Each year, the Department of Defense (DoD) invests in the best and brightest students across the nation. Their Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarship is a competitive award presented to those who distinguish themselves from peers in their study areas. Several students at Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Engineering have received this prestigious distinction, including Madeline Bataille and Tristan Norrgard. As DoD SMART Scholars, Bataille and Norrgard will receive full tuition to VCU for the rest of their undergraduate career, an annual stipend, summer internship and guaranteed employment after graduation.
Madeline Bataille, Biomedical Engineering
Bataille is a first-year biomedical engineering student from McLean, Virginia. She is active with the Honors College, Society of Women Engineers and is a precalculus teaching assistant. She credits VCU Engineering with changing her approach to academics. “My time at VCU has challenged me academically and has pushed me to grow in new ways,” says Bataille. “Through my engineering classes, I have learned how to understand concepts and explain them as opposed to simply memorizing terms.”
Curious about tissue engineering and device design, Bataille hopes her work at the DoD will be centered around developing biological instruments that will keep military personnel healthy and protected. Her current research at VCU Engineering includes working with David Chan, Ph.D., VCU mathematics professor, to mathematically model epileptic seizures. Bataille is also part of the Honors Summer Undergraduate Research Program where she is studying non-alcoholic fatty liver disease with Huiping Zhou, Ph.D., microbiology and immunology professor.
Tristan Norrgard, Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering
Norrgard is a second-year mechanical and nuclear engineering student from Chesterfield, Virginia who plans to specialize in nuclear engineering. His interest in mechanical engineering began at his grandfather’s woodworking shop where Norrgard learned to use basic crafting tools and came to appreciate how things were assembled. He is involved with the VCU chapter of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) and is the incoming co-outreach chair. Norrgard also recently completed his role as a mentor with the VCU Emerging Leaders Program. At VCU Engineering, he has worked and volunteered with research focused on accident-tolerant nuclear fuels with Jessika Rojas, Ph.D.; Carlos Castano, Ph.D.; Braden Goddard, Ph.D. and Reza Mohammadi, Ph.D..
Before joining VCU Engineering, a passion for music led Norrgard to performance art, however, his natural aptitude for mathematics brought Norrgard back to the engineering field.
“The ability to get a concentration in nuclear energy attracted me to my degree path here at VCU,” said Norrgard, “I support green energy initiatives and I believe nuclear energy is our way to a carbon-free future.” Upon graduating, Norrgard will work at the DoD Defense Intelligence Agency where he will focus on nuclear technology, specifically counter proliferation which involves reducing the threat and lasting impact of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
Editor's note: Lars Axberg, a mechanical engineering sophomore, has also been named as a DoD SMART scholar. Read his story here.