Friday, May 7, 2021

Windham student receives DoD’s SMART Scholarship

Sierra Yost of Windham, a first-year doctoral student in
chemical engineering at Penn State, received the U.S.
Department of Defense's Science, Mathematics and Research 
for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship. She is a 2016
graduate of Windham High School and was honored as the
College of Engineering's valedictorian at the University
of Maine at Orono for the graduating class of 2020.
By Ed Pierce

It’s been a whirlwind of a year for Sierra Yost of Windham as she’s gone from being honored as the 2020 College of Engineering’s valedictorian at the University of Maine at Orono to completing the first year of a graduate student doctoral program at Penn State University, but there was one more surprise in store for her. Yost found out last month she has been awarded the Department of Defense Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation Scholarship.

Recipients of the SMART award receive full tuition for up to five years, summer internships, a stipend and full-time employment with the Department of Defense after graduation. The unique opportunity provides high-achieving students with hands-on experience at one of the nation’s most innovative Army, Navy, Air Force and larger Department of Defense laboratories and working under an experienced mentor, gaining valuable technical skills.

Since its inception, the SMART Scholarship Program has awarded more than 3,000 SMART scholarships and supported more than 2,000 graduates from 409 universities as they launch professional careers working for the Department of Defense.

Yost, 23, will intern at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery each summer until graduation from Penn State and then will be hired for a full-time position there after earning her doctorate.

“I was absolutely shocked when I found out about it,” Yost said. “I first heard about this scholarship opportunity when I was applying to a different grad school.” 

She applied for the SMART Scholarship last fall and said she considers it an honor to be a recipient of this distinction.

I am excited to be a part of the innovation and advancements made in DoD labs both during my internships and full-employment after graduation,” Yost said.

During her internship at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard this summer, Yost will perform materials research with an emphasis on quality assurance. She is working on obtaining a doctorate in chemical engineering focusing on increasing the capabilities of advanced manufacturing using functional polymers.

The Department of Defense is the largest employer of scientists and engineers in the nation with nearly 300,000 STEM professionals. For more than a decade, SMART has trained a highly skilled STEM workforce that competes with the evolving trends of industry to support the next generation of science and technology for our nation.

The SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program is a combined educational and workforce development opportunity for bachelor’s degree, masters’ degree and doctoral students to gain valuable technical skills in critical STEM fields and support the national security mission of the Department of Defense.

Yost is a 2016 graduate of Windham High School where she said that she was inspired to study chemical engineering after taking the AP Chemistry class there taught by former WHS teacher Lisa McClellan.  

In her free time, Yost is an avid runner and volunteers for the youth track program at Penn State.

“I also like doing most everything outdoors,” she said. “I enjoy hiking, skiing, fishing and kayaking.”

She’s excited about returning to Maine this summer and looking forward to her new internship at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

“I also am very excited to do what I can to help the Department of Defense as a civilian,” Yost said.

According to Yost, her primary goal though is to complete her studies and to start her career.

“My ultimate goal is to work for DoD or in the paper industry,” she said. “I just want to make new things and make a difference.” <   


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