Embry-Riddle Scores Big on Department of Defense SMART Scholarships

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Madilyn Magno
Sophomore Madilyn Magno is one of Embry-Riddle’s 12 SMART scholarship award recipients this year. (Photo: Madilyn Magno)

Between 2009 and 2023, Embry-Riddle students were awarded a total of 46 U.S. Department of Defense SMART Scholar awards. This year alone, they earned 12 of the full-ride scholarships, which include full tuition for up to five years, mentorship, summer internships, a stipend and guaranteed post-graduation employment.

“This in an excellent showing for 2024,” said Embry‑Riddle President P. Barry Butler, Ph.D. “These students were up against applicants from all over the country. These scholarships will lead them toward excellent career opportunities.”

James Hand, in the second year of a Ph.D. program in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Embry-Riddle, said that when he received the SMART offer he was “overjoyed, because it takes a lot of pressure off my shoulders.”

Hand is studying insect behaviors — such as how ants, termites, bees and wasps resist parasites — to identify applications in engineering, such as improving strategies for how drones, robots and other systems can resist malicious control.

EJ Bailey
E.J. Bailey (Photo: E.J. Bailey)
Another SMART scholarship awardee, Madilyn Magno will be a sophomore in Mechanical Engineering in the fall. Born with a love for engineering, Magno spent her childhood building LEGO robots, popsicle stick bridges and balloon cars, and she will be interning with the U.S. Army’s Mounted Systems Evaluation Directorate, which tests Army vehicles and their systems.

For each year that SMART awardees receive funding, they work a year within labs and agencies of the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force. Magno said she would “make the most of my time with SMART during my service commitment.”

“The scholarship will help me complete my education while gaining practical experience and will be a great foray into the professional and engineering world,” Magno said.

For awardee Kyle Vernyi, who came to Embry-Riddle last fall to begin his Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering after already completing two internships at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, becoming a SMART Scholar is an honor.

“It is a dream to graduate and then work at one of our nation’s research laboratories or to contribute to our nation’s defense capabilities,” he said.

Jackson Stoudt
Jackson Stoudt (Photo: Jackson Stoudt)

Vernyi is designing the control laws, or logic, that steers space vehicles to given targets.

Eric McLean, who will begin a master’s degree at Embry-Riddle in Aerospace Engineering in the fall, approached his academic career by an unconventional route. Working at a McDonald’s after high school, a friend encouraged him to study aviation. After earning an Airframe and Powerplant license from Alabama Aviation College, he worked on Boeing 747s, Air Force F-22 Raptors and C-130s at locations around the country. While working for L3 Harris, his supervisors encouraged him to go back to school and study engineering.

Working full-time as a mechanic, he earned an associate degree in Mechanical Engineering and then went on to a bachelor’s degree at Texas Tech University, where he had one of his group projects, called the “Hay Hugger,” patented.

After graduating from Texas Tech, he accepted a job with Strategic Enterprise Solutions Corporation at Robins Air Force Base and transitioned from contractor to employee for the Department of Defense (DoD). His work focuses on maintaining the structural integrity of C-130s in the United States and abroad, applying his experience “as a mechanic and as an engineer to analyze structural loads, find realistic solutions and successfully communicate to the individuals directly involved with the aircraft.”

Andrew Bergon Headshot
Andrew Burgon (Photo: Andrew Burgon)

“My hope is one day I may have the opportunity to modify and design future aircraft,” McLean said. “After pursuing my master’s at Embry-Riddle via the SMART scholarship, I will return full-time to my position with the DoD to apply my knowledge and advance my career.”

Other students who were awarded DoD SMART scholarships are listed as follows:

  • Freshman E.J. Bailey, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sceince
  • Master’s student Andrew Burgon, Aerospace Engineering
  • Ph.D. student Sarah Ratliff, Electrical Engineering
  • Ph.D. student Nathan Schaff, Aerospace Engineering
  • Freshman Joseph Spenneberg, Electrical Engineering
  • Sophomore Jackson Stoudt, Mechanical Engineering
  • Sophomore Catherine Walker, Physics
  • Ph.D. student Nicolo Woodward, Aerospace Engineering

Posted In: Engineering | Institutional News