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UWF alumna wins Air Force Test Center award

University of West Florida graduate, Jessica Whitten, won the Category 1 Civilian of the Year for the Air Force Test Center, which encompasses the 96th Test Wing, Eglin AFB, Florida; 412th Test Wing, Edwards AFB, California; and Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) Arnold AFB, Tennessee.

“This is quite an astounding accomplishment for someone with less than a year of government service,” said Sean Sylvester, a recruiter for the Air Force and instructor at UWF.

The U.S. Air Force recruited Whitten into its prestigious Scientist & Engineering Palace Acquire Program for government civilians. The Air Force established the three-year program to heighten its ability to maintain a technology-intensive environment by hiring dynamic, creative and innovative scientists and engineers. The first and third years of the program involve hands-on training, while the second year includes graduate studies paid for by the Air Force.

Whitten spent her first year of training as a Test Support Manager. She served as the focal point for coordinating Range Control Squadron support, setup and operated mission control rooms for live-fire weapons tests, and produced post-mission test data products for Eglin AFB’s diverse customer base. Whitten credited Susan Jones, Senior Test Support Manager for the 96th Range Control Squadron, Eglin AFB, for her tutelage and her UWF professors for preparing her for the program.

“Professors really took an interest in me,” Whitten said. “I had fantastic experiences.”

Whitten graduated from UWF in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering. She assisted Dr. Bhuvana Ramachandran, UWF assistant professor of engineering, in research of electrical vehicles, and she co-authored a peer-reviewed paper that she presented at the 2015 International Symposium on Advances in Power and Energy Systems in Los Angeles.

“She was very innovative in her thinking and came up with great ideas on how to further her research,” Ramachandran said. “Her success in her present career has inspired many students here at UWF. Many of them would like to follow in her footsteps. Our program has been very thankful to her for keeping the UWF flag high.”

Whitten said Dr. Mohamed Khabou, UWF Department of Engineering chair and professor, put her on the right path when he told her about the opportunity to tutor at Creative Learning Academy. She tutored fifth through seventh-grade students on the Creative Learning Academy robotics team.

Whitten is currently pursuing a Master of Science in electrical engineering from the University of Florida as part of the Palace Acquire Program.

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