UPS recently announced that it is the first to receive the official nod from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate a full “drone airline,” which will allow it to expand its current small drone delivery service pilots into a country-wide network.
In its announcement of the news, UPS said that it will start by building out its drone delivery solutions specific to hospital campuses nationwide in the U.S., and then to other industries outside of healthcare.
UPS racks up a number of firsts as a result of this milestone, thanks to how closely it has been working with the FAA throughout its development and testing process for drone deliveries. As soon as it was awarded the certification, it did a delivery for WakeMed hospital in Raleigh, N.C. using a Matternet drone, and it also became the first commercial operator to perform a drone delivery for an actual paying customer outside of line of sight thanks to an exemption it received from the government.
This certification, officially titled FAA’s “Part 135 Standard certification,” offers far-reaching and broad license to companies who attain it — much more freedom than any commercial drone operation has had previously in the U.S.
Obviously, it’s a huge win for UPS Flight Forward, which is the dedicated UPS subsidiary the company announced it had formed back in July to focus entirely on building out the company’s drone delivery business. But there’s still a lot left to do before you can expect UPS drones to be a regular fixture, or even at all visible in the lives of the average American.
Continue on to TechCrunch to read the complete article.
Before humans can settle off-Earth, scientists need to figure out how — or even whether — people can reproduce in space.
Why it matters: Powerful figures in the space industry like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have dreams of a future where millions of people live in space, which would naturally require a self-sustaining population of humans somewhere other than Earth.
“It has been [more than] 20 years since the last systematic experiments on vertebrate reproduction and development in spaceflight,” Gary Strangman, the scientific lead at the Translational Research Institute for Space Health, told me.
“Yet we are now actively planning missions and building rockets to reach the Moon and Mars. Reproduction will almost certainly be relevant to a three-year mission to Mars. And we don’t want to discover serious adverse effects by accident.”What’s happening: Scientists have sent a number of experiments to the International Space Station in recent years to try to answer various questions about what it might take for mammals, and eventually humans, to reproduce in space.
A study published in June found freeze-dried sperm from mice sent to the ISS weren’t adversely impacted by the environment in low-Earth orbit, producing healthy pups back on Earth after its return.
An earlier Russian experiment sent male and female rats to orbit, allowing them to breed. Two of the female rats became pregnant, but neither resulted in a live birth.
Yes, but: More in-depth studies are needed in order to figure out just what it would take for humans and other species to have babies off-Earth, and some scientists say there hasn’t been enough attention paid to funding and performing these types of studies.
“There’s always been a bigger problem to solve,” Virginia Wotring, a professor at the International Space University, told me. The focus instead has been on the technology needed to get to orbit, life support and funding for deep space efforts.
“The risks of spaceflight are (reasonably) well-understood, but the consequences of those risks on conception, pregnancy, birth and development are barely understood at all — in any species, but particularly in mammals, and even more so in humans,” Strangman said via email.
Women have been historically underrepresented among astronauts, making it harder to study how important parts of reproduction like birth control, menstruation and ovulation may work.
The big question: What are the major factors that could limit how and whether humans can have healthy babies in space?
Mouse sperm and embryos haven’t been adversely impacted by the radiation environment on the ISS, but as humans push to farther-afield destinations like Mars, that could change as the radiation environment gets worse.
Gravity may also be important in physically arranging the cells in an embryo. Researchers are now analyzing an experiment on the space station where astronauts cultured frozen mouse embryos to see if they needed gravity to develop. (The results of that research haven’t yet been made available.)
But it could be even more simple: Mammals are sensitive to stress, making it difficult to mate even on the ground, Teruhiko Wakayama, a researcher focusing on reproduction in space, told me.
The ethical issues surrounding studies of human reproduction also limit experiments in space, according to Strangman.
What’s next: A number of studies being proposed in the coming years could help answer those outstanding questions around reproduction in space.
When the words “intriguing,” “Mars” and “ancient life” show up in the same NASA statement, my ears perk up. On Sunday, NASA talked up a new study looking at “unusual carbon signals” measured by the Curiosity rover in the red planet’s Gale Crater.
