SMART Scholar Symposium

2021 SMART Scholar Symposium: Creating Leaders of the Future

The Department of Defense (DoD) Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Program, managed under the Office of the Undersecretary for Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E)), hosted its fourth annual symposium on July 13-15, 2021.

A highly competitive scholarship-for-service program focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), SMART is one of the largest STEM education and workforce initiatives effort under DoD STEM. DoD STEM is the Department's comprehensive K-20 STEM education and talent development effort, which inspires, cultivates, and develops talent to address the Nation's technological challenges, now and into the future. SMART is empowered to make full-tuition awards during any phase of a scholar's education in a regionally accredited U.S. university or college. The program sponsors undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral study in 21 academic disciplines that the Department has identified as critical to national security and DoD's future. Since its inception in 2006, the program has awarded over 3,000 scholarships.

This year's three-day virtual symposium entitled "Creating Leaders of the Future" consisted of keynote speeches by DoD leadership, a science communication workshop for SMART scholars, lightning talk presentations by 13 nominated SMART scholars representing each DoD Component, presentations by Junior Science and Humanities Symposia national oral presentation winners, and an inspiring presentation by the SMART leadership team of Ms. Karrin Felton and Dr. Brandon Cochenour. Among the DoD speakers who kicked off each day of the event were Ms. Barbara McQuiston, who is now performing the duties of the Deputy Undersecretary at OUSD(R&E), and Dr. Kevin T. Geiss, Director of Science and Technology at OUSD(R&E).

"It was amazing to see the innovative work that SMART scholars have performed at laboratories and facilities across the Department of Defense," said Dr. Jagadeesh Pamulapati, Acting Deputy Director for Research, Technology, and Laboratories. "Each scholar's contributions help solve complex challenges for the Warfighter and for the country as a whole, shaping our investments in technologies and steering our pursuit of future defense systems."

During the three days, presentations highlighted DoD priority areas and addressed the latest challenges to national security. For the first time, the symposium was open to the public and generated high levels of engagement among scholars, students and faculty from over 120 high schools and universities, and DoD employees. More than 275 attendees viewed the presentations and built connections around their STEM research and interests using the networking capabilities of the virtual platform.

Watch Video

To view the 2021 virtual symposium, visit the following SMART YouTube page:

Learn More

To learn more about the SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program, visit The application period for the 2022 SMART Scholar cohort begins August 1, 2021, and ends December 1, 2021. More information can be found on the website.

Office of the Under Secretary of Defense,
Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E))
3030 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-3030