SMART Scholarship Program looks to attract future scientists, engineers

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JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas — Jacob Dodson understands the dedication and commitment that it takes to defend our nation’s interests. After all, his grandfather and father are Navy veterans, his two brothers are active-duty Marines and his brother-in-law is an Air Force C-130 Hercules pilot.

In continuing the family’s tradition of service, the 33-year-old research mechanical engineer is leading a range of research programs that are developing next-generation technology for sensing the environments for high-speed weapons, courtesy of the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation Scholarship for Service Program.

The SMART Scholarship Program provides opportunities for students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, or STEM, disciplines to receive full scholarships and serve the Defense Department after they complete their degree. Congress authorized the program in 2006 to strengthen the technical capacity of the Air Force, Army, Navy, and other DoD agencies.

Dodson was awarded SMART scholarships for his undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees.

“This scholarship has given me an amazing opportunity to use my technical skills to provide the next generation of technology for our military,” said Dodson, who works in the munitions directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. “It gives me a great sense of pride knowing that my work has a direct impact on the Air Force and the DoD’s ability to carry out their missions.”

As part of the program, applicants must pursue a technical degree in one of the 19 STEM disciplines that include engineering, information science, mathematics, bioscience, physics and more.

“The DoD recognizes the need to support the education of its future scientists and engineers,” said Ed Bujan, SMART Scholarship Program execution lead at the Air Force’s Personnel Center. “The Air Force, in particular, is a great choice for seeking rewarding scientific and engineering careers.”

In 2017, the Air Force garnered 108 of the 343 total DoD SMART scholarship selections. Most of those selectees were sent to the Air Force Materiel Command, Air Force Space Command and Air Combat Command.

“Our goal is to build a SMART community within the Air Force and DoD that enhances career development and technical collaboration,” Bujan said. “The SMART Scholarship Program represents an important investment in attracting the top technical talent needed to support the DoD.”

Once accepted into the program, SMART scholars receive $25,000 to $38,000 a year depending on the level of degree being pursued. Program benefits also include full tuition and related educational expenses, health insurance, book allowances, summer internships for multi-year participants and post-graduation career opportunities. Scholarship participants are required to commit to one year of civilian employment with the DoD for each academic year of the scholarship award.

The scholarship application deadline for the 2018 class is Dec. 8, 2017. The next submission window runs from Aug. 1 to Dec. 1, 2018, for the 2019 class. For application instructions and other information, visit https://smart.asee.org/.

Visit myPers for more information about Air Force personnel programs.