Curiosity hasn’t found proof of ancient microbial life on Mars, but scientists aren’t ruling it out as one possible explanation for the rover’s findings. Powdered rock samples studied by the rover show the kind of carbon signatures that are connected to biological life on Earth. But Mars may be telling a very different story.
The study is set to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.
Carbon is a key element in life on our own planet, so it’s important to study how it appears on Mars. “For instance, living creatures on Earth use the smaller, lighter carbon 12 atom to metabolize food or for photosynthesis versus the heavier carbon 13 atom,” NASA said. “Thus, significantly more carbon 12 than carbon 13 in ancient rocks, along with other evidence, suggests to scientists they’re looking at signatures of life-related chemistry.”
Curiosity heated up rock samples in an onboard lab and used its Tunable Laser
Spectrometer instrument to measure the gases released by the samples. Some of the rock samples had “surprisingly large amounts of carbon 12” compared with what has been found in the atmosphere of Mars and in Martian meteorites.
According to a statement from Penn State, the researchers proposed several explanations: “a cosmic dust cloud, ultraviolet radiation breaking down carbon dioxide, or ultraviolet degradation of biologically created methane.”
The cloud idea connects back to an occurrence when the solar system passed through a galactic dust cloud hundreds of millions of years ago, which could have left carbon-rich deposits on Mars. The second idea suggests ultraviolet light could have interacted with carbon dioxide gas in the Martian atmosphere and left molecules with the distinctive carbon signature on the surface.
A biological origin idea could have involved bacteria releasing methane into the atmosphere that was then converted into molecules that settled back down on Mars, leaving behind the carbon signature Curiosity found.
Media accreditation is now open for launch and prelaunch activities related to NASA’s Artemis I mission, the first mission in exploration systems built for crew that will travel around the Moon since Apollo. Approximately a week’s worth of events will lead up to the launch of the agency’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, targeted for no earlier than March 2022 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The uncrewed Artemis I mission will launch from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39B and is the first integrated flight test of NASA’s Artemis deep space exploration systems. The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, the mission will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration and demonstrate NASA’s commitment and capability to establish a long-term presence at the Moon and beyond.
NASA will set an official target launch date after a successful wet dress rehearsal test – one of the final tests before launch involving fuel loaded into the rocket – currently planned for late February.
U.S. media must apply by 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 7, and international media without U.S. citizenship must apply by 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 31. A copy of NASA’s media accreditation policy is online.
The agency continues to monitor developments related to the coronavirus pandemic, and Kennedy will grant access to only a limited number of media to protect the health and safety of media and employees. Due to COVID-19 safety restrictions at Kennedy, international media coming from overseas must follow quarantine requirements.
NASA will follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the agency’s chief health and medical officer and will immediately communicate any updates that may affect media access for this launch.
Media who would like to bring large vehicles (satellite trucks, microwave trucks, etc.) or any manner of infrastructure (scaffolding, stages, etc.) must notify the Kennedy media team by filling out a forthcoming survey. The survey will be distributed to media once the accreditation window for this launch has closed.
All parties requesting to bring stages, scaffolding, or raised platforms will be required to submit plans, including access limitations/controls, height/width/length, configuration, capacity, and load ratings of the elevated structure and any training, inspection, or other pertinent requirements.
Have you ever wondered what the outlook might be for your STEM career five or even ten years out? Or maybe you are a current student weighing your options for a chosen career path and need to know the type of degree that is required.
Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education labor trends and workforce studies experts have culled through the BLS data and have summarized the outlook for several select STEM careers.
With the right information in-hand — and a prestigious research experience to complement your education — you can increase the confidence you have when selecting a STEM career.
There are over 1,469,000 software developers in the U.S. workforce either employed as systems software developers or employed as applications software developers. Together, employment for software developers is projected to grow 22 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Software developers will be needed to respond to an increased demand for computer software because of an increase in the number of products that use software. The need for new applications on smart phones and tablets will also increase the demand for software developers. Software developers are the creative minds behind computer programs. Some develop the applications that allow people to do specific tasks on a computer or another device. Others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or that control networks. Most jobs in this field require a degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field and strong computer programming skills.
