News Release 

Exceptional engineering: Naval employees earn Black Engineer of the Year Awards

Office of Naval Research

Award Announcement

ARLINGTON, Va.--Four Department of the Navy (DoN) employees at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) won 2021 Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) from the US Black Engineer & Information Technology magazine.

The magazine promotes careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). The BEYA awards honor corporate, military, government and educational leaders expanding opportunities for African-Americans in STEM fields.

The winners received their awards at the 35th BEYA STEM Conference, which was held virtually Feb. 11-13. It was hosted by the US Black Engineer & Information Technology magazine, the Council of Engineering Deans of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Lockheed Martin.

"These employees exemplify the very best of the Naval Research Enterprise," said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Lorin C. Selby. "As we work to sustain our nation's lead on the global stage, we need diverse perspectives and viewpoints to solve naval science and technology challenges--today and in the future."

For his work as director of the DoN Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Minority Institutions (HBCU/MI) Program, Anthony Smith Sr. won the Educational Leadership-Corporate Promotion of Education Award.

Located at ONR, the DoN HBCU/MI Program provides various opportunities for HBCU/MI faculty and students to collaborate with scientists and engineers at naval labs and warfare centers, on projects of mutual interest.

The program has four main goals:

  • Expand opportunities for HBCU/MIs to successfully compete for grants and contracts for basic and applied research.
  • Offer scholarships, fellowships and internships to HBCU/MI students pursuing degrees in STEM studies.
  • Promote greater student interest in STEM degrees at HBCU/MIs.
  • Enable summer sabbatical opportunities for teaching faculty to pursue naval-relevant research at DoN laboratories and warfare centers.

"It's gratifying to win this award because it was given after rigorous evaluation by my peers," said Smith. "It recognizes the success of our efforts in promoting the Navy and Marine Corps to HBCU/MIs--and the value these schools bring to the Naval Research Enterprise. HBCU/MIs are innovative, creative and know how to make things happen."

The NRL winners are:

  • Dr. Darryl Boyd: Adm. Michelle Howard Legacy Award--Boyd is a chemist in NRL's Optical Sciences Division. He builds unique, polymer-based materials used in heat-detecting devices such as night-vision goggles. The polymers make the gear lighter, easier to construct and more economical. (The Adm. Michelle Howard Legacy award is named in honor of the first woman and first African-American to became a four-star admiral and vice chief of Naval Operations.)
  • Dr. Kenan Fears: Modern-Day Technology Leader Award--Fears is a bio-engineer in NRL's Chemistry Division. He focuses on studying and preventing biofouling, which comprises the barnacles, seaweed and other marine life sticking to ships' hulls, slowing them and increasing fuel consumption.
  • Samuel Abbay: Modern-Day Technology Leader Award--Abbay is a mechanical engineer in NRL's Spacecraft Engineering Division. He works on spacecraft thermal systems, designing and testing satellite electrical subsystems to withstand the rigors of space.


    For more information about BEYA, visit

    Warren Duffie Jr. is a contractor for ONR Corporate Strategic Communications.

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