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DOD SMART 2021 Scholar and Mentor of the Year Awards
by Maison Piedfort, Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific
March 1, 2022

Four Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific employees were recognized by the Department of Defense Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship-for-Service Program for their achievements in the pursuit of their SMART-sponsored degree.

Out of the six awardees for fiscal year 2021, two-thirds are NIWC Pacific employees: scholars Dr. Regina Guazzo and Khaldoon Ishmael; and mentors Dr. Tyler Helble and Dr. Richard Ordoñez.

November 1, 2021 - Dr. Richard Ordoñez (right), electrical engineer at Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific in Hawaii, poses with Khaldoon Ishmael, electrical engineering student at University of Hawaii at Manoa and intern at NIWC Pacific. Ishmael is a Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholar and Ordoñez is his mentor; they are two of four fiscal year 2021 Scholar and Mentor of the Year awardees from NIWC Pacific. (Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific courtesy photo)
November 1, 2021 - Dr. Richard Ordoñez (right), electrical engineer at Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific in Hawaii, poses with Khaldoon Ishmael, electrical engineering student at University of Hawaii at Manoa and intern at NIWC Pacific. Ishmael is a Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholar and Ordoñez is his mentor; they are two of four fiscal year 2021 Scholar and Mentor of the Year awardees from NIWC Pacific. (Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific courtesy photo)

Awardees were recognized by senior DoD leadership in a virtual ceremony during February 2022 at which awardees will have the opportunity to discuss their work through the SMART program with the DoD technical community and other SMART scholars.

“I am constantly impressed by the quality of the SMART scholars and their mentors,” said NIWC Pacific Executive Director Bill Bonwit. “Our highly technical mission demands that our team includes some of the country’s best and brightest, and the SMART scholars and their mentors have been key contributors to growing that team. I look forward to NIWC Pacific’s continued participation in this valuable program.”

The awards recognize SMART scholar and mentor pairs throughout the three phases of the SMART program: “Phase 1” scholars are pursuing their SMART-sponsored degree; “Phase 2” scholars are working at a DoD facility as part of their employment commitment; and “Phase 3” scholars are seasoned DoD science and technology professionals post-service commitment.

Dr. Regina Guazzo, a Phase 2 awardee, and her mentor Dr. Tyler Helble, a Phase 3 scholar, have been recognized by the SMART program for their partnership in Guazzo’s contributions to ocean acoustics. Her research in whale populations and behaviors is helping the Navy assess and quantify the environmental impact of its acoustic systems. Guazzo was recently awarded a SMART Scholar Seed Grant (SEED) to further her research on the environmental impacts of low-frequency sonars.

“When I was a Ph.D. student, Tyler treated me like a colleague instead of like a student,” Guazzo said. “Collaborating together at NIWC Pacific has been so much fun as we have gotten to use the Navy's data to ask really cool questions about whale behavior, which allows the Navy to continue to be good stewards of the ocean.”

Both Guazzo and Helble are oceanographers working under NIWC Pacific’s Environmental Readiness Program.

Khaldoon Ishmael, a Phase 1 awardee, and his mentor Dr. Richard Ordoñez, a seasoned SMART mentor, are teaming with military end users to remotely monitor human vital signs in operational environments.

“My mentor provided me with unique opportunities to align my academic research with current military requirements,” said Ishmael. “My current trajectory is to complete my research that will advance the DoD's radiofrequency and millimeter wave biosensor technology areas.”

Ishmael is a former Army combat interpreter and is currently pursuing a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Hawaii at Manoa while working as an intern at NIWC Pacific. Ordoñez is an electrical engineer; both work at NIWC Pacific’s Hawaii location.

SMART is a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-focused scholarship-for-service-program and the largest education and workforce initiative under DoD STEM, the Department’s comprehensive K-20 STEM education and talent development effort. SMART sponsors undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral study in 21 academic disciplines critical to national security and the future of the DoD by providing full tuition, a generous stipend, summer internships, and guaranteed employment at a DoD laboratory or agency.

In return, scholars commit to a one-for-one employment commitment at their DoD sponsoring facility after obtaining their degree. Since its inception in 2006, the program has awarded more than 3,700 scholarships.

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NIWC Pacific’s mission is to conduct research, development, engineering, and support of integrated command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, cyber, and space systems across all warfighting domains, and to rapidly prototype, conduct test and evaluation, and provide acquisition, installation, and in-service engineering support.

SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program | Naval Information Warfare Center | U.S. Department of Defense

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