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Internship Experience Leads to Change of Major and SMART Scholarship

AUTHOR: Nina Welding

PUBLISHED: September 11, 2017

Junior Steven Eisemann began his time at Notre Dame fully intending to major in electrical engineering. He had enjoyed math as well as the circuits chapters in his high school physics classes. He had a plan. But he began to question his plan, and his intended major, after taking a microprocessors course during his first year at the University.

An internship the summer after his freshman year helped him determine that electrical engineering might not be the best fit for him. Eisemann reflects on that first internship with a Department of Defense (DoD) agency in Maryland, “To me being an engineer has always meant bringing about change, so changing and growing myself was a natural outcome of my experiences.” It was during this first internship where he began coding. “I really enjoyed my experience that summer. It’s what pushed me to switch my major to computer science.“

This past summer Eisemann completed his third internship with that same agency. As during his other internships, the projects he worked on each impacted the office in which he was working. “Whether it was making the jobs of my co-workers easier or finishing a tool that was needed in a different office, I felt that my work was helping to achieve the agency’s mission and bring about positive change,” says Eisemann. “That’s one of the most satisfying feelings I have had in my career so far. The people there also recommended that I consider a security concentration and that I keep them updated on available courses so they can give me recommendations as to what would be most beneficial as I move forward.”

Most recently, Eisemann was recognized for his efforts with a full scholarship and stipend as part of the Science, Mathematics And Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship for Service Program, a DoD funded initiative designed to support the education of America’s future technology leaders while also encouraging young people to pursue careers within the DoD. Opportunities are offered to undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral students who are citizens of the United States and have demonstrated outstanding abilities and special aptitudes in STEM fields.

SMART scholars receive a cash award for each year they are in the program and full tuition as part of the program. They also must complete summer internships and are placed in civilian jobs within the DoD after graduation. “Working as a government civilian was not something I had considered until my sister started working with the DoD ten years ago. Since then defense has been something that has interested me, and it’s what I have been pursuing.”

Eisemann will conduct research at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Research Lab in the Sensors Directorate in Dayton, Ohio, this coming summer as part a SMART scholar. Then, after graduation, he will fulfill his two-year work commitment there.

Although the work he will be doing this summer is different to what he has experienced during his previous internships, he is looking forward to the change of pace and its relationship to national security. “When a defense is good, no one pays any attention. When it fails, everyone notices,“ says Eisemann. “Contributing to the mission of the DoD and the defense of the nation is something I hope to achieve.”