The Department of Defense (DoD) supports future scientists and engineers by making an investment in their education through the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarship program. In turn, students continue their research as employees at facilities such as the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport.
The SMART program provides scholarships in exchange for service in an effort to develop a highly skilled workforce at DoD facilities. SMART scholarships can be applied to undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees for students who excel in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Upon completion of the SMART program, students continue their research as civil service employees.
Dr. David Hague, a resident of Fall River, Massachusetts, who completed his doctorate in electrical engineering at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Dartmouth through the SMART program, is now fulfilling his SMART service commitment in Division Newport’s Sensors and Sonar Systems Department. In addition to his doctorate, Hague received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from UMass Dartmouth.
In 2009, when Hague was a graduate student, his advisor introduced him to the SMART program. His advisor’s grant was going to expire at the end of the year and Hague was looking for funding to finish his education. The idea of employment after graduation was also very important to him. He had just left a full-time position at Raytheon Technologies Corp. to pursue graduate school at a time when the job market was only slowly recovering from the 2008 economic downturn.
Because Hague was in the National Guard in the early 2000s — he served active duty in Afghanistan in 2002 and in Kosovo in 2006 — he already had a security clearance and was familiar with the military environment. Working for NUWC was an easy transition for him.
“The SMART program wasn’t going to send me anywhere dangerous,” Hague said.
After program orientation in Monterey, California, Hague continued with his research projects at UMASS Dartmouth. Originally, he was only planning to complete a master’s degree, but when he found out he could apply for a follow-on award that would pay for his doctorate, he re-applied.
“Being able to get my education without going into debt was a huge motivator,” said Hague. “I understand it was a lot of work and a tremendous undertaking. Getting a Ph.D. is already hard but taking on tremendous loan debt would have only made things more difficult. Having financial stability and the opportunity to apply my work was as good as I could possibly ask for.”
Hague’s field of study is acoustic signal processing with a specific focus on active sonar signal design. Since he began the SMART program and working at NUWC, he’s been the principle investigator for several significant research projects.
One project is the “Generalized Sinusoidal Frequency Modulated Waveform for High-Duty Cycle Active Sonar,” funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR). The goal was to apply novel waveforms to improve the ability of active sonar systems to revisit the target scene at a higher rate thereby improving detection, localization and tracking of targets of interest. Waveform designs were evaluated using experimental data obtained during the 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2020 littoral continuous active sonar (LCAS) experiments conducted in the Mediterranean Sea.
Division Newport funded Hague’s research of adaptive frequency modulation waveform design to develop the multi-tone sinusoidal frequency modulation waveform model. This waveform model possesses a discrete set of parameters that are adjusted to synthesize waveforms that are best suited to the environment and platform mission objectives.
Hague also contributed to various active sonar projects focused on transmit waveform design. These results are both theoretical and experimental in nature.
“My motivation for pursuing this line of work stemmed from my previous radar experience at Raytheon and my undergrad capstone project. In radar, transmit signal design is a very mature field, but many of these concepts have not yet been successfully applied to sonar,” Hague said. “As I was learning more about sonar, I just felt that if the physics of the underwater acoustic medium were carefully considered, then perhaps some of these radar signal design concepts could be successfully applied to sonar. In the last five years at NUWC, I’m starting to see that this may indeed be possible, so I’m cautiously optimistic about the future prospects of my research efforts here at NUWC.”
Dr. Elizabeth Magliula, director of Division Newport’s SMART program, said the program brings many benefits to the command.
“He has been a success story from the start — a great example of how the SMART program can attract top-notch students that want a career with the Navy,” Magliula said. “He has secured ONR In-House Laboratory Independent Research (ILIR) funding to pursue signal processing research, and has even started mentoring others in his branch.”
Recently, Magliula nominated Hague for the opportunity to be showcased at the 2020 SMART Symposium, which was supposed to be held this summer but was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Based on his nomination, Hague was one of the 578 current Phase 2 SMART scholars officially selected to showcase his technical achievements. The Director of Laboratories and Personnel for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense sent Hague a letter congratulating him on the important contributions he has been making to NUWC and the DoD.
“In terms of long-term career aspects, I’m clearly on the science and technology career path,” Hague said. “My goal for the next several years is to successfully apply my research to practical problems of interest for the Navy. It would be deeply satisfying to see my research go from ideas on the drawing board to something that is used and provides the Navy with a new technical capability. I think the ultimate long-term goal is to be a senior technologist (ST). STs are national technical experts in core Navy technical areas and through their efforts have the opportunity to profoundly shape the direction of future Navy technology and the research community at NUWC. It would be a terrific opportunity to serve in that role.”
Hague’s research can be found at: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=3HhIqIIAAAAJ&hl=en
More on the SMART program
The SMART program supports research in a variety of disciplines including chemical engineering; cognitive, neural, and behavioral sciences; biomedical engineering, biosciences, computer and computational sciences and computer engineering; electrical engineering; environmental sciences; geosciences; industrial and systems engineering; information sciences; materials science and engineering; mathematics; mechanical engineering; naval architecture and ocean engineering; nuclear engineering; oceanography; operations research; and physics. In addition to post-graduation employment, the SMART program provides full tuition and related educational expenses.
Individuals are “scholars” in the SMART Program for three phases: (1) academic phase, during which the scholar pursues their degree and attends a summer internship at their sponsoring facility; (2) post-graduation service phase, during which the scholar completes the post-graduation employment commitment with the DoD; and (3) the 10-year monitoring phase after completion of the post-graduation service requirement during which the program tracks the scholar’s employment status.
New SMART scholars are selected each year, and are sometimes referred to as “Phase 0” until they begin their academic pursuits as scholarship recipients as “Phase 1.” These scholars come to Division Newport for a one-day site visit (which will be virtual this year on June 17 because of the coronavirus pandemic) the summer they are selected. These scholars will then intern the following summer. Division Newport typically selects approximately seven new scholars per year, on average. This summer, Division Newport expected 11 interns before COVID-19 restrictions affected the program. In 2019, Division Newport hosted 10 SMART interns.
For more information on the program, visit: https://dodstem.us/stem-programs/scholarships
NUWC Division Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare.
NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Chad Hennings, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher’s Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.