Pezzola wins Defense Department fellowship and a guaranteed job after graduation

Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Ph.D. student Genevieve Pezzola
Second-year Ph.D. student Genevieve Pezzola has won a SMART fellowship from the U.S. Department of Defense. The program will pay for the remainder of her doctoral studies and then place her in a civilian job with the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory at the Army's Engineering Research and Development Center. (Photo: Genevieve Pezzola)

Doctoral degree paid for?

Job after graduation?

Ph.D. student Genevieve Pezzola can check both of those items off her to-do list this week after learning she has received a fellowship from the U.S. Department of Defense.

The SMART fellowships — that stands for Science, Mathematics & Research for Transformation — pay for students’ studies and then guarantee them a civilian job at a Defense Department laboratory after they graduate.

The idea is for recipients to work for the DoD one year for each year of funding they receive. And for Pezzola, it means she’ll be able to do meaningful work now and immediately after she finishes her graduate work.

“The research that they do [at the U.S. Army Engineering Research and Development Center] directly contributes to the safety of our country and our soldiers, and that is research that I want to be a part of,” said Pezzola, who’s in her second year of doctoral studies. “They have amazing facilities to study blast damage mitigation techniques, which directly aligns with my research.”

Pezzola works with Lauren Stewart in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering on experimental testing and analysis of blast retrofits made of carbon fiber-reinforced polymer. She even helped design and build the lab where she does her research.

The SMART fellowship will fund Pezzola’s studies for two years starting in the fall. And as part of the program, Pezzola has the opportunity to spend her summers working at her sponsoring lab — in her case, the Army ERDC’s Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory.

“SMART is a great opportunity for me finish my Ph.D. at Georgia Tech without having to worry about funding,” she said. “It is also a great opportunity for me to explore the work being done at DoD facilities, which I am very grateful for.”