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Heartland STEM: Building the Workforce of Tomorrow

For Immediate Release: Sep 22, 2022

ARLINGTON, Va.— Deep in America’s Heartland, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) is sponsoring efforts to build a diverse workforce, promote sustainability and collaborate with the best and brightest worldwide to solve the grand challenges of 2050.

The Conference on Blue Integrated Partnerships (BIP) and the 2050 Workforce of Tomorrow — hosted by Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, July 29-Aug. 1 — was an opportunity to bring together academia, government and industry to discuss potential climate change-related problems relevant to the mission of the Navy and Marine Corps.

Understanding climate shifts and patterns is vital to the Navy’s global operations and the safety of ships at sea. In addition, the Navy wants to better understand the changing environment in the Arctic Ocean, where melting sea ice is opening the region to expanded maritime and naval activity. Of particular concern are rising sea surface temperatures, waves, tides and currents, and how they affect naval capabilities and effectiveness.

The Conference on Blue Integrated Partnerships (BIP) and the 2050 Workforce of Tomorrow aligned with the Navy and Marine Corps Climate Action 2030 plan, which sets the Department of the Navy on a path to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, while becoming a more capable, agile and lethal fighting force.

Additionally, the Conference on BIP and the 2050 Workforce focused on increasing the diversity and talent pool of STEM (science, technology, education and math), because the innovation needed to fight climate change will require leveraging the talents of a broad spectrum of people.

Purdue Climate Scholars from the six-week BIP Summer Institute for Climate Change and Sustainability also participated in the conference. Ranging from high school to graduate students, the scholars worked in research clusters to tackle the BIP-targeted challenges of sustainability, health and security.

Including this diverse group of students in this conference ensured the next generation of scientific researchers are learning about potential career opportunities supporting the Navy or the Department of Defense.

“ONR was proud to sponsor the Conference on Blue Integrated Partnerships & the 2050 Workforce of Tomorrow, because it aligns with our priorities to increase the diversity of our STEM workforce,” said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Lorin Selby. “A diverse team representing all of our country’s incredible talents is essential for the security of the United States.”

One of the event’s sponsors echoed those sentiments.

“The BIP Summer Institute and Conference was a unique opportunity to connect with a broad spectrum of students, educators, industry and government leaders, and I would recommend anyone interested in building the best future science and technology workforce to attend in the future,” said Dr. Thomas Fu, head of ONR’s Mission Capable, Persistent and Survivable Naval Platforms Department.

According to Dr. Luciano Castillo, director of the conference and institute, and the Kenninger Professor of Renewable Energy at Purdue University: “Addressing social inequality and engaging the untapped talent in our communities, while solving problems related to climate change, health challenges and security, are major goals of this consortium. By increasing the diversity of the STEM workforce, we will accelerate new innovations that will propel a strong economy — specifically in underrepresented communities.”    

The BIP Summer Institute Conference was broken into the following schedule:

  • Day one celebrated the achievements of the BIP Summer Institute Fellows. It addressed how to educate and engage the “Year of 2050” workforce on solving pressing big problems — particularly under potential extreme climate conditions.
  • Day two focused on sustainable aviation and key challenges facing this industry. It also discussed aviation and defense contracting opportunities in the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
  • Day three focused on matching businesses with historically black colleges and universities/minority institutions (HBCUs/MIs) and minority-owned companies to create an inclusive pipeline, propel innovations and create opportunities and economic growth.
  • Day four highlighted sustainability and coastal resiliency, as well as topics related to carbon capture.

Those attending the BIP Summer Conference were able to:

  • Meet with potential investors and top federal government leaders and agencies, such as the Department of the Defense, NASA, Department of Education, Department of Energy and Department of Homeland Security.
  • Recruit diverse STEM talent.
  • Learn about current advances in sustainability, research and opportunities to build partnerships with HBCUs/MIs, and how to conduct federal contracting with government partners.

For more information, visit

Scott Hochenberg is a contractor for ONR Corporate Strategic Communications.

About the Office of Naval Research

The Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 55 countries, 634 institutions of higher learning and nonprofit institutions, and more than 960 industry partners. ONR, through its commands, including headquarters, ONR Global and the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., employs more than 3,800 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel.