By Katie Scott, Air Force Institute of Technology
Raised in the small town of Denison, Texas, Lansing S. Horan IV earned a bachelor’s of science degree in nuclear engineering from Texas A&M University. In his undergraduate senior year, he researched graduate schools and funding sources when he came across the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation Scholarship-for-Service Program.
The SMART Scholarship program is an opportunity for students pursuing a technical undergraduate or graduate degree in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines to receive a full scholarship and guaranteed civilian employment with the Department of Defense upon degree completion.
The opportunity to earn a master’s degree and have a job when complete was very attractive to Horan. “It’s nice to have something guaranteed, especially in our current environment,” Horan noted.
Horan learned about an advanced educational opportunity from the Air Force Institute of Technology through an internet search on nuclear engineering programs. “I saw that it was a very unique program offering a focus on nuclear weapon effects as opposed to nuclear power or radiation detectors that civilian universities offer,” Horan added.
“AFIT is an ideal institution for civilians to attend as part of the SMART Scholarship program,” said Col. Andy McQuade, dean of students within AFIT’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management. “The immersive academic and research experience allows civilian scholars to work defense-focused problems with uniformed service members, other civilians, and international partners.”
Attending the Air Force’s graduate school seemed like a nice pairing since Horan’s sponsor was the Air Force Technical Applications Center at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla. “With AFIT located on a military base and being a military organization, and then knowing I was going to work for the DoD, it linked together for me,” said Horan.
Horan was hesitant at first to attend a military institute, unsure if he would fit in and get along with his classmates as a civilian, but it quickly became a non-issue. “Everyone was extremely welcoming and there was no awkwardness. My classmates and I formed study groups and worked on homework together. Everything just worked out really well,” Horan said.
Horan’s thesis focused on researching asteroid deflection using a nuclear explosive. Done in collaboration with the Planetary Defense group at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, it is a topic that Horan believes he was able to choose because of the unique connections that AFIT faculty have with the DoD and other defense-focused agencies like the DoE. “If I had gone into almost any other nuclear engineering program in the country, I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to study a topic like that,” said Horan.
“For me, AFIT was definitely the right choice,” Horan noted. “It was a very valuable experience and AFIT’s uniqueness plays an important role in shaping an individual’s diversity of education and experience.”
More information about the SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program can be found at www.smartscholarship.org. More information about AFIT’s STEM degree programs can be found at www.afit.edu/EN/programs.cfm