Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

Students Win DOD SMART Scholarships for Work with NSWC Crane

January 14, 2019

Lauren Christopher, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Lauren Christopher, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Through a unique program with IUPUI's School of Engineering and Technology and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane (NSWC Crane), students are now working on research and projects to help American warfighters in the field.

A second cohort of students is earning a master's degree in Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering (MSECE) and an Electronic Warfare Engineer certificate (GTPE). With coordination between IUPUI, Purdue University and the Naval Post Graduate School, the curriculum was developed to meet NSWC Crane's goals to support its warfighters. NSWC Crane is located 35 miles south of Bloomington.

IUPUI faculty have been instrumental in developing and teaching this distinctive curriculum, including online lectures for students traveling to naval bases or who are working aboard aircraft carriers. Collaborative projects are in the works and faculty members have received grants for them. For example, Lauren Christopher, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the School, has collaborated on a number of projects and received research grants from Crane, including nearly $400,000 to create 3D visualizations for RF signals in electronic warfare.


Christopher serves as a role model for young women interested in an engineering career. She has spent the last 30 years working in a STEM career, starting as an engineer at RCA and earning bachelor's and master's degrees from MIT.

"Back when I was in school, 20 percent was female and even less in electrical and computer engineering," she explained. "Interest -- from both women and men -- has grown over time in electrical, computer and mechanical engineering. I encourage young women and girls to look at careers in STEM fields and have mentored several female engineers."

A number of her students have received SMART scholarships from the U.S. Department of Defense. These scholarships provide stipends which help pay for expenses while they study, conduct research and work at Crane. Among this year's award winners are Katherine Pfeiffer, junior; David Emerson, doctorate student; and Trey Peterson, junior. All three have worked at CRANE -- Pfeiffer and Peterson served as summer interns; Emerson has worked full-time for several years.

Pfeiffer is thrilled to have received a SMART scholarship for the current academic year. She set her sights on a career at Crane since participating with her father in Bring Your Child to Work days at the center.

She's been instrumental over the last three years in developing growth and attendance of the Society of Women Engineers on campus. The organization now has a full board and more than 50 members. As an executive board member of the Women in Engineering Network, she assisted in the two organizations collaborating and eventually merging into one, which Pfeiffer said is beneficial to all members to have one, more inclusive organization.

"As a SMART Scholar, I receive helpful advice about my resume, have opportunities to meet with representatives of companies, and the funding helps me conduct research," she said.

Trey Peterson, a junior who has interned with Crane for three years, explained that the SMART scholarship allows him to focus on school. "With the monthly stipend, I can just worry about school, and the funding helps with equipment, which can be expensive. This allows me to focus on my research."

Dip Chowdury, who is about to graduate with a master's degree, said he joined the program because of the fellowship and scholarships. "And also Dr. Christopher's work is very interesting to me. That's why I chose IUPUI."

Emerson, in his third year of the graduate program, also pointed to Christopher as a driving factor in his decision to earn a Ph.D. In 2009, he moved from Colorado to Indiana to work at Crane. Realizing the benefits of having a master's degree at Crane, he chose IUPUI and completed it in 2015. He currently has both a fellowship through Crane and the SMART scholarship.

"One hundred percent of my schooling is paid as well as books and for my time as a full-time student," he explained. "This allows me to focus on my research, which is applying deep learning to specific problems. There are so many benefits to IUPUI's program, including a Purdue University degree, flexible schedule, the location, and of course, the option to work at Crane."