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For New Engineers, DOD Has Many Opportunities

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Feb. 24, 2023) -- During this year's National Engineers Week commemoration held at the Pentagon, the deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering explained some of the opportunities available to young engineers interested in supporting the nation's defense.

"There is no more exciting or challenging place to work than in the Department of Defense," said David Honey during a keynote address Thursday afternoon. "DOD is one of the world's largest engineering organizations and employs more than 100,000 engineers. Here, engineers share a unique mission to advance cutting-edge engineering technology, systems and practices, and specializations that range from cyber and space to hypersonics and quantum science and more."

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For young engineers interested in working for the Defense Department, Honey said there are a variety of opportunities they can take advantage of. One of those is the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation Scholarship, also called the "SMART Scholarship."

"This offers scholarships for undergraduate, master's and doctoral students currently pursuing a degree in one of 21 key STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] disciplines," Honey said. "SMART scholars are selected, matched with a relevant DOD laboratory, and awarded a full-tuition scholarship."

During the summer, Honey said, those students intern at that DOD lab, and after they graduate from school, they go to work at that same installation for a period of time that matches their scholarship.

"Our SMART scholars get a paid education and a great engineering position right out of college, which is a pretty good deal," he said.

Another way to get involved as an engineer or as a student pursuing a degree in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics program, is through one of the department's University Affiliated Research Centers, or UARCs.

A UARC is a DOD-supported non-profit research organization affiliated with a university that has a specific area of domain expertise or specialization and supports the long-term needs of the department.

Up until last month, there'd been only 14 UARCs. But in January, the department announced the creation of a new UARC, to be associated with Howard University in Washington.

"Just last month we were honored to help establish the department's 15th UARC. This new UARC is at Howard University, and it is our first UARC at a historically black college or university," Honey said. "This Air Force-sponsored UARC will focus on tactical autonomy, which will operate under a consortium model, with a number of other HBCUs supporting this effort."

Also, an opportunity for young engineers to help support the nation's defense is through the Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship.

"This is the Department of Defense's most prestigious single-investigator award and supports basic research with the potential for transformative impact," Honey said.

The five-year fellowship, with as much as $3 million in funding, "supports new, out-of-the-box ideas where researcher creativity intersects with the unknown," Honey said.

In 2022, nine individuals were able to take advantage of the Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship. Honey said they work in areas such as semiconductor technology, artificial intelligence and quantum theory.

"I'd strongly encourage interested engineers to consider a career in the DOD," Honey said. "The need is great, and the work is very rewarding. The world is becoming a challenging place, and the DOD's need for sound, innovative engineering has never been greater. You'll not only do interesting and exciting engineering tasks, but you'll be a part of something important -- because the work we do truly matters."

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