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May 18, 2022

Lazenka relieves Saglimbene at VX-30

Cmdr. Colette Lazenka relieved Cmdr. Jason Saglimbene as commanding officer of the “Bloodhounds” of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 30 during a change of command ceremony at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, California, on May 12.

The ceremony also marked Saglimbene’s last day in uniform; he is retiring from the Navy.

Capt. Ryan Bryla, Naval Test Wing Pacific commodore, presided over the change of command, and Rear Adm. Pete Garvin, Naval Education and Training Command, gave remarks.

Garvin noted that he’d met Saglimbene when he was a lieutenant and Garvin a commander.

“It was very obvious to me from the minute that I met him and then certainly as I got to fly with and got to know him,” Garvin said. “He’s not just a fantastic pilot – that’s obvious – but he’s a great human being. He’s a fantastic leader. I knew at that point that the sky literally was the limit for Sags.”

“In naval aviation,” Garvin added, addressing Saglimbene, “we say that we fly, we fight, we lead, and we win. I think it’s fair to say that you have lived by that mantra every single day of your Navy career.”

Saglimbene thanked his family, friends, and fellow Bloodhounds for their support during his command, saying he was proud of all that the squadron accomplished during his time in command and that he was “equally proud to hand the squadron off” to Lazenka.

“I know you appreciate how special this place is,” he said, addressing Lazenka. “I know that they will continue to impress you.”

Lazenka is the 20th person to lead the Bloodhounds and the first woman to hold the position.

“VX-30 is an absolutely amazing squadron, and I am honored to be a part of the team and serve as a Bloodhound alongside all of you,” Lazenka said after formally taking command. “I am truly humbled to be your commanding officer.”

Lazenka, a native of Horsham, Pennsylvania, graduated from the United States Naval Academy in May 2002 and earned her Naval Flight Officer wings in December 2003. She has completed numerous deployments in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, as well as deployments to the Pacific Theater.

She led acceptance testing for the Navy’s first seven P-8A aircraft and helped transition the first four P-3C squadrons to the P-8A, after which she served in the Advanced Sensors Technology Program Office and the MQ-25 Unmanned Carrier Aviation Program Office. She joined VX-30 in November 2020 as the squadron’s chief test pilot.

Lazenka is an Aviation Engineering Duty Officer and designated Acquisition Professional with career field certifications in Test & Evaluation and Program Management. Her personal decorations include the Air Medal Strike/Flight (three awards), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (eight awards), and various unit and campaign awards.



Apr 18, 2022

NAWCWD researchers develop safer BPA alternatives

If you’ve ever seen an advertisement for a BPA-free water bottle or heard from a friend that you shouldn’t microwave your food in a plastic container, you may have wondered what all the fuss is about. BPA or bisphenol A is a ubiquitous chemical that can be converted to polycarbonates, epoxy resins, and coatings used in construction, automotive applications, food packaging, electronics, optics, medical materials and even thermal receipt paper.

BPA is so prevalent in the environment that you can find significant quantities in the blood and urine of nearly 90% of the human population. Unfortunately, BPA is an endocrine disruptor, which means that it binds to human hormone receptors that normally accommodate estrogen, thyroid hormones, and androgens. The binding of BPA by these receptors has been linked to a number of negative health effects including cardiovascular disease, behavioral changes, reduced immune response, and even cancer. Companies have responded by introducing BPA replacements, but many of these alternatives are known to be cytotoxic, genotoxic, and endocrine disruptors.

Recently, a team of researchers including Dr. Ben Harvey, NAWCWD senior research chemist and team lead; Michael Garrison, NAWCWD research chemist; Perrin Storch, at the time a Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program participant; Dr. William Eck and Dr. Valerie Adams from the Army Public Health Command; and Dr. Pat Fedick, NAWCWD analytical research chemist, synthesized and characterized a series of polymers derived from bio-based bisphenols. These bisphenols can be produced from sustainable sources including trees, turpentine, and clove oil. In addition to their derivation from sustainable feedstocks, the bisphenols have unique structures that prevent them from binding to estrogen receptor sites. Studies conducted by the Army Public Health Command showed that several of these bio-based molecules have no estrogenic effects. This work was recently published in Green Chemistry, the premier sustainable chemistry journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, as a cover article.

“The materials we’ve developed can be derived from sustainable sources including waste biomass and plant extracts,” said Dr. Ben Harvey. “The lack of estrogenic effects exhibited by the bisphenols suggests that the positive health impacts of this technology could be profound. Derivation of the bisphenols and derivative polymers from sustainable biomass sources will allow us to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously making less toxic materials.”

“BPA is a ‘workhorse’ chemical used as a precursor for the plastics industry, specifically, in food/beverage containers,” Garrison said. “However, BPA is currently derived from limited petroleum resources and has shown negative health effects in humans after leaching into our food and drink, which means we need to find alternative precursors that are sustainable and have low toxicity.”

In addition to synthesizing the bisphenols, NAWCWD researchers converted them into polycarbonates, a class of engineering thermoplastics, several of which exhibited comparable or even better dimensional stability at elevated temperatures than BPA-polycarbonate, suggesting that the new materials have applications as direct replacements for petroleum-derived plastics.

“The Navy uses a number of thermoplastics, thermosetting resins, and composite materials, and we are always looking for new materials with better characteristics to improve performance,” said Dr. Stephen Fallis, NAWCWD’s Chemistry Division head. “Improved performance can take many forms, from increased melting temperatures, resistance to burning, or better manufacturing and repair approaches.”

