Bailey Avila, a PhD student at SMAST, has been awarded a three-year Department of Defense (DoD) SMART Scholarship, with a summer internship at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) in Newport, RI.
The SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program was established to enhance the DoD workforce with talented, innovative, and brilliant scientists, engineers, and researchers, according to the DoD website. SMART Scholars enter the program to pursue their education in some of the leading STEM fields currently in high demand by the US Government. The scholarship includes a minimum of $25,000/year stipend plus full tuition, living expenses, health insurance, and employment with the NUWC upon graduation.
Bailey says receiving the scholarship is a dream come true. “I grew up on the water. Boating, fishing, going to the beach, you name it! I always loved learning new things about the ocean,” she says. “Understanding the ocean and its properties/dynamics is something the Navy is extremely interested in, so I felt my current research fit in perfectly.”
Conducting climate change-based research
Bailey is concentrating her interests on physical oceanography and ocean dynamics, working closely with her advisor Dr. Miles Sundermeyer. “Conducting research in Dr. Sundermeyer’s Ocean Mixing and Stirring lab allows me to incorporate my background in applied mathematics with my love of the ocean,” says the North Dighton, MA native.
Her current research is based on stratification anomalies in the ocean and their relation to internal waves and vortical mode. “The tides and wind create these waves in the interior of the ocean, which can propagate and break and contribute to mixing in the ocean,” she explains. This mixing is a factor in the global ocean circulation, which is a critical factor in climate change. “If the circulation was to weaken, there would be a temperature change in many places in the world due to a lack of warm water being carried north from the tropics and redistributing heat.”
Receiving the DoD SMART Scholarship
I’ve always wanted to do work for the DoD so being selected for both feel amazing,” she says. While at NUWC, Bailey will be mentored by Dr. Simon Freeman, who works on various projects related to ocean soundscapes and acoustics, and bio-inspired autonomous underwater vehicles.