Aerospace Engineering Grad Awarded DoD SMART Scholarship

Aerospace Engineering graduate student Katharine Larsen
Katharine Larsen, an Aerospace Engineering student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, was awarded a SMART Scholarship by the U.S. Department of Defense (Photo: Katharine Larsen)

Aerospace Engineering graduate student Katharine Larsen was recently chosen to receive a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship, which will cover her tuition in full and include an annual stipend.

“I’m going for my Ph.D.,” said Larsen, who graduated with her bachelor’s degree from Embry-Riddle in May 2021. “Especially since I have the funding.”

The SMART scholarship is part of a highly competitive and prestigious scholarship-for-service program sponsored by the DoD. It recruits talented and innovative scientists, engineers and researchers, who then work within labs and agencies of the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force. Part of the award includes Larsen working summers at Eglin Air Force Base, located in the western Florida Panhandle, with an additional time commitment after graduation. 

Larsen, who is from Ocala, Florida, is currently working with Aerospace Engineering professor Riccardo Bevilacqua on research to develop better methods to predict how fragments from a warhead strike will behave, reducing the chance of collateral damage. They have received a $442,508 grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research for the warhead fragmentation research.

Bevilacqua said he and Larsen started working together soon after he joined the university’s faculty

“Katharine is the type of student you want when starting in a new university: professional, reliable, curious and smart,” said Bevilacqua. “I am confident that she will contribute to the DoD research endeavors for many years to come, and that she will reach leading positions at the AFRL (Air Force Research Laboratory).”

In addition to her AFRL research project, Larsen is working on a paper with another student to determine an optimal target sequence for a lunar L2 mission. Individually, she is working on a paper on designing a controller for a satellite formation.

After working for the DoD, Larsen, who collaborated extensively with Embry-Riddle's Office of Prestigious Awards and Fellowships to earn the scholarship, said she eventually would like to work with space satellites.

The full list of 2022 SMART Scholarship recipients is listed as follows:

  • David Velez, Aerospace Engineering senior (Prescott Campus)
  • Jackson Salyards, Computer Science freshman (Daytona Beach Campus)
  • Suzanna Kress, Mechanical Engineering freshman (Daytona Beach Campus)
  • John (Will) Sandor, Aerospace Engineering junior (Daytona Beach Campus)
  • Braeden Steuer, Mechanical Engineering junior (Prescott Campus)
  • Brian Knight, Aerospace Engineering sophomore (Prescott Campus)