Software developers are in charge of the entire development process for a software program from identifying the core functionality that users need from software programs to determining requirements that are unrelated to the functions of the software, such as the level of security and performance. Software developers design each piece of an application or system and plan how the pieces will work together. This often requires collaboration with other computer specialists to create optimum software.
Atmospheric sciences include fields such as climatology, climate science, cloud physics, aeronomy, dynamic meteorology, atmosphere chemistry, atmosphere physics, broadcast meteorology and weather forecasting.
Most jobs in the atmospheric sciences require at least a bachelor’s degree in atmospheric science or a related field that studies the interaction of the atmosphere with other scientific realms such as physics, chemistry or geology. Additionally, courses in remote sensing by radar and satellite are useful when pursuing this career path.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer models have greatly improved the accuracy of forecasts and resulted in highly customized forecasts for specific purposes. The need for atmospheric scientists working in private industry is predicted to increase as businesses demand more specialized weather information for time-sensitive delivery logistics and ascertaining the impact of severe weather patterns on industrial operations. The demand for atmospheric scientists working for the federal government will be subject to future federal budget constraints. The BLS projects employment of atmospheric scientists to grow by 8 percent over the 2018 to 2028 period. The largest employers of atmospheric scientists and meteorologists are the federal government, research and development organizations in the physical, engineering, and life sciences, state colleges and universities and television broadcasting services.
Electrical and Electronics Engineers
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are approximately 324,600 electrical and electronics engineers in the U.S. workforce. Workers in this large engineering occupation can be grouped into two large components — electrical engineers and electronics engineers. About 188,300 electrical engineers design, develop, test or supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as power generation equipment, electrical motors, radar and navigation systems, communications, systems and the electrical systems of aircraft and automobiles. They also design new ways to use electricity to develop or improve products. Approximately 136,300 electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment such as broadcast and communications equipment, portable music players, and Global Positioning System devices, as well as working in areas closely related to computer hardware. Engineers whose work is devoted exclusively to computer hardware are considered computer hardware engineers. Electrical and electronics engineers must have a bachelor’s degree, and internships and co-op experiences are a plus.
The number of jobs for electrical engineers is projected by BLS to grow slightly faster (9 percent) than the average for all engineering occupations in general (8 percent) and faster than for electronics engineers (4 percent) as well. However, since electrical and electronics engineering is a larger STEM occupation, growth in employment is projected to result in over 21,000 new jobs over the 2016-2026 period. The largest employers of electrical engineers are engineering services firms; telecommunications firms; the federal government; electric power generation, transmission and distribution organizations such as public and private utilities; semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturers; organizations specializing in research and development (R&D) in the physical, engineering and life sciences; and navigational, measuring, electro-medical and control systems manufacturers.
BLS notes three major factors influencing the demand for electrical and electronic engineers. One, the need for technological innovation will increase the number of jobs in R&D, where their engineering expertise will be needed to design power distribution systems related to new technologies. They will also play important roles in developing solar arrays, semiconductors and communications technologies, such as 5G. Two, the need to upgrade the nation’s power grids and transmission components will drive the demand for electrical engineers. Finally, a third driver of demand for electrical and electronic engineers is the design and development of ways to automate production processes, such as Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems and Distributed Control Systems (DCS).
Data Science and Data Analysts
Technological advances have made it faster and easier for organizations to acquire data. Coupled with improvements in analytical software, companies are requiring data in more ways and higher quantities than ever before, and this creates many important questions for them, including “Who do we hire to work with this data”? The answer is likely a Data Scientist.
When trying to answer the question “what is data science,” Investopedia defines it as providing “meaningful information based on large amounts of complex data or big data. Data science, or data-driven science, combines different fields of work in statistics and computation to interpret data for decision-making purposes.” This includes data engineers, operations research analysts, statisticians, data analysts and mathematicians.
The BLS projects the employment of statisticians and mathematicians to grow 30 percent from 2018-2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. According to the source, organizations will increasingly need statisticians to organize and analyze data in order to help improve business processes, design and develop new products and advertise products to potential customers. In addition, the large increase in available data from global internet use has created new areas for analysis such as examining internet search information and tracking the use of social media and smartphones. In the medical and pharmaceutical industries, biostatisticians will be needed to conduct the research and clinical trials necessary for companies to obtain approval for their products from the Food and Drug Administration.
