Lehigh University
Lehigh University


A SMART engineer focused on national security

Civil engineering sophomore Kimberly Molnar has been named winner of a prestigious "SMART" scholarship from the U.S. Department of Defense.

The SMART program (Science, Mathematics, And Research for Transformation) is sponsored by the Department of Defense through the American Society for Engineering Education. Applicants choose a sponsoring organization from among the Air Force , Army, or Navy.

Kimberly Molnar '11

Molnar is not only a top student, but avidly involved in a number of activities on campus. She is a member of the Society of Women Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers, the Arts and Excursions branch of Lehigh's University Productions, takes yoga classes, and is a resident of the House for Healthy Living in Warren Square.

Along with their transcripts, lists of awards and honors, academic backgrounds, and future plans, applicants for the scholarship are required to submit an essay on why they want to work for the Department of Defense. Molnar decided to write about the 9/11 tragedy and how it affected her life. Although an experience-related piece was a possible option, she decided to write a candid essay describing why it is important to her to work for the government.

“I want to work for the country in order to help our troops,” she says.

This summer, Molnar will be the only student from this year’s class to go to the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida though most of the department’s projects are run through this base.

“It will be cool to be working on energy options for fuel,” she says of her summer project. “I might even get to work on jet fighters.”

In the SMART program, the sponsoring organization pays full tuition for students including technology and lab fees and $500/semester for books. Students participate in full-time, paid summer internships until graduation at which point they are employed by that organization for the number of years that they received school tuition.

Though they are allowed to leave after that point, Molnar says, “There is a possibility that I will work there for the rest of my life. The work is exciting and the benefits are amazing.”

The Department of Defense wants its SMART students to focus on their studies so they are also paid a stipend each year to prevent them from needing a school-year job.

For summer 2008, Molnar attended orientation in California, where she met a number of other SMART students and Air Force employees. Although there were not nearly as many women involved in the program as men, Molnar said that she felt she was on equal footing. “I was proud to be one of the only girls, competing with the guys,” she says.

This summer she will be assigned a real-life problem. “Basically, you start on a project and you work on it until it is either completed, or the government cancels it,” she says. “I think the internship will be fun, and I’m excited to be working in Florida.”

-Christine Rapp

Posted on Wednesday, October 22, 2008

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