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Molinaroli College of Engineering and Computing

  • Trinity Collette

Civil and environmental engineering student enjoying benefits of SMART scholarship

Senior civil and environmental engineering major Trinity Collette was not specifically looking for the Science, Mathematics and Research Transformation (SMART) Scholarship-for-Service Program when searching for scholarships opportunities. However, being accepted into the program has provided her with tuition benefits and real-world experience during her undergraduate education. 

Funded by the Department of Defense (DoD), the SMART Program recruits, educates, employs and fosters development of the future DoD civilian STEM workforce. Participants receive full tuition, a summer internship at a DoD facility and employment following graduation. 

A native of Blackstone, Massachusetts, Collette was accepted to the SMART Program at the end of her sophomore year in the spring of 2022. 

“Earning the SMART scholarship changed everything. I'm taking out less than half of what I thought to get through college. Having an internship this past summer and already having a job lined up after graduating feels amazing,” Collette says.

Collette’s internship this past summer was at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. Submarines are not designed or constructed at the shipyard. Instead, they are modernized in dry dock from one to three years. Collette worked on several older submarines in the structural engineering department, specifically with the hull survey team. It was an experience she never imagined when she started at the University of South Carolina in 2020. 

“I would basically assess the steel for its condition, how much had rusted, and if anything looked like it needed to be fixed or if everything was good,” Collette says. “We also made recommendations for further testing or repairs if necessary. It was a lot of walking around and crawling in very tight spaces.” 

Collette added that she learned the complexity of submarines and how other engineering disciplines are part of the operation. Aside from civil and environmental, her internship exposed her to aspects of mechanical, electrical and nuclear engineering. 

“There's other engineering areas that have to work together or the sub won’t operate,” Collette says. “It also includes unique challenges. In my opinion, this is the most interesting application I can imagine with a structural engineering degree right now.” 

The SMART Program accepts applications annually from August 1 to December 1. Applicants are usually informed of their award in the spring. Undergraduate or graduate students currently pursuing a degree in a STEM discipline and willing to complete at least one internship and accept post-graduation employment with the DoD are eligible to apply. 

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