Along with that of statistician, the employment of operations research analysts is projected by the BLS to grow by 26 percent from 2018-2028, again much faster than the average for all occupations. As organizations across all economic sectors look for efficiency and cost savings, they seek out operations research analysts to help them analyze and evaluate their current business practices, supply chains and marketing strategies in order to improve their ability to make wise decisions moving forward. Operations research analysts are also frequently employed by the U.S. Armed Forces and other governmental groups for similar purposes.
To learn more about other flourishing careers in STEM, visit bls.gov/ooh to learn more.
On a day he’ll never forget, astronaut Leland Melvin saw 24 sunsets in 24 hours. He flew over his hometown of Lynchburg, Va., and thought of his family, his modest and healthy upbringing; seven minutes later he was over Paris.
It wasn’t lost on him that he was African-American and his crew members included women, Russians, people from all walks of life.
“It made me contemplate my existence,” he said. “My faith was stronger, more magnified, and doing it with people we used to fight against.”
An Unusual Route
Melvin, 57, and, in his post-astronaut career, a prominent advocate for STEAM, did not take the usual route to space. He was a wide receiver in the NFL, but he suffered a career-ending injury and Act II of a remarkable life journey was on.
Since childhood, he’d been interested in engineering, though he was known for his exploits on the gridiron. He starred at his high school, at University of Richmond and, in his short stint in the pros, for the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys.
Along the way, he earned a bachelor of science degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in materials science engineering.
It’s been said that luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity.
Melvin’s post-NFL opportunity came at a job fair. A recruiter tracked him down and told him, “You’re coming to work at NASA.”
A Team Player
This was in the 1980s. Melvin said his mental image of NASA involved white men with crew cuts. He wasn’t far off. “Historically, NASA has been myopically focused on a certain mindset,” he said. He became part of a sea-change in the world’s most esteemed space organization.
“The biggest part of succeeding in a NASA culture is to be a team member,” he said. “Just like sports and mathematics. That’s why diversity is so important. You look at things in a different way. To work at NASA, you have to allow yourself to be heard.
People sometimes don’t speak up because they’ve been marginalized.”
Melvin started his career in aerospace working in the Nondestructive Evaluation Sciences Branch at NASA Langley Research Center in 1989. In 1994, he was selected to lead the Vehicle Health Monitoring team for the NASA/Lockheed Martin X-33 Reusable Launch Vehicle program. In 1996, he co-designed and monitored construction of an optical nondestructive evaluation facility capable of producing in-line fiber optic sensors.
He became an astronaut in 1998, after sustaining a traumatic ear injury during underwater training exercises and, eventually, being cleared to fly despite his lifelong impairment.
He flew two missions – 565 hours of total log time – on the Space Shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist on STS-122, and as mission specialist 1 on STS-129. The STS-122 mission was accomplished in 12 days, 18 hours, 21 minutes and 40 seconds, and traveled 5.2 million miles in 203 Earth orbits. The STS-129 mission was completed in 10 days, 19 hours, 16 minutes and 13 seconds, traveling 4.5 million miles in 171 orbits.
Associate Administrator for Education and Astronaut Leland Melvin talks with school children during the “Build the Future” activity where students created their vision of the future in space with LEGO bricks and elements inside a tent that was set up on the launch viewing area at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
While in space, he completed a football pass to another astronaut. He also took hundreds of jaw-dropping photographs.
After hanging up his space boots, he was appointed head of NASA Education and served as the co-chair on the White House’s Federal Coordination in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM} Education Task Force, developing the nation’s five-year STEM education plan. Leland was the United States’ representative and chair of the International Space Education Board, a global collaboration on learning about space.
He uses his life story as an athlete, astronaut, scientist, engineer, photographer and musician to help inspire the next generation of explorers to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM} careers.
One of his mantras is, “Data over bias.” Bias separates people. Data-sharing brings them together and leads to advances in STEAM and in society.
Space exploration, he said, is about “going someplace you haven’t been and getting over your biases.” It’s a universal win-win, or what he calls “Mission Possible.” And Melvin trusts it will lead to even bigger things. “We’re not going to have a colony on Mars, but we are going to have a human outpost,” he said, preferring the latter term.
