By Jenna Brady, ARL Public AffairsMay 30, 2018
ADELPHI, Md. -- A U.S. Army Research Laboratory computer science intern was recently awarded the Department of Defense sponsored Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation, or SMART, scholarship.
Mary Grace Hager, who interned with ARL's Tactical Network Assurance Branch, earned the scholarship which will assist her as she enters her senior year of college and prepares for her desired career.
Established by the DOD's National Defense Education Program, the SMART Scholarship program is a scholarship for service created to recruit and retain the next generation of science and technology leaders.
"I am extremely grateful to have been awarded the DOD SMART Scholarship," Hager said. "With it, I will be able to focus on my academic coursework during my senior year to best prepare myself for a career with the DOD after graduation. I look forward to utilizing my technical abilities for public service and to aid those who defend our country.
During her time at ARL, Hager helped research how fast, how far and how reliably quantum entanglement could be distributed in quantum networks.
She simulated the process of quantum teleportation and then characterized the effect of noise on the quality of distributed entanglement.
Her research verified the usefulness of the Quantum Tools in Python, or QuTiP, software for further research within the lab.
Hager also helped look into potential causes of error in the experiment measurement system by introducing noise into a simulated environment and subsequently recording deviations in the results.
"Because of the nature of quantum teleportation and entanglement, the foremost application of such research for the Army and the Soldier is the creation of a reliable and secure communication network in which corresponding parties would be aware if their communications have been compromised," Hager said. "I am glad to have made forward contributions to keeping our Soldiers safe with this application."
Hager said that her journey thus far in the field of science and technology has been nothing short of rewarding, and encourages those interested in such a career to pursue their dreams in any way they can.
"My advice to younger generations who may be interested in a career in science and technology is to stay curious and to explore your interests as much as possible," Hager said. "It may seem like a long process to develop the necessary skillsets to do the type of work that interests you most, but throughout your education you also hone your interests so that you may most enjoy your work and be most productive for the scientific community."
According to Dr. Michael Brodsky, who's group Hager worked with while she was with ARL, Hager embodies the qualities that every mentor looks for in an intern and then some.
"Mary Grace is certainly very knowledgeable and skillful in the areas of her study," Brodsky said. "But I believe that all candidates for the SMART Scholarship excel academically. What sets Mary Grace apart is her dedication and courage. She is not afraid of taking tough technical challenges head on, and she is confident to follow her curiosity to venture outside of her comfort zone."
Brodsky also noted that Hager demonstrated her dedication by finishing everything that she started, even when it required efforts past the end of her internship.
He believes that the SMART Scholarship provides an excellent opportunity for interns like Hager to experience all levels of what it means to work for a DOD laboratory.
"The unique feature of the SMART Scholarship is that it requires service in DOD labs after graduation," Brodsky said. "This is a unique opportunity for students to connect with the exciting science and technology world of government labs. In addition to exciting technical challenges, the service presents opportunities to find out how large scale research enterprises function and what governs decisions that DOD makes for its future deployed technologies."
During her time at ARL, Hager was mentored by Dr. Brian Kirby.
"I think her application stood out and was ultimately selected for the SMART Scholarship, because on top of being an excellent student, she managed to use her short stays at ARL to publish two different first authored technical reports," Kirby said. "This is a unique accomplishment for someone so young both because it clearly required significant focus and ability, but also because the technical reports are on topics in quantum networking while she is a computer science major. This sort of adaptability is highly desirable in a researcher."
According to Kirby, ARL's mentor programs are so crucial for budding researchers like Hager.
"I think it is important for ARL to mentor rising scientists and engineers because it supports an influx of new talent and perspectives into the laboratory, which can help keep research projects moving forward," Kirby said. "Additionally, it exposes students to the possibility of a career in public service, which may not have occurred to them previously."
Hager is currently a rising senior at Cornell University double majoring in computer science and mathematics.
After graduation, she will fulfill her one year of required service with the Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, Virginia.
Afterward, she hopes to pursue a doctorate in computer science and conduct research that will combine technical problem-solving with her commitment to public service.
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.