Mechanical engineering majors Justin Diamond and Serop Kelkelian have two more years to go before they graduate. But undergraduates already have jobs online with the US Department of Defense.
Diamond and Kelkelian both received the Department of Defense Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarship.
This unique opportunity provides students with hands-on experience to gain technical skills in critical STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) that support the Department of Defense’s national security mission.
This highly selective award provides SMART scholars with full tuition fees for up to five years, summer internships, a stipend ($ 25,000 to $ 38,000 per year depending on degree level) and full-time employment at Ministry of Defense after graduation.
For each year of funding for the diploma, the researcher commits to working for one year with the Ministry of Defense as a civilian employee. In 2020, around 300 fellows were selected across the country, with just 13% of applicants receiving the award.
“This scholarship provides a great opportunity to work as an engineer,” said Diamond. “My goal has always been to work in the defense industry due to constant innovation and new technologies being developed. For me, receiving this scholarship is a dream come true.
Kelkelian agreed that the stock market is a life changing opportunity.
“Becoming a SMART Fellow gives me stability throughout my years in college,” he said. “I chose to work for the Department of Defense after graduation because I enjoy working on cutting edge technology that will help our soldiers protect America and its interests.”
The students’ faculty mentor John Sanders, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, wrote letters of recommendation for their scholarship applications. Last year, under his sponsorship, the two students took part in the university physics competition. The international competition for undergraduates works as a team to solve a real-world problem using principles of physics, and then writes a formal article describing their work.
“Serop and Justin are both incredibly bright, talented, creative, disciplined and hardworking. When I found out that they had both received the SMART scholarship, I was absolutely thrilled, ”said Sanders. “I know they will continue to excel and do amazing things.”
From the summer of 2022, students will complete an internship in the laboratories of the Ministry of Defense to prepare for the civilian workforce.
Diamond will intern at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Bethesda, Md., And will be posted there upon graduation. Kelkelian will intern and later work at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Port Hueneme, located in Ventura County.
“The Department of Defense provides a great opportunity to work alongside some of the most brilliant scientists and engineers in the United States of America. I hope to learn all I can from these people, ”added Diamond.
Diamond, who studies robotics and computer science, credits his involvement as a cadet in the CSUF Army’s ROTC Titan Battalion for helping prepare him for his future career.
“The Titan Battalion has been a family to me for two years,” he said. “I am sure I could not have secured this scholarship without the lessons in work ethic and determination that I have learned from all my friends in the Titan Battalion.
Kelkelian, a member of the college’s formula-style racing car team, is studying aerial robotics and hopes to make a lasting impact on the field.
“In the future, I want to become a project manager at the Ministry of Defense and work on the next unmanned aerial vehicle,” he said. “Air robotics is a rapidly growing industry, which plays a vital role for the United States military in surveillance, reconnaissance, force protection and warfare.”
For Kelkelian, he will follow in his father’s footsteps working for the Defense Ministry. His father, an electrical engineer, worked for the government agency for 15 years and brought his son to work on family days, which inspired him.
“Getting a glimpse of the projects my father worked on allowed me to experience what life is like as a professional electrical engineer serving his country,” he said. “The most important thing that stood out was the impact of her contribution to saving the lives of American servicemen and women in the military.”
For more information on the SMART scholarship or to find out how students can apply, visit the program page website. The app is open every year from August to December.