Starring in the NFL and flying in outer space are two colossal endeavors. He’s the only human being to do both. He’s also authored two books, “Chasing Space: An Astronaut’s Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances” and “Chasing Space: Young Reader’s Edition.” He’s an accomplished photographer (visit LelandMelvin.com for images}.
On the same website, he gives kid-friendly lessons on, among other things, how to build a rocket racer and how to dissolve the coating on your candy in a really cool way.
He plays the piano in his spare time. And he loves his dogs, who appear on the cover of both his books.
During his interview with Diversity in STEAM Magazine, he was busy feeding his dogs. We asked him what this world- renowned astronaut, explorer, athlete, photographer and teacher has learned from his pups.
“Presence,” he said. “We need to live like our dogs. Chill. Get something to eat. Yawn. Smile. Be like your dog.”
Speaking of presence, he drives home the importance of looking up and around as much as looking down at your devices. Imagine, for instance, an astronaut so fixated on the instruments inside the vessel that he or she forgets to appreciate the majesty of outer space. On a recent hiking trip, Melvin witnessed several young adults busy on their digital instruments.
“Right out there in nature!” he laughed. “There’s a balance between tech and digging your feet into Mother Earth.
The US scientists who created the first living robots say the life forms, known as xenobots, can now reproduce — and in a way not seen in plants and animals.
Formed from the stem cells of the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) from which it takes its name, xenobots are less than a millimeter (0.04 inches) wide. The tiny blobs were first unveiled in 2020 after experiments showed that they could move, work together in groups and self-heal.
Now the scientists that developed them at the University of Vermont, Tufts University and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering said they have discovered an entirely new form of biological reproduction different from any animal or plant known to science.
“I was astounded by it,” said Michael Levin, a professor of biology and director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University who was co-lead author of the new research.
“Frogs have a way of reproducing that they normally use but when you … liberate (the cells) from the rest of the embryo and you give them a chance to figure out how to be in a new environment, not only do they figure out a new way to move, but they also figure out apparently a new way to reproduce.”
Robot or organism?
Stem cells are unspecialized cells that have the ability to develop into different cell types. To make the xenobots, the researchers scraped living stem cells from frog embryos and left them to incubate. There’s no manipulation of genes involved.
“Most people think of robots as made of metals and ceramics but it’s not so much what a robot is made from but what it does, which is act on its own on behalf of people,” said Josh Bongard, a computer science professor and robotics expert at the University of Vermont and lead author of the study.
“In that way it’s a robot but it’s also clearly an organism made from genetically unmodified frog cell.”
Bongard said they found that the xenobots, which were initially sphere-shaped and made from around 3,000 cells, could replicate. But it happened rarely and only in specific circumstances. The xenobots used “kinetic replication” — a process that is known to occur at the molecular level but has never been observed before at the scale of whole cells or organisms, Bongard said.
With the help of artificial intelligence, the researchers then tested billions of body shapes to make the xenobots more effective at this type of replication. The supercomputer came up with a C-shape that resembled Pac-Man, the 1980s video game. They found it was able to find tiny stem cells in a petri dish, gather hundreds of them inside its mouth, and a few days later the bundle of cells became new xenobots.
“The AI didn’t program these machines in the way we usually think about writing code. It shaped and sculpted and came up with this Pac-Man shape,” Bongard said.
“The shape is, in essence, the program. The shape influences how the xenobots behave to amplify this incredibly surprising process.”
The xenobots are very early technology — think of a 1940s computer — and don’t yet have any practical applications. However, this combination of molecular biology and artificial intelligence could potentially be used in a host of tasks in the body and the environment, according to the researchers. This may include things like collecting microplastics in the oceans, inspecting root systems and regenerative medicine.
While the prospect of self-replicating biotechnology could spark concern, the researchers said that the living machines were entirely contained in a lab and easily extinguished, as they are biodegradable and regulated by ethics experts.
When it comes to the future, uncertainty is the only certainty. Think about remote work. Way back in 2019, it was slowly gaining acceptance even as most managers resisted.
In 2020, companies and their employees were forced to adapt. Today many workers have traded long commutes for casual strolls to their home office. For companies hoping to attract top talent, remote work is now an enticing benefit, and non-negotiable for many.
