AFRL researcher honored with Women of Color STEM award

  • Published
  • By Holly Jordan
  • Air Force Research Laboratory

WRIGHT PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – An up-and-coming Air Force Research Laboratory scientist was recently honored with the Women of Color STEM Technical Innovation in Government award for her mentoring, leadership, and spirit of innovation.

Dr. Candice Hatcher-Solis is a research scientist in the AFRL 711th Human Performance Wing and a determined advocate for women and minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers. She joined AFRL in 2017 and quickly rose to become the lead of the Neurobiology of Cognitive Performance team. Here she directs research into the biomolecular pathways that enhance cognitive performance. This work entails the use of experimental methods to quantify changes in the brain that result from noninvasive brain or nerve stimulation. Her research into the correlation between factors such as stress, fatigue, fear, and pain and cognitive function has brought a new level of understanding to the topic that stands to have far-reaching implications for the warfighter.

“Dr. Hatcher-Solis’ expertise and leadership greatly advance our capabilities in the field of neurobiology,” said Dr. Kevin Geiss, director of the AFRL 711th Human Performance Wing Airman Systems Directorate. “She has made a positive impact on our mission and is well-deserving of this honor.”

Among Hatcher-Solis’ many achievements is the development of an in-house capability to perform cranial nerve stimulation in rodents for the purpose of researching cognitive performance effects that can translate into humans. She further improved this surgical procedure, increasing the success rate to 97%. For these and many other innovations, Hatcher-Solis was recently named the 711th Human Performance Wing Laboratory Scientist of the Quarter.

After earning her undergraduate degree at The College of William and Mary, Hatcher-Solis went on to further her studies in the field of physiology and biophysics at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she graduated with her doctorate in 2016. During her academic career, she worked as a graduate research assistant at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine’s Department of Physiology and Biophysics, where she further honed her skills, leading research into Parkinson’s disease and initiating the use of a novel electrophysiological technique. To date, she has authored or co-authored six peer-reviewed articles, advancing the body of knowledge in the field of biomedical research.

During her tenure in AFRL, Hatcher-Solis has personally mentored 11 young scientists and engineers. She is an active leader in Air Force Women in Science and Engineering, an organization that promotes teambuilding, mentoring, and networking among female Air Force professionals. She also actively supports the Leadership Experience Growing Apprenticeships Committed to Youth program, an outreach that focuses on under-represented or under-served students interested in STEM career fields.

“I would like to thank my lab team, supervisor, and directorate leadership for their support,” said Hatcher-Solis. “I am honored to receive the Women of Color Technical Innovation Award and plan to use that platform to continue outreach efforts and promote under-represented groups in STEM. I believe that diversity in STEM benefits all and engenders innovation and creativity to address questions and solve problems.”

The STEM Technical Innovation in Government award is presented annually by Women of Color Magazine to a female STEM professional who has made outstanding contributions in the government arena and has served as an inspiration to others in the field. Hatcher-Solis will formally receive the award this fall.