2022 BEYA Awardees

BEYA STEM Awards Showcase MITRE’s Innovation, Inclusion, and Diversity

By Molly Manchenton

The annual conference highlights professional achievement among people of color in STEM careers, and MITRE’s reputation as an employer of choice among the nation’s government, industry, and not-for-profit organizations.

A logistics expert who marshaled MITRE’s expertise to inform the public about the benefits of convalescent plasma in fighting COVID-19.

An epidemiologist who convened colleagues across the healthcare sector to identify regions most in need of COVID-19 testing centers.

A biotechnologist whose Regulatory Knowledge Guides enabled innovators across the National Institutes of Health to bring their discoveries to market.   

Who are they?

They are MITRE visionaries from a range of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines. They take on the world’s toughest challenges and deliver results. And this year, they—along with several colleagues—won honors at the 36th BEYA Stem Global Competitiveness Conference, organized by Career Communications Group (CCG)

Becoming Everything You Are, also known as BEYA, spotlights the career achievements of people of color in STEM careers. The event provides networking and recruitment opportunities in fields where people of color are underrepresented.

MITRE leadership and our talent acquisition team gathered Feb. 17-19 in Washington, D.C, to recruit new talent, present signature sessions, and recognize seven MITRE 2022 BEYA awardees honored for their professional achievements. MITRE also hosted a congratulatory dinner to celebrate the 2022 awardees at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture.

Celebrating Today’s STEM Professionals and Shaping Tomorrow’s

“Since 1990, our strategic partnership with BEYA has provided an opportunity to honor our commitment in maintaining a diverse and inclusive environment where STEM professionals can truly make a difference,” says Kathleen Federico, senior vice president and chief people and corporate strategy officer.

MITRE’s honorees embody that commitment. They are:

James O’Neal, health and life sciences principal, honored for Outstanding Technical Contribution in Government. His work supports the Health FFRDC, the R&D center MITRE operates for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. At the onset of the pandemic, O’Neal marshaled experts from biomedical science, health communications, data management, and other MITRE capability areas to spread the word about potential therapeutics. That team built a whole-of-nation program that included 25 metropolitan areas, reached 140 million Americans, and generated more than 650,000 units of plasma donations, as well as an increase in the use of monoclonal antibodies.

“James’s unwavering commitment working in the public interest helped save lives in the darkest days of the pandemic,” says Kim Warren, vice president, Health FFRDC.

Rakhee Palekar, chief scientist within MITRE’s Health and Society Innovation Center, received the Research Leadership Award. A former primary care physician, Palekar successfully combined her clinical skills with her understanding of public health to offer insights and a unique lens on the complex challenges facing us in health today, says Linda Fischetti, director, MITRE’s Health and Society Innovation Center.

Palekar worked within the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition, which MITRE convened. She developed the COVID-19 Testing Equity Dashboard to guide decisions about where testing centers were most needed.

“Rakhee routinely served as a translator, explaining risk and impact, and working to identify ways that emerging technologies could impact global transmission,” says Charles Clancy, senior vice president, general manager of MITRE Labs, and chief futurist.

Janelle Rowell, a senior biotechnologist in MITRE’s Emerging Technologies Innovation Center, received the Most Promising Scientist in Industry Award. Lauren Quattrochi, former principal biotechnologist at MITRE, described Rowell as “one of the unsung heroes of COVID-19.”

Working with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Rowell designed a strategy for rapid vaccine preparedness in 2018—well before the pandemic struck. She then became “a pivotal part of this pioneering team that brought our scientific community rapidly up to speed,” Quattrochi wrote in nominating Rowell.

MITRE attendees at BEYA 2022

MITRE colleagues, officers, and trustees honored BEYA recipients. From left, Keoki Jackson, Heather Hawley, Trustee Lance Collins, Julie Bowen, Chris Fall, Emmanuel Bello-Ogunu, Eric Clopper, Rakhee Palekar, David Tanenbaum, Jamie Williams, Charles Clancy, Cedric Carter, Kerry Buckley, Christine Harvey, James O’Neal, John DiLeo, James Souza, Julie Gravallese, Stephanie Turner.

