Meet the Scientists: Dr. Jim Rohr

Meet the Scientists is an Armed with Science segment highlighting the men and women working in the government realms of science, technology, research and development.  The greatest minds working on the greatest developments of our time.  If you have someone you’d like AWS to highlight for this segment, email Jessica L. Tozer at

Jim Rohr, scientist, at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (Photo by Alan Antczak/Released)

Jim Rohr, scientist, at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (Photo by Alan Antczak/Released)

WHO: Dr. Jim Rohr. He says he enjoys being around people who are interesting. For Jim, the mark of an interesting person “is someone who is pursuing a deep passion for something.” For a long time, he says, that something revolved mostly around the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

TITLE: His job title is K-12+ Coordinator. Dr. Rohr tries to play matchmaker between STEM professionals who have something to say, students who want to hear/do something and teachers who help translate. He also wants to merge those roads within the context of preparing a pathway through which we, as people, can groom the next generation of STEM professionals.

MISSION: He’s very STEM-centric. More recently, Jim has been fortunate to be around teachers who are deeply passionate about educating our children, particularly in the areas of STEM. For the past 5+ years, Dr. Rohr has had the privilege of working towards empowering SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific) STEM professionals so that they can bring added STEM richness to children’s lives.

What is the goal of your STEM-based mission and what do you hope it will achieve?

“Foster a culture that celebrates education – particularly in STEM, by empowering Navy STEM professionals to bring an added Navy STEM richness to their communities – and in doing so attract extraordinary students, who would not ordinarily have the opportunity to become part of the Navy team.”

In your own words, what is it about STEM, and the work that you’ve done, that makes it so significant?

“STEM provides great power. STEM provides hope. STEM demands great responsibility.”

“I believe the word significant comes from a Latin word meaning indicating. In this context what I believe what is most significant of our K-12+ outreach work is that it is an indication of two things.”

“ONE, that our greatest strengths are derived from the generosity of our STEM professionals. Although some level of funding will always be needed to continue this effort, given the right circumstances, STEM professionals want to give back. In FY14, SSC Pacific STEM professionals provided 13,815 hours in their communities of which 79 percent were unpaid, volunteer hours. A similar phenomena occurred at our sister command, SSC Atlantic (SSC LANT) in Charleston, South Carolina and is indicative of a transformation across the Naval Systems Commands.”

“TWO, that we CAN find the will to increase diversity by providing equity. A K-12+ pathway offers a continuum of opportunities to promote diversity by grooming extraordinary students who would not ordinarily join our workforce. The K-12+ pathway offers an unprecedented way to increase diversity through fairness and equity as opposed to sameness and equality.”

How could you use the work that you’ve done – and your STEM mission – to aid the military or help with military missions?

“The heart of SPAWAR’s mission is to maintain and improve our cyber security through adapting and managing the network configurations of ship and shore sites to defeat emerging threats. As cyber threats are increasing dramatically, there is a concern regarding our ability to sustain an extraordinary workforce to address them.”

“By 2018, more than 60 percent of the federal workforce will be eligible to retire.  By 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings.”

“However, U.S. universities will only generate enough graduates to fill less than a third of those jobs. Meanwhile as the number of  students graduating with degrees in liberal and performing arts are increasing, the students graduating with degrees in computer science is decreasing.”

Jim Rohr, scientist, with students, teaching the value of STEM! (Photo by Alan Antczak/Released)

Jim Rohr, scientist, with students, teaching the value of STEM! (Photo by Alan Antczak/Released)

“Emerging mission requirements continue to pose great STEM workforce challenges for the DoD. Space and Naval Warfare Command (SPAWAR) Systems Centers Atlantic and Pacific recognize that in order to fulfill our principal mission — enable information dominance for our Naval, Joint, National and Coalition warfighters — we are obliged to have a stake in cultivating the next generation of extraordinary STEM professionals at our centers.”

How do we do that?

“To succeed we can no longer afford to waste the talent of two-thirds of our increasingly diverse population that is historically under-represented in STEM. Giftedness does not recognize race, gender, ethnic or economic boundaries. There are thousands of extraordinary students in our communities who with sustained intervention could become extraordinary STEM professionals at our systems centers. K-12+ outreach provides a pathway to address this challenge.”

What got you interested in your field of study? In your STEM mission?

“As a scientist, every day there is the chance to be part of a discovery and, while that seldom happens to you personally, you are part of a community where it is happening at an astounding rate.”

Are you working on any other projects right now?

“There are several tangential offshoots from my primary job. One is publishing papers related to STEM instruction of teachers. Last month I published with two university students a paper in The Physics Teacher: Reflections on a Bouncing Ball. Some of the seemingly curious results of that investigation I am exploring now with a professor at the University of California at San Diego. I’m also working with other local STEM industries to share K-12 outreach strategies for STEM professionals.”

If you could go anywhere in time and space, where would you go and why?

“I would have liked to have heard Bob Dylan in the 60’s, Jimi Hendrix in the 70’s. I would have liked to have had a chance to listen to President Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus, Mohammed, and the Buddha. I’d love to have seen a dinosaur (from a suitable distance).  I’d also like to go back and have a conversation with my dad about the college he picked for me in which he left out the fact that it was an all-male student body.”

Thanks to Dr. Jim Rohr for contributing to this article, and for his contributions to the science and technological communities.


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Jessica L. Tozer
 is a DoD contractor and the editor-in-chief for Armed with Science.  She is an Army veteran and an avid science fiction fan, both of which contribute to her enthusiasm for science and technology in the military.

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