Most of us experienced a bit of emotional whiplash when the summer of freedom petered out and offices delayed reopening. Predicting which careers will flourish in our post-COVID world isn’t easy. Still there are some definite trends. Of course if you’re already loving your career, I’m not suggesting a radical course correction.
However, if you are considering a change, here are the top five growing fields in the years ahead.
The COVID-19 pandemic had an outsized impact on health care workers. Some caught the virus, many became ill or even lost their lives. After enduring a months-long onslaught of patients, studies suggest over one-third are thinking about leaving the profession. Although there has been a shortage of skilled nurses for years, the pandemic made it even worse. That’s one reason healthcare is a top field of the future.
There will be a need for at least 500,000 more Registered Nurses by 2027. You’ll have to earn a bachelor’s of science or an associate’s degree in nursing along with a license. If you love travel, becoming a travel nurse can mean earning a six-figure income along with signing bonuses. In fact, there’s a range of healthcare jobs that offer travel opportunities. In the top five for fastest growing professions, nurse practitioners are R.N.s who have also earned a master’s degree. Able to do many of the things a doctor does like prescribe medication, nurse practitioners are less likely to be burdened by the average physician’s debt load –– which can easily exceed 200K. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020 the median pay for a nurse practitioner was almost 112K.
2. Information Technology
Of course IT has been a growth field for years. What’s different is that an increased focus on remote work and smartphone development has increased demand for software and app developers. Although this field has traditionally required a bachelors of science degree, companies are now recruiting people who learned to code online. So if you’re thinking about a career change and are tech orientated, you may want to consider taking some coding classes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) The Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) predicts that by the end of the decade, the software development field will grow by 22% –– which means over 300,000 new jobs with a median salary over six figures. And if you tend to be introverted, software or app development is a great career choice.
3. Supply Chain Management
You probably aren’t surprised to find that this is a growth field. The panic buying that began before last year’s lockdowns upended the just-in-time delivery methods that so many retailers had long relied on. Jobs in this field include Purchasing Agent, Logistics Analyst, and Distribution Manager. Although many start out with a bachelor’s degree, top earners have graduate degrees as well. Industrial engineers are also plentiful in this supply chain management. So if you are skilled with math, statistics, and engineering principles and love making systems work more efficiently, this could be the right field for you.
4. Financial Management
Careers in this field are expected to grow by 15% over the next decade. Financial managers are hired to examine a company’s spending and income while looking for ways to maximize profitability. Fortune 500 companies often seek candidates with an MBA –– although smaller organizations hire financial managers with bachelor’s degrees. The median income approaches 120K. Management consultants enjoy similar high rates of growth and high median incomes.
5. Actuarial and Statistician
Actuaries enjoy an almost 20% growth rate by the end of the decade and a median income over six figures. If you enjoy data and statistics, this could be the perfect high-growth field. Most work for insurance companies, deciding whether or not to insure a potential customer. Being able to evaluate risk is an in-demand skill. Actuaries often have a degree in actuarial science and have passed a series of licensing exams. Statisticians fulfill a similar role for companies by analyzing data and projecting future sales, profits, and obstacles to growth. Data Scientists, who help companies better utilize information, enjoy a projected 30% growth in employment by 2030.
Of course the best job for you may not be the highest paying, nor one with the fastest growth. The key is leveraging your skill set and achieving the best possible outcome. Besides, how many would have guessed the number one fastest growing occupation? According to the BLS, it’s motion picture projectionists.
Professional Woman’s Magazine recently spoke with Ashley Mehta, chairwoman, CEO and president of Nolij Consulting, a woman-owned, solutions-focused healthcare IT company that specializes in digital healthcare modernization for the military, public and commercial sectors.
Mehta founded the Northern Virginia-based Nolij Consulting in 2013, and since then, has scaled the company to be the leader in healthcare IT.
We asked the Ohio native more about Nolij, her challenges as a female business owner and her goals for the future:
Professional Woman’s Magazine (PWM): Tell us a little bit more about your background. Were you always interested in IT?
