SMART scholars Joseph Senne (above)
and Matthew Puterio (below).
Photos by Lisa Tossey and Elizabeth Boyle
Two University of Delaware students have received Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarships from the Department of Defense. Joseph Senne, a doctoral student in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, and Matthew Puterio, a junior in the College of Engineering were recipients of the highly competitive award. In 2010 there were approximately 2,600 applicants and just 300 SMART awardees.
The fellowship is designed to support students in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, with benefits including full tuition, a cash award, health insurance reimbursement, mentoring, and employment placement after graduation.
Even as he worked on his bachelor’s degree in physics from Auburn University, Senne, now a doctoral student in UD’s Physical Ocean Science and Engineering Program, realized he wanted a career in marine science.
“I knew I was going to come out and apply to marine programs but I wanted to be able to do the physical side of it,” he said. “But then I loved physics so it naturally grew into physical oceanography.”
The Mobile, Ala., native then earned a master’s degree in marine science with a concentration on physical oceanography from the University of South Alabama. His research there focused on how the interactions of salinity and oxygen levels affected potential changes in Mobile Bay oyster reefs.
At UD, Senne studies how water waves and bubbles on the ocean's surface affect sound waves moving through the sub-surface. He works at the Ocean Acoustics Laboratory, where understanding the physics of acoustics and surface water-wave interactions is leading to improved underwater communication systems, especially for scientists who need to send information to and from unmanned research vehicles below the ocean’s surface.
He will head to his SMART placement facility, the Naval Oceanographic Office at Stennis Space Center in south Mississippi, after graduating in January 2012. He said he looks forward to continuing his study of ocean acoustics in that position.
Puterio already has considerable experience working at his SMART placement facility, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, R.I.
As a high schooler he participated in the facility’s summer camp, which involved building a miniature submarine and many other hands-on science projects. That experience led to a warfare center internship, in which he has participated during winter and summer breaks since his freshman year.
While his internship so far has involved testing software, writing users guides, and making Flash archives, the computer engineering major said he hopes to get involved with software development as his career progresses. The Kingston, R.I., native added that he looks forward to the vast variety of projects that working at such a large, technologically advanced facility will offer.
“When I was younger my dad would give me stuff to take apart and that probably influenced my affinity for engineering,” he said of his chosen field. “I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.”