ECU students receive SMART scholarships from Department of Defense
Two East Carolina University students have received the Department of Defense Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship.
James Miller, a rising sophomore engineering student from Snow Hill, and Samantha Farquhar, a doctoral candidate in integrated coastal sciences in the Department of Coastal Studies, received the prestigious scholarship for service program award.
It provides recipients with full tuition, mentorship, summer internships, a stipend and full-time employment with the Department of Defense (DoD) after graduation. Students will get hands-on experience at one of more than 100 DoD laboratories or facilities across the Army, Navy and Air Force. During the summer internships, SMART scholars work directly with an experienced mentor, gaining technical skills they will use in later employment.
Miller said he was surprised to learn he had received the scholarship.
“I was very proud that all this hard work, not only this year but the years I spent working hard in high school, had finally paid off,” he said. “It just goes to show that if you work hard and really put yourself to it and make that your No. 1 priority that it will pay off.”
He said he learned about the scholarship through a previous recipient with whom he went to high school, as well as when he visited Fleet Readiness Center East at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.
“I actually took a tour of the facility in the fall of 2021, and they informed me about it there,” Miller said. “I figured I would take a chance and apply for it myself.”
Miller said he was looking forward to his internships at the Cherry Point aircraft repair and maintenance depot.
“The innovation level, I know that they’ve got some great 3D printing and reverse engineering technology,” he said. “The work on planes has become a lot more efficient and somewhat cutting edge, and I’ve always been interested in the mechanical aspect of how things work. I wanted to be a mechanic before I picked mechanical engineering. I can go work on the plane engines or sometimes there’ll be an old part for an old plane that they don’t make any more or costs a lot of money to make, and I’ll have to figure out how to go 3D print one with additive manufacturing. That’s very interesting to me.”
And he’s looking to make a career out of the opportunity.
“I hope I can succeed there and stay there awhile. It’s one of the biggest employers on the east side of North Carolina, if not the biggest,” Miller said. “Ultimately, I have the goal of a leadership position or some type of position that’s higher up, but I would definitely not mind staying there for 30 or 35 years. I love the area of Havelock and New Bern around the Neuse River. It’s very close to the beach, and I love the beach and so does my family.”
The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency selected Farquhar to be its SMART scholar.
“They use a lot of remote sensing and GIS technology to support various DoD things,” she said. “That could be more warfighting things, but where my expertise lies is with natural resource management and managing humanitarian responses.”
Still, she wasn’t initially sure how her work examining the effect industrial fishing may have on food security in remote coastal communities matched the mission of the defense department.
“I was really nervous because this scholarship really focuses on a lot of engineering and a lot of technical stuff, and my specialty is marine issues and fisheries issues,” Farquhar said. “You don’t think the Department of Defense is going to be like, ‘Oh man, we need more fish people.’ But I was excited to know there really is a place for those kind of broader environmental sciences within the DoD, and I’m glad it all worked out.”
Farquhar, from Weddington, earned her bachelor’s degree in marine biology and international studies from UNC Wilmington and a master’s in marine and environmental affairs from the University of Washington. She’s in Canada now through the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad program and will start the SMART scholar program Aug. 1.
After she gets her doctorate, she’s guaranteed a job.
“It’s such a load off,” Farquhar said. “For me, it’s job security, and it’s federal job security. I don’t think working for the federal government is a bad thing at all. It’s great. It’s a pipeline to work with the federal government and to do science for them, so I’m super excited about that.”
She believes the SMART scholarship program would be good for any ECU STEM student.
“It’s really generous,” Farquhar said. “It pays for all of your tuition; it pays you a stipend; it covers your student fees and any books. It covers it all. … I really want other students at ECU to know that this thing is out there and to apply because it is such a good opportunity.”