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DoD Awards SMART Scholarship to Researcher with MSU’s Geosystems Research Institute

April 8, 2021

DoD awards Smart Scholarship to Meilun Zhou with MSU's GRI. Photo submitted.
Meilun Zhou, a GRI Research Associate, was awarded the Department of Defense Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation Scholarship.

This award provides graduate students full tuition for up to five years, summer internships, a stipend and after earning their graduate degree, full-time employment with the Department of Defense. This unique opportunity offers students hands-on experience at one of over 200 of the nation's most innovative laboratories across the Army, Navy, Air Force and larger Department of Defense.

During summer internships, SMART Scholars work directly with an experienced mentor, gaining valuable technical skills. Zhou began his undergraduate research experience with GRI and earned an undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering at Mississippi State in the Fall of 2020. He then was hired as a GRI research associate. Sathish Samiappan, an Assistant Research Professor with GRI, served as Zhou's undergraduate research advisor, and Samiappan is his current supervisor.

"After earning his Ph.D., Meilun will work at the Air Force Research Lab Space Vehicles Directorate in Kirtland AFB, NM," said Samiappan. "Last year, Meilun began working with us as a research associate developing deep learning models for automated classification of wildlife from drone collected imagery. The project is funded by the USDA."

Zhou earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering with a special focus in machine learning and remote sensing. Zhou said, "I'm honored to be a recipient of the scholarship and after earning my dotorate degree, I look forward to serving my country through conducting leading edge research with the United States Air Force Research Lab Space Vehicles Directorate.

Zhou is currently looking for a Ph.D. position that focuses on machine learning and AI research.

The Department of Defense is the largest employer of scientists and engineers in the nation with nearly 300,000 STEM professionals. For over a decade, SMART has trained a highly skilled STEM workforce that competes with the evolving trends of industry to support the next generation of science and technology for our nation.

For more information on the SMART Program or to learn how students can apply, please visit The application is open annually from August through December.

For more information about the Geosystems Research Institute, please visit