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Lyco astrophysics student secures internship with DoD SMART program

Astrophysics major and international public policy minor Katherine Travis ’24 of Bernville, Pa., is the first Lycoming College student to win a place in the Department of Defense (DoD) SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program. The highly competitive program is designed to provide recipients in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math with full-ride scholarships, annual stipends, summer internships, and guaranteed civilian employment with the DoD upon graduation.

The Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) program, funded by the DoD, combines educational and workforce development opportunities for STEM students. By providing scholarships nationwide, the SMART program gives scholars the opportunity to work at DoD facilities on complex research alongside scientists and engineers, preparing students like Travis for full-time employment. “I believe this program will open many doors and provide unforeseen opportunities for me,” she said.

Travis has been selected to study in the U.S. Army’s DEVCOM C5ISR Center in Fort Belvoir, Va., where she will work together with peers on developing technology to detect underground explosives for the Army. The internship will start in the summer of 2023, allowing her to learn and gain experience for the following year where she will work as a full-time employee. As part of the program, she will additionally be able to work toward her master’s degree.

Travis discovered the program during her senior year of high school while applying to colleges with astrophysics curriculums. “I thought it was an excellent opportunity to gain experience in my field of study and to make contributions to something that will make an impact, not to mention being able to get an early start to my career,” said Travis.

During her freshman year at Lycoming, she received a Student Research Grant to work with Christopher Kulp, Ph.D., professor of physics, on a project involving machine learning to classify songs by genre. She learned machine learning algorithms, best practices, how to prepare data for analysis, and python programming, a language that she had not used before.

“I am very excited for Katherine,” said Kulp. “With the project, she did an excellent job quickly coming to speed on the python programming language so that she could tackle the machine learning aspects. This SMART Scholarship-for-Service program is a wonderful opportunity for her.”

Lycoming College’s department of physics offers an exceptional undergraduate education unparalleled by other institutions. An emphasis on lab-based instruction helps students grasp the theoretical, while exposing them to cutting-edge physics instrumentation.

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