Mehta: I am a graduate of the Ohio State University’s Max. M. Fisher College of Business. I have two children and am privileged to be in a position where I can create a positive, impactful work environment for my employees while giving back to the community and championing causes that I am passionate about, including veterans’ and women’s issues. I love working in IT because, whether it’s making systems more efficient, reducing client expenditure or producing better outcomes, technology is able to create a significant and real change in organizations and people’s lives. Yes, I’ve always been interested in technology as it increases business efficiencies and brings people together to solve the most pressing business problems.
PWM: What led you to create Nolij Consulting?
Mehta: I was a former stay-at-home mom with two young children who found herself in a position where I needed to go back to work. I joined a large consulting firm and had the opportunity to learn the entire spectrum of the business – from compliance to proposals, business development, technology and everything in between. As the industry started shifting from large business opportunities to more small business opportunities, I recognized my chance to start my own company and make a real difference in the industry while having the work/life balance I wanted so I could juggle all of my responsibilities. From there, Nolij was born. Over the past 9 years, we have made great strides against considerable odds in establishing ourselves amid a crowded GovCon marketplace! Ironically enough, I have trained several previously stay at home moms in this business and they now work for Nolij.
PWM: What challenges, if any, have you experienced as a female founder and CEO in this space?
Mehta: The biggest obstacle I’ve faced to date is the lack of prime IT opportunities specifically set aside for women-owned businesses. As Nolij has grown its footprint across the GovCon space, and is now expanding into the commercial sector, I’ve continued to focus on key areas, such as cybersecurity, RPA and AI, where we can expand our partnerships to create new opportunities for women-owned businesses.
PWM: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to-date?
Mehta: Building a successful, thriving business and creating an outstanding consulting company with a great work environment for my employees while being a great mother is my greatest accomplishment so far. Our employees gave us a 4 on Glassdoor, which is no easy feat to achieve for an organization. Glassdoor is a website where current and former employees anonymously review companies. I am proud of employing leading talent across the industry and having the expertise to serve our clients and add to their success.
Nolij is proud to give back to various charities and support the less fortunate in our community. As a little girl, I’ve always dreamed of having extra money to give to those in need.
I’ve been able to do this while raising two beautiful children who have worked hard as well and have bright futures ahead of them. These successes inspire me every day to keep moving forward.
PWM: What advice would you give to another female entrepreneur?
Mehta: I would say that leading by example, putting yourself in front of clients and marketing your company on social media is very important. It’s also critical to set yourself apart and create a differentiator for your company. Distinguish your company and invest heavily in training resources and certifications for your organization and your employees. To build a successful team, be sure you are offering the right benefits that will keep employees with you and give them the chance to grow professionally. It’s no longer expensive to provide the benefits and resources that larger companies do. It is important to create a strong foundation to make people feel valued and enjoy coming to work each day. And remember, once you have a strong service/product offering, no one will care if you are a man or a woman.
PWM: What are your goals for Nolij Consulting? What do you hope to achieve in the future?
Mehta: We are focused on strategic growth in a number of areas going forward to make the company future-ready. We are also focused on strong partnerships and relationships to further strengthen our capabilities to meet our clients’ goals. We’ve created three new joint ventures (JV) focused on cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, emerging technologies and health IT services. These joint ventures are a combination of 8A, WOSB, Hubzone, and SDVOSB managed JVs. We also have a mentor protégé JV relationship with a large health IT company where we plan to win opportunities under relevant IT contract vehicles. We are currently working to win several contract vehicles that give us the ability to win task orders under those vehicles. We just recently won GSA 8A STARS III and Navy Seaport NxG. We are also strengthening our AI /ML solutions to establish a strong capability in software testing and Electronic Health Records (EHR). We just won an artificial intelligence sole source opportunity with Health and Human Services (HHS). We’ve established several emerging, next-generation technology product partnerships and are currently establishing a workforce that is well trained on delivering these products. Our goal is to achieve an even stronger health IT company focused on our employee’s wellbeing while providing excellent health IT services to our clients.
PWM: What is something colleagues would be surprised to know/learn about you?
