This is a tale of dedication, hard work, curiosity, ambition and networking, and it’s a story about how life can take surprising turns when one is open to new opportunities.
Brian Hawkins and Brittany Hines certainly took different paths to becoming the Program Manager and Associate Program Manager supporting Battelle’s Arctic Research Support and Logistics Services Program on a contract with the National Science Foundation (NSF). But their journey was marked by similarities of intellectual curiosity and ambition to learn new things and advance their careers.
As a contract research institute, Battelle staffs projects that interact with a variety of government agencies and commercial customers in fields as various as national security, energy and environment and health. Hawkins was an intern at Battelle with the aerosol group for three years while he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from The Ohio State University (OSU). “It was awesome to work at Battelle and go to school at the same time,” he said. “I loved it. We did really great things in both places.”
He earned his PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin and returned to Battelle. “I loved the applied research at Battelle and came back to work with the Applied Biology and Aerosol Technology group,” he said. “Based on my background of work with statistics, modeling, and toxic chemicals, I ended up getting into probabilistic risk assessment of chemical terrorism. I worked on and managed risk and modeling projects for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and commercial clients for the next 15 years,” he said.
A Project Manager at Battelle, Hines’ path to polar research operations was even more circuitous. The California native attended OSU and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Master’s in Public Policy and Management. She worked at a law firm then OSU’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs prior to joining Battelle in 2019, and since then has held four positions.
She began as an education coordinator for Battelle’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education program. When the pandemic struck in 2020, she joined many other Battelle employees and pivoted to our large-scale program called the Critical Care Decontamination System which sanitized more than three million N95 masks for healthcare workers around the country. Following that she joined Battelle’s Human Resources Operations team where she began to learn project management.
Hines then made a position change to Battelle’s National Security business assisting the DHS in providing decision makers with improved awareness of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats. In working on the Probabilistic Analysis of National Threats, Hazards and Risks program, Hines had at this point worked on the same kind of project as Hawkins. “I am very clear and intentional in what I want for my career,” she said. “I find different ways to gain diversified experience, and build my network and relationships in a way that impacts Battelle’s mission, culture, and my development goals. One way I did this was by serving as the Chair for Battelle’s Affinity Board, which provided access to high impact, lower risk opportunities to practice and develop leadership skills, impact employee engagement and DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) efforts, and demonstrate value to my network. From there, I expressed interest in where I see myself at Battelle and my next chapter.”
Hines told members of the Affinity Board that she wanted to move her career forward and was encouraged by an advisor to tap into her network to further voice that ambition. From there, she engaged in discussions with mentors and leaders around available opportunities to gain additional experiences and was matched with a position on Arctic. In tandem with her role on the Arctic program, Hines manages Independent Research and Development (IRAD) projects in partnership with principal investigators, business development leads, and cross-functional technical teams. Through IRAD management, she enables teams in their innovation of technologies to make polar research operations even safer.
Both Hawkins and Hines had metaphorically raised their hands during their careers to indicate to leadership that they were looking for advancement.
“I was looking for a change,” said Hawkins. “I loved Battelle and the people and the work but needed a change after more than a decade of risk and modeling programs. I looked at other opportunities at Battelle that I would be interested in and matched with my skill sets. I wanted to stay. I love the mission, the fact that we work for the betterment of society through science. I just had to think of my skill set from a different perspective than as a technical expert in probabilistic risk assessment and modeling.”
Having managed DHS programs, worked with systems of models and different teams that need to work together, Hawkins saw the fit he was looking for. Battelle had won the contract to finish construction, manage and operate the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) for NSF. “My son was young and into both scouting and the outdoors. I pursued and was selected for a position on the NEON Program Management Team and relocated to Colorado with my family.”
A year after that, Battelle won the Arctic Program contract from NSF and unexpected circumstances led to the planned Program Manager retiring. “Leadership at Battelle asked me to step into the role,” Hawkins said. “I said, ‘You tell me where you need me and I’ll be there.”
The Arctic region is critically important to the global research community. The area is essential to understanding the impacts of climate change and complex connections between melting sea ice, ecosystems and weather patterns around the globe. But conducting research in the Arctic has significant challenges. The remote location, harsh weather conditions, difficult terrain and limited access to supplies can make research in this region expensive and dangerous.
Those researchers on the ground, or ice, need the support of centralized planning, common processes and shared resources. Research teams share access to laboratory facilities, equipment and sample storage, lodging, boats with captains and crews, local guides, remote communication equipment, snowmobiles, helicopters and other vehicles.
Working with Deputy Program Manager Tom Hutchings, Hawkins felt he had a great combination of experience in polar regions and program management. “We assembled a blend of great people with polar experience and Battelle program management experience when we formed the Arctic team three years ago,” Hawkins said.
As the program progressed and Tom stepped back to working less than full time to spend more time with family, there was an opportunity to develop a new team member. Senior leadership asked Hawkins to provide an opportunity for broadening the experience of a high performing project manager. Enter Hines and her fifth role at Battelle. “I got a phone call that I was going to transition to the Arctic program,” she said. “I was surprised in the moment, but ready for the next challenge. It was also a moment that epitomized ‘if you raise your hand, don’t be surprised if you’re called on’. Which is what I’ve learned about Battelle. There are endless opportunities here, and it starts with a raise of a hand saying, ‘pick me.’”
Hines works with Hawkins and Hutchings managing a geographically and organizationally dispersed team in the Arctic. The team supports many subcontractors, telemedicine and medical support, procurement, accounting, logistics and more.
“When I first joined Battelle, I wouldn’t have believed I would end up working on this project, let alone anywhere on the Applied Science & Technology side of the house” she said. “But going from Education to CCDS to HR, that’s when I started to really see how Battelle values transferrable skills and has the capability & resources to facilitate career development across disciplines. Each new experience provided more insight into operations, more connections and relationships. Learning opportunities led to an increase in what could be possible.”