Award Recipients

WID Scholar Award Winners

Since 1988, Women In Defense has awarded over $1,000,000 to 209 deserving recipients pursuing education toward a career in national security. 

2023 - 2024 Academic Year

Stephanie Andress

Stephanie Andress completed a B.S. and M.S. at Purdue University in mechanical engineering and began a Ph.D. in the same program in 2022. Her research interests revolve around material characterization and fabrication with a focus on additively manufactured energetic materials. Specifically, her work involves characterizing the mechanical properties of these materials to better understand their behavior under different conditions while also working to making the research and production process more environmentally friendly and safer. With funding from SERDP and DEVCOM-ARL, she has been able to pursue her research goals while contributing to the advancement of defense research.

Paige Berg

Paige Berg received her bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Missouri University of Science and Technology. She completed her master’s degree in aerospace systems engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) before beginning her PhD in the same program. As a graduate research assistant, Paige has led ground testing for various small scale solid and liquid propulsion systems at the UAH Propulsion Research Center. Her research focus is characterizing different fuels for solid fuel ramjets by determining regression rates and combustion products. Paige received a Women In Defense Tennessee Valley Chapter Scholarship in 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 academic years.

Noopur Bhatt

Noopur Bhatt is a first-year computer science master’s student at Columbia University, specializing in security with a clear objective of obtaining her Ph.D. She recently completed her bachelor's degree in computer science at Georgia Tech with highest honors. Her interest lies in pursuing research at the intersection of security, software engineering, and machine learning. Recognizing the significance of technology in national security, Noopur is determined to make valuable contributions in this field. Moreover, she possesses an entrepreneurial mindset, aiming to leverage her expertise and innovative ideas to create solutions with real-world impact.

Kerry Candlen

Kerry Candlen is a PhD candidate in plastics engineering at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) participant at The Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center (DEVCOM SC) in Natick, MA. Her work largely focuses on sustainable solutions for the Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) ration packaging, including biodegradable, biobased, recycled, and edible film materials research, as well as reduced packaging efforts. Additional research includes studying the interaction between microplastics and aquatic environments to better understand their fate with the goal of better protecting global water sources.

Michaela Hemming

Michaela Hemming is a PhD candidate in aerospace engineering at The University of Alabama in Huntsville under the advisement of Dr. Gabe Xu in the Plasma and Electrodynamics Research Lab. She is a NASA Space Technology Graduate Opportunities (NSTGRO) Fellow conducting research on injector performance and recovery of multiphase propellants in a rotating detonation rocket engine (RDRE). She is also the Technical Development Chair for the national chapter of Women in Aeronautics and Astronautics and serves on the Outreach Committee for her local Greater Huntsville Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Alexia Hernandez

Alexia Hernandez is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Geospatial Information Sciences (GIS) from the University of Maryland (UMD) while working as a Graduate Research Assistant at UMD’s Applied Research Laboratory for Intelligence and Security (ARLIS). She graduated from UMD with a bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice and two minors in technology entrepreneurship and GIS. As an undergraduate, she completed internships at ARLIS (supporting the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency), the Department of Justice, and NASA through their DEVELOP National Program. This summer, she will join Esri as a Solution Engineer intern to continue expanding her geospatial analysis skills.

Montgomery Smith

Montgomery Smith is a third-year PhD candidate in chemical engineering at Purdue University. Montgomery has worked in partnership with DARPA, Leidos, BAE Systems, Purdue Energetics Research Center (PERC), and the U.S. Army throughout her doctoral career, identifying industry-wide challenges in energetics manufacturing. As a result, she has spent three years researching the crystallization process control and design of energetic materials manufacturing to help improve efficiency, accuracy, and serve her country through science and engineering.

Jesse Tobin

Jesse Tobin is an energetics formulator at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division - China Lake. Jesse earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Reed College in 2009, and her master’s degree in explosives engineering from New Mexico Tech in 2014. She has worked in R&D at China Lake for nearly nine years, primarily focusing on developing state-of-the-art energetic formulations. In August 2023, she will attend South Dakota School of Mines in the Materials Engineering and Science PhD program. The focus of her research will be on the role of surface chemistry in developing new materials.

Jiselle Thornby

Jiselle Thornby is a rising fourth-year doctoral student in Chemical Engineering at Purdue in West Lafayette, IN. Funded by DEVCOM-ARL, she studies the additive manufacturing (3D-printing) of energetic materials, especially next-generation gun propellant systems, for defense and national security applications. Thornby’s work extends into the synthesis, deposition, combustion, and functionality of printable energetic materials. She has international research experience (Leeds, England) and is working toward her fourth journal publication. Jiselle is a first-generation student from Devils Lake, ND. She holds two chemical engineering degrees, B.S. (summa cum laude) and M.S., from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

Award Recipients