Press Release

Johns Hopkins APL Honors Staff Innovation in Annual Achievement Awards Ceremony

Held virtually for the second consecutive year, the annual APL Achievement Awards on April 27 included honors for outstanding publications, notable projects, and individuals and teams who accomplished incredible things in 2020. This year’s ceremony also included a new award — called Light the FUSE — as well as honors for three new APL Master Inventors.

In all, a record 724 Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory staff members were included in 134 nominations for 32 different awards. In another record, 185 staff members were recognized as winners during the ceremony.

“In a year as challenging as the one we’ve had, it was incredibly inspiring to see the quantity and quality of nominated projects and staff,” said Jerry Krill, APL’s assistant director for science and technology. “We were able to recognize some incredible work, including many of the critical contributions our staff members have made to the pandemic fight, both for our nation and for our community.”


2020 APL Achievement Award Winners


Publication Awards

Outstanding Paper in the Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest

Robert Armiger, Matthew Fifer, Kapil Katyal and Brock Wester for “Design and Preliminary Evaluation of an Augmented Reality Interface Control System for a Robotic Arm.”

Outstanding Research Paper in an Externally Refereed Journal Publication

Adam Freeman, Konstantinos Gerasopoulos, Christopher Hoffman, Spencer Langevin, Matt Logan, Bing Tan and Doug Trigg for “UV-Cured Eutectic Gel Polymer Electrolytes for Safe and Robust Li-Ion Batteries,” published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A.

Outstanding Development Paper in an Externally Refereed Publication

Marc Airola, Hicham Alkandry, Bliss Carkhuff, Luke Currano, Plamen Demirev, Linda Frizzell-Makowski, Peter Green, Jill La Favors, Hasan Oguz, James Reuster, Rengaswamy Srinivasan and Mike Thomas for “Preventing Cell-to-Cell Propagation of Thermal Runaway in Lithium-Ion Batteries,” published in theJournal of the Electrochemical Society.

Author’s First Paper in a Peer Reviewed Journal or Proceedings (two awards)

Matt Logan for “Reversible Atmospheric Water Harvesting Using Metal-Organic Frameworks,” published in Scientific Reports by Nature Research.

Justin Joyce for “Leveraging Tools from Autonomous Navigation for Rapid, Robust Neuron Connectivity,” published in Medical Image Computing and Computer Assisted Intervention – 2020.

Outstanding Professional Book (two awards)

Amir-Homayoon Najmi for “Advanced Signal Processing: A Concise Guide,” published by McGraw-Hill.

Ralph Lorenz for “Saturn’s Moon Titan: From 4.5 Billion Years Ago to the Present,” published by Haynes Publishing.

Outstanding Special Publication

Ariel Greenberg for the chapter “Deciding Machines: Moral-Scene Assessment for Intelligent Systems” in the book “Human-Machine Shared Contexts,” published by Elsevier.

Outstanding Conference Publication

Myron Brown, Gordon Christie, Kevin Foster, Shea Hagstrom and Rai Munoz-Abujder for “Learning Geocentric Object Pose in Oblique Monocular Images,” published in the Proceedings of Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition.


R. W. Hart Prizes for Excellence in Independent Research and Development

Best IRAD Research Project

Julie Gleason, Rachel Hegab and Brooke Luisi for Integrated Modular Platform Allowing Chemical Threat Detection (abbreviated IMPACT-D).

Best IRAD Development Project

Max Basescu, Matthew Hahne, Joseph Moore, Adam Polevoy, Katie Popek, Luca Scheuer and Bryanna Yeh for Flying into the Unknown: Direct Nonlinear Model-Predictive Control for Fast Fixed-Wing Flight in Complex Environments.


Government Purpose Invention Award

Laura Asher, Evan Bolt, Beatrice Garcia, Tamara Goyea, Aaron Katz, Ryan Lau, Tim Ng, Sarah Prata, Jeremy Ratcliff and Miles Stewart for Data Collection, Error Correction and Modeling Platforms for the COVID-19 Pandemic. APL researchers provided data collection and curation capabilities behind the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, which was recognized on Time magazine’s list of “The Best Inventions of 2020.” In support of Assistant Professor Lauren Gardner from the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, who created the dashboard, and with colleagues from the JHU Sheridan Library, APL created an automated data system that enables accurate and timely analysis of the health data.