In this case, the team was seeking out new sustainable, bio-derived polymers that performed as well as or better than current materials produced from petroleum. As often happens when doing basic research, this work went down one path and another path was uncovered.

“The team was originally studying aerospace composite materials derived from bio-based bisphenols. Dr. Harvey made the connection between his work on these materials and how the same molecules could also be utilized to make plastic bottles and other consumer products that are safer for the general population,” Fallis added.

NAWCWD has patented many of the non-estrogenic bisphenols and various derivatives over the last several years. These patents are available for licensing through the Technology Transfer program.

The Navy Technology Transfer program seeks to expand the public benefit of federally funded research and development by working collaboratively with the private sector to assess and develop new applications for technologies originally developed with military purposes in mind. In many cases, companies are able to license these innovations to create commercial products.

“The recent work on bisphenols is a perfect example of Navy research that has the potential to serve public interests to a much greater extent than the military uses alone,” said Dylan Riley, NAWCWD’s director of Technology Transfer. “Addressing the health and environmental implications of the ubiquitous use of BPA-containing plastics is a high-priority goal for both public and private sectors.  It is clear that the industry is in need of additional options to fully address this issue, and I am confident that public-private partnership could be the answer.”

For information about technologies currently available for transition or licensing, please visit



Feb 7, 2022

Newcomb and Szczerbinski named NAVAIR Mentors of the Year

Humbled and honored.

That’s what both Robyn Newcomb and Michael Szczerbinski had to say about being named Naval Air Systems Command’s mentors of the year for Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in China Lake and Point Mugu, respectively.

And that makes sense for two former active-duty service members described as giving mentors and role models who each believe that paying it forward and making a difference are keys to both success and happiness in work and life.

Newcomb, NAWCWD’s Aviation Logistics & Maintenance Readiness Analysis Division head, has 33 years of federal service, including 20 years of active duty Navy service. She formally and informally mentors 30 individuals, including NAWCWD leadership program participants and sustainment teammates. She was nominated by the Organizational Development team in NAWCWD’s Human Capital Management Department.

“Ms. Newcomb has been an inspiration and an outstanding role model,” said Dalisia Coppersmith, the head of Organizational Development. “She has proven her dedication to coaching and mentoring talent across the organization … and continues to invest in the workforce and our future leaders.”

When talking about the influence mentoring can have, Newcomb said she is reminded of ripples.

“When you create a difference in someone’s life, you not only impact them,” she said. “You impact everyone influenced by them in their lifetime” like ripples caused by a stone dropped in water. “My challenge to anyone … is to go create some ripples or even some waves.”

Szczerbinski, who retired after 24 years of active duty Navy service and joined the civilian workforce as the deputy director of NAWCWD’s Airborne Electronic Attack Integrated Product Team, mentors “almost anyone he encounters,” according to his nominator, Jeff Dieterich, Advanced Targets Branch chief engineer.

“Michael brings everything to the table: passion, knowledge, enthusiasm, charisma, drive, and a strong belief in others,” Dieterich said. “On a personal level, his promotion of developmental programs is the reason I am now a Journey Leadership Development Program graduate.”

Dieterich added that, in addition to his hands-on mentoring, Szczerbinski’s energy and enthusiasm is infectious.

“When he walks into a room, you know it,” Dieterich said. “He incites enthusiasm and purpose … and peers, superiors, and subordinates believe in him and his abilities. They trust him, and he makes people want to be better in everything they do.”

For his part, Szczerbinski leans back into humble, crediting his own mentors.

“Mentoring allows me the opportunity to pay it forward for all the kindness and support I’ve enjoyed throughout my career,” he said. “If I can in some small way pass down the wisdom, lessons learned, and guidance I’ve received from others, then I can continue to honor [my mentors] for their service.”



Jan 24, 2022

Gross selected for joint Percy Hobart Fellowship

Kevin Gross, the director of Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division’s Threat/Target Systems Department, joined the third iteration of the Percy Hobart Fellowship, an innovation-learning program previously offered to participants from the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.

The Fellowship is a 12-week program aimed at providing fellows with the skills and expertise to drive innovation in the defense environment. Gross joins two other U.S. Navy fellows as the U.S. participants in the program selected by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Research Development and Acquisition.

Fellows participate in lectures and workshops with industry and innovation leaders and are teamed up with a startup company looking to provide a new or improved operational or readiness capability to Ministry of Defence and Department of Defense. The idea is to help Fellows experience developing a business model with a new company with the goal of growing the organization from the ground floor into a self-sufficient business. 

In his program application’s statement of interest, Gross noted “The space where innovation meets opportunity is the spark that leads to evolutionary change in our military arsenal.”

“I truly believe that,” Gross said. “I want to sharpen that skill and share what I learn with our warfare center to help make us better.”

He said that his selection was a humbling surprise. Gross also noted that he was more than a little worried about how his family might react to him effectively deploying to London for three months. A retired Marine Corps officer who flew AV-8B Harriers during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Gross said he’d promised them no more deployments.

But once he got over that initial shock, Gross was “proud to have the opportunity to represent NAWCWD, Naval Air Systems Command and the U.S. Navy” in the program.

And in a way, the COVID-19 pandemic helped with the family concerns; travel restrictions moved much of the Fellowship programming online requiring Gross to begin his workday at 1:00 am to align with the UK fellowship, at least for now

Click here to read more about the Percy Hobart Fellowship.