Engineering doctoral student receives U.S. Department of Defense scholarship


By Tessa M. Pick

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Sierra Yost, a first-year doctoral student in chemical engineering at Penn State, has been awarded the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship.

This scholarship will fund Yost’s education for up to five years and provide opportunities for summer internships, a stipend and full-time employment with the DOD after graduation.

“This scholarship means everything to me,” Yost said. “My grandfather, who is one of my heroes, was a Vietnam veteran and to give back to my country as a civilian working in the Department of Defense seems like something that would have made him very proud.”

Since launching in 2005, the SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program has awarded more than 3,000 SMART scholarships and supported more than 2,000 graduates from 409 universities as they begin their professional careers. The program provides students with the opportunity to gain technical skills while also supporting the mission of the DOD by employing the students at one of more than 200 national laboratories.

Yost will intern at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine every summer until graduation and obtain a full-time position there after graduation. While working at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, she will conduct materials research with an emphasis on quality assurance. This closely relates to her current research at Penn State on increasing the capabilities of advanced manufacturing using functional polymers. Her research specifically focuses on the marriage of polymer chemistry and fundamental polymer processing to advance the performance of 3D printing of plastics for additive manufacturing. Yost is co-advised by Bryan Vogt, professor of chemical engineering, and Christian Pester, Thomas K. Hepler Early Career Professor of Chemical Engineering.

“Penn State was very helpful in the scholarship application process, and the work I do in the lab now will be paramount when I work for the Department of Defense,” Yost said.

Yost graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Maine in 2020, where she earned the title of the College of Engineering’s valedictorian.

“I am really looking forward to moving back to my home state of Maine to work in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard,” Yost said. “I also am very excited to do what I can to help the Department of Defense as a civilian.”


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Megan Lakatos