Department of Defense - College of Engineering & Natural Sciences

Department of Defense

Computer science major awarded Department of Defense scholarship

Man in blue button up shirt posing for a headshot in front of a book shelf
Zachary Gaskins

Computer science major Zachary Gaskins has been awarded a Department of Defense (DOD) Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarship. This highly selective award will allow him to finish his education free of financial worry as it provides full tuition plus an annual stipend to cover the cost of educational expenses. “I’ve always wanted a scholarship like this,” said Gaskins; “I originally looked into the Cyber Corps Scholarship Program at TU, but found that my interests lie more with software development than cyber security.”

The SMART scholarship also provides a guaranteed yearly summer internship starting in 2023 at Tinker Airforce Base, Gaskins’ sponsoring DOD facility, which is located near Oklahoma City. Gaskins says that the internship will give him the hands-on experience he needs in order to better decide on the areas of study he would like to focus on back at The University of Tulsa. In addition, the scholarship guarantees a job at Tinker Airforce Base once Gaskins is ready to begin his career. Until then, Gaskins is working hard to finish his degree and pursue an all-expenses-paid graduate degree in computer science, thanks to yet another perk of the SMART scholarship.

A thorough education

After completing high school in Bristow in 2019, Gaskins enrolled at the Oklahoma State University Institution of Technology (OSUIT), where he received his associate of applied technology degree in 2021. While at OSUIT, Gaskins volunteered through the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and work-studied at the campus food pantry, Pete’s Pantry. He enjoyed his courses in information technology, but Gaskins ultimately decided the curriculum was not as in-depth as he wanted. As a result, he transferred to TU in the fall of 2021 in search of a thorough academic experience. Gaskins aims to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in 2024.

At TU, Gaskins has received unwavering support from Assistant Professor Vidhyashree Nagaraju, who first introduced him to the SMART scholarship and wrote one of his recommendation letters. “Zach’s accomplishment is the result of his high aspirations and his dedication to achieving the goals he set for himself,” said Nagaraju. “He is the first member of his family to work towards a graduate degree and I am confident he will continue to realize success in his academic journey. I am also certain Zach will inspire future generations and lead his fellow TU colleagues to aspire to similar outstanding achievements.”

Are you interested in a fascinating, well-paying job in the computer science and information technology industry? Then check out the Tandy School of Computer Science today to see all the great learning and career pathways!

TU receives more than $1M in DoD funding

roger maillerThe University of Tulsa will soon improve its interdisciplinary research and training with a new Department of Defense award received by Associate Professor of Computer Science Roger Mailler. The Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) award, totaling more than $1 million, will allow faculty working in neuroscience to purchase a state-of-the-art scanning confocal microscope that can provide a clearer picture of individual neurons.

“The system will be used like an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), similar to the one used to study humans,” Mailler said. “Instead of measuring how a nervous system produces behavior on a scale of tens of thousands of neurons, this system does it on the scale of individual neurons.”

The microscope will be used to reverse engineer the nervous system of roundworms in ongoing research titled “Choosing a Direction: Neural Models of Decision Making.” In this study, Mailler and a group of TU scientists will investigate how these creatures regulate their speed and direction. Roundworms, or specifically Caenorhabditis elegans, exhibit qualities of autonomy and adaptability. Researchers in this project hope that it will be a stepping stone toward developing advanced, adaptive machines that can recognize and respond to the outside world, also known as intelligent systems.

According to Mailler, “The technology is the most sophisticated technique available, relying on the fusion of genetic engineering, cutting-edge optics and advanced image processing and data analysis.”

The technology can essentially analyze individual neurons and reverse engineer nervous systems using light. This empowers more than just current research projects, but also opens the door to pioneering discoveries in multiple disciplines.

In addition to the benefits to TU researchers, it also affords students the opportunity to train on cutting-edge technology that will set them apart in science, technology, engineering and math fields. This award opens access to one-of-a-kind tools exceeding anything available in the southcentral United States, distinguishing TU as a True Blue institution for faculty and student-researchers alike.