In 2016, Warren Kadoya was finishing up his master’s at the University of Arizona in Tucson — looking for a job and aspiring to continue his education by pursing a doctorate in environmental engineering ― when his advisors encouraged him to apply to the Department of Defense’s (DoD) SMART Scholarship program. Kadoya was selected for the program by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) in Hanover, New Hampshire, and the experience enabled him to continue his education while simultaneously working in his field of study.
The Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship-for-Service Program, funded by the DoD, is a combined educational and workforce development opportunity for STEM students. The program enhances the DoD civilian workforce with innovative scientists, engineers and researchers across the United States, creating highly skilled professionals that compete with the dynamic trends in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to protect national security.
When applying for the program, Kadoya was able to select three federal facilities out of a list that were looking for someone with his skills and knowledge. Through that search, Kadoya was able to find CRREL, and CRREL was able to find Kadoya.
“I was just searching for people doing environmental work and something that fit my background,” said Kadoya. “My research was looking at insensitive munitions residues, and that was very much in line with the work that CRREL is doing.”
He says it has been great being able to work on meaningful projects that are directly lined up with his passion of environmental sustainability and discovering new methods of cleaning up contaminated areas. The work is relevant to his master’s and doctoral degree programs. He is also appreciative that CRREL has given him access to work on projects that may not directly relate to his degrees but that do fall in line with his passions.
“It's been really nice to use what I have studied,” said Kadoya. “It's very relevant to the work I'm doing now. Initially, even before my undergrad, I was interested in renewable energy and global warming and these kinds of issues.”
Part of Kadoya’s work involves researching interactions where munitions are deposited, such as incomplete detonations on firing ranges. Kadoya says there’s a lot of concerns about the fate and transport of these oftentimes toxic compounds and their interactions with soil minerals, acids and different constituents that are occurring in the environment. Fate and transport analysis is the study of how chemicals degrade and where chemicals travel in the environment when they are released intentionally or unintentionally.
“I'm looking at transformation in sunlight and in simulated sunlight conditions that ultimately can inform models for fate and transport,” said Kadoya.
His mentor at CRREL has also been assisting him in developing a proposal looking at the chemical breakdown of polyethylene terephthalate products into component chemicals to be able to reuse them and close the plastics loop. Closed loop recycling is when plastic is reprocessed and the recycled material produced is used to manufacture another product in the same product category.
Kadoya says that the SMART Scholarship program truly enabled him to find his best self, and he is thrilled that the program brought him to CRREL, because at CRREL, he has been empowered to go after his passions and explore new avenues of research into other fields of study.
“It’s been exciting,” said Kadoya. “There's a lot of opportunities if you're interested in different areas. I think it's really cool that I have the support of my branch chief to make my own research program the way I want.”