Invention of the Year

Spencer Langevin, Matt Logan, Scott Shuler and Zhiyong Xia for Atmospheric Water Harvesting Device. The team invented a highly adsorbent specialty material composed of a combination of hydrogel and a modified metal organic framework that is effective at extracting water from the humidity in air. This engineered adsorbent has been manufactured, tested and proven to have the ability to effectively extract water from air.


Master Inventors

Earned by three staff members this year: Dave Blodgett, George Coles and Jennifer Sample in recognition of their 10 issued U.S. patents while working at APL.


Mission Accomplishment for a Current Challenge (two awards)

COVID Data and Analytics team, with core members Jeffrey Freeman, Amanda Galante, Tamara Goyea, Phil Graff, Aaron Katz, Ryan Lau, Tim Ng, Paul Nicholas, Elisha Peterson and Jonathan Thornhill. APL provided quick reaction data sourcing and analytics for the global pandemic response by creating novel, highly automated data and analytical pipelines. The pipelines served the globally recognized Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center and influenced data-driven policy and resource planning decisions for the White House COVID Task Force.

Maritime Targeting Cell – Afloat with core team members Frank Bantell, Dewayne Brown, Jim Farrell, Bill Mosberg, Adam Neiss, Michael Palasits, Todd Sims, Nik Smith-Simmons, Tenee Stephenson and Shane Walston. Maritime Targeting Cell – Afloat, or MTC-A, is an initiative to enhance the U.S. Navy’s ability to provide long-range targeting. Through rapid prototyping, experimentation, and virtual and live exercises, the APL MTC-A team, in partnership with the government sponsor and Northrop Grumman, is moving advanced processing capabilities into the battlespace to take advantage of existing and new data feeds enhancing situational awareness, identification and targeting at the tactical edge.


Mission Accomplishment for an Emerging Challenge (two awards)

Badlands, with principal contributors Ben Brawley, Will Heimsoth, Casey Kane, Paul Kucher, Megan Leahy-Hoppa, Glenn T. Moore, Peter Paquette, Eli Richards, Kelly Stacks and Joe Trainor. The Badlands team evolved and integrated multiple distinguished capabilities with novel algorithms and custom hardware to deliver critical capability for the intelligence community.

DARPA AlphaDogfight Trials, with core team members Kelly Brady, Chris DeMay, William Dunham, Jennifer Gebhardt, David Handelman, John O’Brien, Johnathan Pino, Robert Shearer, Lee Varanyak and Edward White. The DARPA AlphaDogfight Trials aimed to develop intelligent autonomous agents capable of defeating an adversary aircraft in a simulated dogfight. Enabled by APL, the trials increased performance and warfighter trust in artificial intelligence algorithms, and started down a path to advance combat autonomy through competition.


Enterprise Accomplishment Award (two awards)

ZoomGov Deployment led by Tim Alder, Jehan Aziz, May Boonyobhas, Cathy Colangelo, Christy Kiser, Nick Koutsias, Radha Kowtha, Andy Liu, DeAndrea Norris and Dan Wroten. The rapid deployment of ZoomGov supported APL’s swift transition to a hybrid workplace, fully supporting the Laboratory’s need to collaborate and communicate internally and with sponsors during an unprecedented national emergency. This deployment shines as an example of APL’s resiliency in a rapidly changing world.

Decision Support Center (DSC) and APL COVID-19 Statistics led by Josh Baker, Dave Booth, Mike Brown, Brad Garrett, Amara Hamdani, Jessie Jamieson, Scott Kallmeyer, Arthur Kang, Annie Marcotte and Farrah O’Colman. The DSC was established during the first pandemic in over 100 years to rapidly digest and aggregate large amounts of data to produce a common operating picture, which enabled the executive council to make timely and effective decisions and facilitate appropriate actions as well as to enable staff members’ awareness and personal daily planning.


The Alvin R. Eaton Award

Chris Watkins, Sea Control mission area executive in the Force Projection Sector. The return of great power competition has significantly expanded the critical role undersea operations plays for our nation, with both capacity and capability challenges from China and Russia. Watkins’ energy, leadership and technical contributions are directly responsible for new and significantly improved capabilities for the U.S. and are critical to retaining undersea dominance. In addition to his contributions and leadership on sponsored programs and internal research, Watkins has provided significant contributions to Defense Science Board studies pertaining to the undersea.


Ignition Grant Prize

Anissa Elayadi, Toni Ponniah and Susan Wu for RIVAL: Repurposing Infant Vaccines Against Lethal Covid-19. The results of the team’s work indicate that childhood vaccines appear to be inducing cross-reactive antibodies against COVID-19 proteins and therefore could be repurposed to be used as vaccines against COVID-19 or future viruses.


