Air Force Research Laboratory Engineer Named 2007 Federal Engineer of the Year: National Society of Professional Engineers Recognizes Outstanding Engineers in Government

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Stacey Ober
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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Garrett D. Polhamus, Ph.D., P.E., chief of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Directed Energy Bioeffects Division, the world's premier center for researching the bioeffects of lasers and microwaves, has been named the National Society of Professional Engineers' 2007 Federal Engineer of the Year. Polhamus received the honor during the 28th Annual FEYA Banquet at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on February 22.

Of the 91,000 individuals indentified by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics as federally employed engineers, only 26 were nominated and only one of 10 finalists was selected for the award. It is a crowning achievement for the award winner and the federal agency or military branch the engineer represents.

"It's a pleasure to work with great engineers and scientists in the U.S. Air Force," said Hendrick Ruck, director of the Human Effectiveness Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory. "Dr. Polhamus is the top in his field—a brilliant engineer, and a terrific leader and motivator."

Polhamus has championed the critical importance of bioeffects to the fielding of new weapons and other Directed Energy applications for national defense, ensuring new systems are effective and policy acceptable. His work enables weapons design, optimal safe test and evaluation, threat assessment, exposure standards, medical preparedness, protection, and informed policy decisions regarding the military use of DE. His development and execution of a strategic plan involving improved internal cooperation, enhanced facilities, stronger strategic alliances, and rejuvenated personnel have resulted in the unprecedented growth of the DE Bioeffects Division and garnered strong support from senior management.

Some of Polhamus' recent successes include the critical support of several successful assessments for a long-range, counter-personnel, non-lethal weapon; the development of the first ever exemption to allow human demonstrations of an NLW above normal exposure limits; and the development of laser bioeffects data that will allow enormously facilitated tests of the Airborne Laser.

Polhamus has also excelled academically, achieving his bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a member of the Directed Energy Professional Society and also sits on the University of Texas Biomedical Engineering External Advisory Committee, advising the dean on engineering related topics. He has written numerous technical papers relating to bioeffects and lasers and is active in his community as a chaperone for local school and Boy Scout activities, as well as an assistant softball coach.

Sponsored by NSPE's Professional Engineers in Government, the award program recognizes outstanding engineers employed in the federal government. A panel of judges selected the winner based on education, continuing education, professional and technical society activities, awards and honors, civic and humanitarian activities, and engineering achievements.

For more information about the program or how to submit nominations for 2008, contact Marcia Prichard at

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The National Society of Professional Engineers is the national society for licensed professional engineers from all disciplines that promotes the ethical and competent practice of engineering, advocates licensure, and enhances the image and well-being of its members. Founded in 1934, NSPE serves more than 50,000 members and the public through 53 state and territorial societies and more than 500 chapters.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A digital photo of Garrett Polhamus receiving the award is available. Additional photos of the ceremony and award winners may be obtained by contacting Stacey Ober at 703-684-2815.