Johns Hopkins Gazette | May 18, 2009
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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University May 18, 2009 | Vol. 38 No. 35
Sophomore Awarded Competitive Defense Department Scholarship

Justin Stahl
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

By Lisa De Nike

Justin Stahl, a 20-year-old sophomore studying cognitive science, has become the first Johns Hopkins University student to be awarded a highly competitive SMART Scholarship through the United States Department of Defense.

An integral part of the National Defense Education Program, the Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation program supports the education of America's future scientists and engineers by offering scholarships to students who have excelled in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Justin Stahl, of Oceanside, N.Y., is one of about 200 undergraduates nationwide selected this year for the scholarship, which will underwrite his tuition for the next two years and provide him with a generous stipend to cover his cost of living. The scholarship will also guarantee employment for two years post-graduation at the White Sands Missile Range, hailed as the "birthplace of America's Missile and Space Activity."

"I am incredibly honored to have been selected as a SMART recipient and feel that I have much to offer and contribute to the Department of Defense enterprise," said Stahl, who spent his spring semester as an Aitchison Public Service Fellow in Government at SAIS. "I sought out this [Defense Department] opportunity because it presents an incredible way to harness my education such that I may tackle a myriad of 21st-century concerns, one of which is helping the modern soldier acquire novel skills, multitask and improve overall combat performance through an advanced understanding of the limits of human cognition."

Following graduation in May 2011, Stahl will be employed at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Analysis Center at the White Sands Missile Range, located in New Mexico. His responsibilities will include conducting, supervising, reviewing and evaluating cognitive, neural and behavioral research as well as using his cognitive science background to assist in training soldiers in areas such as the resolution of battle command issues and testing future combat models.

Stahl says he is particularly excited because his position will provide him with the opportunity to apply cognitive research "to serve the public interest," a path he has already begun to follow. During an internship last summer at Yale University's Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, Stahl studied the neuroscience of moral decision making, research that was later published in Cornell University's Ivy Journal of Ethics. In March, he was invited to present a lecture at George Washington University on the evolution, sociobiology and neuroscience of morals. This semester, he spent 20 hours a week at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies in Washington, D.C., where he researched the "framing" process behind these emerging technologies.

"Being a SMART Scholar at Johns Hopkins University is really a dream come true," he said. "After all, what could possibly be more exciting than obtaining an education at one of the world's leading research institutions and knowing that it will eventually be applied to address America's most critical security interests?"


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