Combustion Grant Prize

Mary Keller, Michael Nord, Hermann Sequeira, Andrew Strikwerda and Dalibor Todorovski for 2MICE (Moon/Mars Ice Explorers). Water ice deposits in permanently shadowed craters of the Moon or at mid-latitudes on Mars are a desirable resource for in situ production of fuels and life-support materials. Unfortunately, we don’t know if they actually exist. There are lots of hints but no direct detections. The team proposed a novel smallsat mission that has the potential to unambiguously detect and map these water ice deposits.


Propulsion Grant Year 3 Prize (two awards)

Team principals Stefan Allen, Ra’id Awadallah, Brian Gibbons, Andy Goers, Rajesh Thapa and Aram Vartanyan for Thor’s Hammer. The team investigated the physics of the emission of a broadband radio frequency impulse and acoustic waves when an ultrashort pulse laser interacts with a metallic surface. Also being explored is the interaction of the acoustic waves with small unmanned aerial vehicle inertial measurement units.

John Abraham, Dave Clader, Cameron Gutgsell, Robert Osiander and Dalibor Todorovski for Quantum Magnetometers. Quantum sensors is a field to exploit quantum effects in order to make precise measurements of external fields. Magnetic sensors are utilized in a wide variety of mission-relevant applications across APL. This project investigates leveraging quantum computing and information technologies to develop ultra-precise quantum-enabled magnetometers.


Director’s Award for Special Achievements (two awards)

The Environmental Health and Safety COVID-19 Response team represented by Dan Anna, Shirley Barcase, Kathryn Connors, Mike Ginther, Kelsey Nutter, Sara Parton, Katie Reiter and Julie Stipes. The EHS team provided expert guidance to the Laboratory throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, delivering novel approaches for Laboratory health and hygiene, contact tracing and vaccine administration. Through the team’s incredible efforts, APL was able to keep staff safe and continue its critical work for government sponsors.

Future Systems Integration 2020 Flight Test team represented by Matt Cheetham, Mark Galligan, Ravi Goonasekeram, Corrie James, Erik Justen, Peter Kirby, Taylor Lowe, Kevin Proska, David Rouse and Brennan Thews. While this is a highly classified project, we can say that the project has resulted in development of unparalleled, revolutionary air and missile defense capabilities that will benefit our nation for years to come.


Bumblebee Award

Josh Broadwater, Mike Burks, Dean Fisher, Michael Heyman, Kevin Ligozio, Katie Meixner and Casey Richardson for Smart Sensor. The team developed an autonomous perception and reasoning system for an intelligence mission in challenging tactical operational environments. It is called the Autonomous Sensor Platform, or ASP. This AI-enabled “brain” is intended for large uninhabited autonomous systems. The ASP enables continued, autonomous flight and sensor operations in GPS and communications-denied environments.


Noble Prize

Anurupa Bhonsale, Sarah Brewer, Nicole Brown, Lindsay Gilbert, Brooke Luisi, Leif Powers, Chris Stile, Kristin Sotzen, Will Stone and Andrea Timm for Multi-layer Biofilm Tablets to Overcome Planetary Extrema. Terraforming is the construction of a designed ecosystem. The team developed a terraforming strategy around the idea that a self-sustaining, multi-species biofilm ecosystem could survive in a harsh environment with minimal resources and perform multiple functions as it grows, expands and matures to make another planet more hospitable. While the team was unable to develop a viable strategy to terraform Venus, there were some positive indications of an approach applicable to Mars. The results also hold promise for bioremediation on Earth.


Light the FUSE

Trailblazer CIRCUIT team with leaders Caitlyn Bishop, Martha Cervantes, Karla Gray-Roncal, Will Gray-Roncal, Liem Huynh, Erik Johnson, Lauren Kennell, Tammy Kolarik, Maria Roncal and Marisel Villafane-Delgado. The CIRCUIT team of APL leaders has inspired and connected a new generation of trailblazing innovators to our organization through a groundbreaking college internship program. In an effort to further a culture of inclusion and diversity, CIRCUIT, which stands for Cohort-based Integrated Research Community for Undergraduate Innovation and Trailblazing, was bold and quickly grew beyond its original JHU borders to include other institutions. CIRCUIT exemplifies APL’s core mission of defining game-changing innovation.