Mehta: I have a twin brother who is also in IT. He is more in the sales and software product side of the business. My son looks quite a bit like him. I also have an older brother who is in healthcare mergers and acquisitions. I grew up with my father owning his own consulting business around continuing education for CPAs. He did not have the luxury of the business conveniences that we have today. Due to the lack of technology, he had to educate CPAs in person, ship heavy training materials for his classes and had to conduct business over a phone hooked up to a wall. Today we can offer e-learning opportunities, send large documents over the internet, use our mobile phones to have Zoom or WebEx meetings with clients across the world. As a business owner and mother, I have a tremendous amount of respect for what my dad accomplished while raising kids without the technological advances we have today.
PWM: Anything else you would like to add that we missed?
Mehta: If your company has predominately male leadership, if it’s not leaning more towards a healthy even split, then the next generation of women will consider your company yesterday’s product. A product not worth their investment and time; a place where innovation and creativity will be stifled by outdated norms.
I want to take a moment to recognize the bright daughters of my outstanding employees and all that they are accomplishing. It’s exciting to think about a future where their contributions will not only be recognized but will be sought-after. Ultimately, empowering women in the workplace ensures your company will be ready for whatever challenges lie ahead.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently introduced a prototype of a humanoid robot at the company’s AI Day event.
Musk says the “Tesla Bot” will probably be launched next year, saying the robot would “eliminate dangerous, repetitive, boring tasks.”
The robot would carry out the work people don’t like to do.
“It’s around 5 foot 8. It has sort of a screen where the head is for useful information, but it’s otherwise basically got the autopilot system and it’s got cameras, got eight cameras,” said Musk. “Full self-driving computer and making use of all of the same tools that were used in the car.”
Musk mentioned the robot’s economic impact, using the current worker shortage as an example.
In addition to the Tesla Bot, the company also unveiled chips it designed for its high-speed computer, Dojo.
Dojo will help develop Tesla’s automated driving system. It is another product Musk sees being operational next year.
“So Dojo is real,” said Musk. “The Tesla Bot will be real. But basically, if you think about what we’re doing right now with the cars, Tesla is arguably the world’s biggest robotics company, because cars are like semi-sentiment, robots on wheels.”
Tesla has come under scrutiny recently over the safety of its “Full Self-Driving” advanced driver assistant system.
Forget Google Search and Fuchsia. Researchers from Google, Stanford, Princeton, and other universities might have made a computer discovery so big we can’t fully comprehend it yet. Even Google researchers aren’t entirely sure that their time crystal discovery is valid. But if it turns out to be accurate, then Google might be one of the first companies to give the world a crucial technological advancement for the future. Time crystals will be an essential building block in quantum computers, the kind of computers that can solve complex problems with incredible speed and power technologies that aren’t even invented.
What is a quantum computer?
Google isn’t the only company building quantum computers, and these types of machines keep popping up in the news with regularity. Quantum computers won’t reach your phone, and they’re not going to play games. Even if they did, Nintendo will totally ignore the latest computer technology when designing future consoles.
As The Next Web explains, we plan on using quantum computers for challenging problems. Examples include warp drives that could make fast interstellar travel possible. And medical technology that could cure virtually any disease.
But quantum computers are really hard to build, maintain, and even use. That’s where Google’s time crystals might come into play. As it stands now, quantum computers feature qubits, computer bits in the quantum world. These qubits act differently when someone observes them than when they’re left alone. That’s what makes it difficult to measure qubit states. And that instability makes using a quantum computer problematic. That’s where time crystals come in.
Google’s time crystals
Theorized in 2012, the time crystal concept is a new phase of matter. The Next Web explains that time crystals contradict one of Sir Isaac Newton’s famous laws. The first law of motion says that “an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion.”
In our universe, there’s something called high entropy (disorder). Something always happens thanks to energy exchanges. Entropy remains the same if there are no processes but increases in their presence. But that’s not valid for time crystals. They can maintain entropy even when they’re used in a process.
To understand Google’s time crystals, The Next Web offers a great analogy with snowflakes. They have unique designs, as the atoms are arranged in specific ways. Snow falls, melts, water evaporates, and then it’ll eventually become snow again. All these processes involve energy exchanges. A time crystal would be like having a snowflake that can change between two configurations back and forth with no energy usage or energy loss. Time crystals can have their cake and eat it too, and they can do it perpetually.