The Pentagon's Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship will provide Deborah Goshorn with a 'full ride' during the 2005-'06 academic year as she finishes her Master's degree in electrical engineering -- with a focus on digital signal processing -- at UCSD's Jacobs School of Engineering. The SMART program was established by law to promote the education, recruitment and retention of rising junior and senior undergraduate and graduate students in science, math and engineering. The DoD program is organized by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).
The commitment to work for the U.S. Navy was an easy call for Goshorn, because she is already on the payroll. Last summer she was one of eleven Jacobs School students selected for internships at the Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Command Systems Center in San Diego. "The project I was working on happens to be a crucial one for the Navy," said Goshorn. "So even though my internship ended, I was hired part-time and have been working there throughout the school year as a student contractor."
SPAWAR has already indicated that it wants to hire Goshorn full-time after she receives her Master's degree next summer, and the agency is willing to task her with a project that will mesh well with her Ph.D. work. "I plan to do my Ph.D. in mathematics with an emphasis on statistics related to digital signal processing," said Goshorn. "I just talked with one of my bosses and he says that they have a lot of projects about statistics coming up, so I won't have any problem finding one that fits my interests."
While other girls who did well in math in high school have historically drifted away from math or engineering in college, Goshorn embraced both, thanks in part to her family. "My Dad is an engineer and has had a big influence on me," she said. "I think I inherited a lot of his genes, and I grew up not thinking it was strange for a girl to be an engineer, because my sister was an engineer."
"We all see the value in UCSD and especially in the Jacobs School of Engineering," she added. "Between us we will have nine degrees from the Jacobs School alone! And in the end our family of eight will finish our educations with 27 or 28 academic degrees."
Deborah herself has been studying at UCSD since she was 14 years old, when she began taking college-level calculus while still a freshman in high school. At UCSD, she did a double major in computer engineering and applied mathematics. "My Dad always says the guy with the most math wins," recalled Goshorn. "I did applied mathematics because I'm not really into the abstract math, and I did computer engineering because I knew that to be a great engineer today, you really need the programming background."
Goshorn expects to continue her research at SPAWAR even after she gets her Ph.D., but some day she also wants to teach engineering or math at the college level. "I know it's a strong desire for me to be a professor, but I don't know when the door will open," she said. "My long-range job aspiration is to continue serving our country's U.S. Navy fleet, and teach at the same time."
Last summer, Goshorn was one of three UCSD students invited to represent SPAWAR at the 2004 Naval-Industry Research & Development Partnership Conference in Washington D.C. "It was a pretty big deal and very exciting to speak with so many senior officials," she recalled. "I feel blessed to be working on national security technologies at a time when homeland security has become such a major priority for the country." It was during that conference that Goshorn was approached by a SMART official and encouraged to apply for the new scholarship.
"I think a lot of girls have a lie in their head that math is too hard for them, but it's really not," continued Goshorn. "You just need a lot of encouragement, and I got that from my family."
Goshorn is a member of the Tau Beta Pi engineering honors society at UCSD, and occasionally spoke to young girls about careers in science, math and engineering. "If you like math, then you'll really love physics, and then you'll really love engineering, because engineering is really applied, applied mathematics," she said, paraphrasing her advice to girls -- and boys -- in high school. "I think that if you really like to know how things work, then you really have the mindset of an engineer."