presented a poster and won second place at the conference’s Engineering and Science Symposium with research completed through PERC.

Both events proved to be a great success, and Torres has high hopes for the future of AAMP-UP and PERC. “It’s always enjoyable to speak to interested students about Purdue, its range of opportunities and, especially, its energetic material community,” said Torres. “Many students are drawn to Purdue because of its reputation, but when they find out about the work we do and the AAMP-UP program, it solidifies their interest. The collaboration with the graduate school was also a highlight because we were able to speak to students about admissions and potential research avenues through PERC.”

The AAMP-UP program will begin accepting applications for the Summer 2023 cohort Jan. 9, 2023 through the Purdue Engineering Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) application portal. To learn more about AAMP-UP or available graduate opportunities, visit the PERC website