ECU engineering student receives Department of Defense award

An East Carolina University engineering student has received the Department of Defense Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship.

James Miller, a rising sophomore from Snow Hill, received the prestigious scholarship for service program award. It provides recipients with full tuition, mentorship, summer internships, a stipend and full-time employment with the Department of Defense (DoD) after graduation.

Students will get hands-on experience at one of more than 100 DoD laboratories or facilities across the Army, Navy and Air Force during the summer internships. SMART scholars work directly with an experienced mentor, gaining technical skills they will use in later employment.

Miller said he was surprised to learn he had received the scholarship.

“I was very proud that all this hard work, not only this year but the years I spent working hard in high school, had finally paid off,” he said. “It just goes to show that if you work hard and really put yourself to it and make that your No. 1 priority that it will pay off.”

He said he learned about the scholarship through a previous recipient with whom he went to high school, as well as when he visited Fleet Readiness Center East at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

“I actually took a tour of the facility in the fall of 2021, and they informed me about it there,” Miller said. “I figured I would take a chance and apply for it myself.”

Miller said he was looking forward to his internships at the Cherry Point aircraft repair and maintenance depot.

“The innovation level, I know that they’ve got some great 3D printing and reverse engineering technology,” he said. “The work on planes has become a lot more efficient and somewhat cutting edge, and I’ve always been interested in the mechanical aspect of how things work. I wanted to be a mechanic before I picked mechanical engineering. I can go work on the plane engines or sometimes there’ll be an old part for an old plane that they don’t make any more or costs a lot of money to make, and I’ll have to figure out how to go 3D print one with additive manufacturing. That’s very interesting to me.”

And he’s looking to make a career out of the opportunity.

“I hope I can succeed there and stay there awhile. It’s one of the biggest employers on the east side of North Carolina, if not the biggest,” Miller said. “Ultimately, I have the goal of a leadership position or some type of position that’s higher up, but I would definitely not mind staying there for 30 or 35 years. I love the area of Havelock and New Bern around the Neuse River. It’s very close to the beach, and I love the beach and so does my family.”

Samantha Farquhar, a doctoral candidate in integrated coastal sciences in ECU’S Department of Coastal Studies, also received a SMART scholarship. She will intern with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency beginning on Aug. 1.