Aerospace engineering students awarded prestigious SMART scholarships

Published: Apr 15, 2022 12:00 PM

By Joe McAdory

Two graduate students in aerospace engineering, Cody Shelton and Nick Nurre, were awarded prestigious Department of Defense Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarships.

Shelton, a third-year doctoral student from Austin, Texas, will work for two and a half years – then have guaranteed employment after graduation — at the U.S. Army Engineering Research and Development Center’s Coastal Hydraulics Laboratory in Vicksburg, Miss.

Nurre, a first-year doctoral student from Huntsville, Ala., will work four summers – and four years beyond graduation — at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency’s Missile and Space Intelligence Center at Redstone Arsenal, near his hometown.

SMART scholarships provide students with full tuition for up to five years, mentorship, summer internships, a stipend and full-time employment with the Department of Defense after graduation. This unique opportunity offers students hands-on experience at one of more than 200 innovative laboratories across the Army, Navy, Air Force, and larger Department of Defense. During summer internships, SMART scholars work directly with experienced mentors, gaining valuable technical skills.

“I was absolutely thrilled when I saw the email,” said Shelton, an active researcher in thermoacoustics and combustion instability in Dr. Joe Majdalani’s Advanced Propulsion Research Lab.  “This is a tremendous honor – helping the Department of Defense protect our nation.

“In Vicksburg, we’ll be solving several interesting problems related to shallow water phenomena. Essentially, we will be developing advanced high-performance codes for the treatment of a variety of coastal engineering applications.”

Nurre, who earned his undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering from Auburn, studies trajectory optimization of space and atmospheric vehicles in Dr. Ehsan Taheri’s Aero-Astro Computational and Experimental (ACE) Lab. He will follow his passion in Huntsville.

“I’ve essentially got a guaranteed eight-year deal here. That’s super job security, and more importantly, an opportunity to serve my nation. I have to admit that I’m still in shock,” said Nurre. “I’m very excited about this opportunity. I’m not quite sure exactly what I’ll be doing yet, but if I had to guess it will probably be related to guidance and control of missiles.”

Both credited Auburn University’s aerospace engineering program for preparing them for this important next step.

“Auburn has provided me with numerous leadership, outreach, and research opportunities,” said Shelton, who co-authored the paper, “Different Perspectives on predicting the thermoacoustic energy conversation response in a Rijke tube” with Majdalani. “Through these opportunities, I have learned how to sharpen and apply several powerful tools while expanding my engineering toolbox.”

“Auburn pushes these opportunities to students, provides the support to apply for these opportunities, and offers recommendation letters from faculty,” Nurre said. “We’ve also been able to reach out to other students who were able to share in their experiences with this program.”  Nick has already been the leading author of two conference papers with Taheri on the topic of spacecraft trajectory optimization using electric propulsion systems.

The Department of Defense is committed to developing the Nation's STEM talent and is the largest employer of federal scientists and engineers with nearly 150,000 civilian STEM employees working across the Department. DoD STEM activities support this mission by providing authentic learning experiences through a variety of education and outreach initiatives, such as the SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program. For more than a decade, SMART has trained a highly skilled STEM workforce that competes with the evolving trends of industry to support the next generation developments in science and technology for the nation.

Media Contact: Joe McAdory,, 334.844.3447
From left, aerospace engineering professor Joe Majdalani with SMART scholarship recipients Cody Shelton and Nick Nurre, and aerospace engineering professor Ehsan Taheri.

From left, aerospace engineering professor Joe Majdalani with SMART scholarship recipients Cody Shelton and Nick Nurre, and aerospace engineering professor Ehsan Taheri.

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