Two students in aerospace engineering selected to DoD SMART cohort

Published: Mar 17, 2023 8:00 AM

By Joe McAdory

Two students in aerospace engineering, doctoral candidate Cody Shelton and junior Megan Hayes, were among two of 10 scholars nationwide chosen for the 2023 Summer Department of Defense Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (DoD SMART) International Internship Cohort. Through this program, they will conduct advanced research at the von Karman Institute (VKI) for Fluid Dynamics in Sint-Genesius-Rode, Belgium.

VKI is a non-profit international educational and scientific organization for fluid dynamics. Established in October 1956, the institute hosts three departments: aeronautics and aerospace, environmental and applied fluid dynamics, and turbomachinery and propulsion. Extensive research on experimental, computational, and theoretical aspects of gas and liquid flows is carried out at VKI under the direction of numerous faculty and research engineers who are sponsored by governmental and international agencies as well as industries. Students involved in these programs are typically recipients of prestigious grants.

“This internship provides me, and other SMART scholars, the opportunity to spend the summer at an internationally renowned institute, working alongside scientists and engineers conducting aeronautics and aerospace, environmental and applied fluid dynamics, turbomachinery and propulsion and more,” said Shelton. “Ultimately, this exposure will enable me to better understand scientific cooperation between the U.S. and Europe in an emerging technology field.”

Hayes, a third-generation Auburn Engineering student (father, John Hayes, 1995 B.S. chemistry and 2000 B.S. chemical engineering, and grandfather, Monroe Howard Hayes, 1966 B.S. mechanical engineering) plans on using her time at VKI immersing herself in experimental hypersonics research.

“This aligns with the research areas I will be working in at the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center upon graduation,” said Hayes, whose mother also earned an Auburn University degree (1996 B.S. animal science, 1998 M.S. horticulture). “Working at VKI will help me prepare for my career, as well as let me apply what I am learning at Auburn to real-world scenarios. Right now, I am taking aerodynamics II, which is all about the study of supersonic flows. As soon as I finish that class, I’ll get to go to VKI and apply what I've learned right away.

“The internship at VKI is of value professionally because of the relationships I will form and the research I will contribute to. Belgium is an ally to the U.S. This internship will help me understand our research collaborations with partner countries on an international scale.”

Participation in this unique research environment contributes to a scholar’s ability to consider his or her research objectives on national and global scales.

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 educational 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.

A native of Austin, Texas, Shelton received his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M in 2019 and his master’s degree from Auburn University in 2020, both in aerospace engineering. Further, he is pursuing a master’s degree in applied mathematics and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering by advancing acoustic instability theory and applying it to swirl-driven rocket engines.

Shelton is a lead member of Professor and Francis Chair of Excellence Joe Majdalani’s Advanced Propulsion Research Lab. His lab focuses on improving the performance and stability of rocket systems. 

In addition to the 2022 DoD SMART Scholarship and VKI internship, Shelton was selected for the 2019-2022 Walt and Virginia Woltosz Fellowship from the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, as well as both the 2022 H. Merriwether Fellowship and 2021 First-Year Experience Mentorship Award from the Graduate School. He has also been recipient of the 2021 Naval Horizons Award conferred by the Navy through the American Society of Engineering Education.

“For me, a dream career combines research, teaching, and mentoring in some capacity,” said Shelton. “After fulfilling the obligations to DoD SMART, I plan to continue to serve our nation through providing engineering research in DoD laboratory environments. At some point, I plan to pursue a professorship in aerospace engineering to help lead our next generation of engineers. Auburn has given me the necessary tools to accomplish these tasks and I am very thankful for this opportunity.”  

Shelton and Hayes agree that engineering education at Auburn was vital toward their success.

“Through Auburn Engineering, I have had the opportunity to diversify both my interests and skill set through countless leadership, outreach, and research opportunities,” Shelton said. “I have been given the freedom to explore complex research problems and methods that have heightened my own problem-solving ability. This bodes well for future challenges, which I will be delighted to tackle whenever they arise.”

Hayes, a native of West Richland, Washington, said being pushed “beyond my comfort zone” plays a big role toward career preparation.

“Classes push the boundaries of what I think I am capable of achieving,” she said. “I finish every semester more confident in myself and my abilities as an engineer. Additionally, I’ve grown through the participation of clubs and organizations. I’ve participated in the Auburn University Small Satellite Program and Auburn Rocketry Certification Club, and through those programs gained a lot of technical experience that I wouldn’t have otherwise, as well as practice contributing to a team in a ‘workplace-like’ setting.

“Lastly, Auburn has prepared me for my future by providing resources for professional development. I’ve attended career coaching sessions, interview preparation meetings, semester-long courses like InternReady, and career fairs. These resources have prepared me practically for the next steps after graduation, and act as a bridge between what I learn in class and my future.”

Media Contact: Joe McAdory,, 334.844.3447
Cody Shelton, left, and Megan Hayes will conduct advanced research this summer at the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics in Sint-Genesius-Rode, Belgium.

Cody Shelton, left, and Megan Hayes will conduct advanced research this summer at the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics in Sint-Genesius-Rode, Belgium.

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