Rowell went on to play an instrumental role supporting the NIH and its Office of External Research. She and her team created a series of Regulatory Knowledge Guides, which innovators across NIH’s 24 institutes and centers depend on to navigate the regulatory environment.

“This guidance has the potential to transform how life scientists develop and transition their innovation, from laboratory to market,” Clancy says.

Emmanuel Bello-Ogunu was honored as Science Spectrum Trailblazer for his commitment to create new paths for others in science, research, technology, and development. At MITRE, Bello-Ogunu’s work in cyber forensics and cyber effects supports the defense, intelligence, and law enforcement communities.

He also holds a critical role leading the Cyber New Professionals (CNP) initiative, recruiting, inspiring, and coaching early career cyber professionals. As group leader, Bello-Ogunu started the company’s first mentoring program for CNP staff, which now includes more than 80 members. Outside of MITRE, he volunteers with the Cyberjujutsu Girls Academy, a monthly STEM workshop.

Three MITRE employees received the Modern Day Technology Leader Award, for shaping the future of STEM in their careers and in their communities. They are:

Jamie Williamsa principal adversary emulation engineer, helping lead MITRE ATT&CK® for Enterprise. It’s become the global standard for cyber threat intelligence and understanding of how advanced cyber adversaries behaving in the real-world against enterprise systems.

“Jamie has been the technical visionary driving the advancement of this important program,” says Jonathan O. Baker, R&D director of the Center for Threat-Informed Defense.  

Christine Harvey: MITRE's principal high performance and analytic computer architect, Harvey developed our High-Performance Computing Lab. She then mentored and trained colleagues to advance their knowledge of high-performance computing (HPC). “An HPC thought leader, Harvey continues to reimagine and improve the system to boost compute power and accelerate solutions,” wrote Charlotte Farmer, former managing director of Integration and Operations, in a nomination letter.

Cedric Carter, Jr.: Supporting the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Missile Defense Agency, and the Navy, Carter identifies cybersecurity risks and to keep their critical infrastructure and industrial control systems (ICS) secure. Our sponsors consider him a trusted adviser and a sought-out thought leader when challenges arise.

Carter is also a dedicated mentor, making time to work with junior staff, providing them with opportunities to grow and gain recognition for their own work.   

Advancing MITRE’s Inclusive Message

“MITRE and our sponsors benefit from the work of the dedicated professionals we hire,” says Stephanie Turner, vice president, inclusion, diversity, and social innovation. “We also reinforce our reputation as an employer of choice for top talent who want to do mission-driven work solving problems of national and often global importance.” 

To achieve that goal, MITRE has established close working relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), and community organizations focused on the K-12 and beyond STEM talent pipeline. We collaborate with our internal employee resource councils, HBCU and MSI alumni, and other MITRE employees involved in their local communities to authentically connect with, recruit, and hire from a more diverse pool of talent.

We have also located innovation hubs, or iHubs, to engage regional universities, industry, and non-profits across the U.S. to partner and collaborate within these talent ecosystems. Our demographic data indicates our efforts are paying off.

“We have a 36-year partnership with Career Communications Group and BEYA,” Federico says. “In that time, 86 percent of our BEYA honorees from MITRE have remained vital contributors to our mission of solving problems for a safer world.”

In the photo at top, MITRE's BEYA winners and other colleagues gathered onstage after the ceremony: From left, Chris Fall, Emmanuel Bello-Ogunu, Eric Clopper, Rakhee Palekar, David Tanenbaum, James Souza, Jamie Williams, Cedric Carter, Kerry Buckley, and Christine Harvey. BEYA winners not pictured: James O'Neal and Janelle Rowell. (Photos by Nils Granholm and Julian Nguyen, MITRE.)