Graduate Students Receive Prestigious NDSEG Fellowship

Two graduate students in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department, Mohammad Shahili and Benjamin Domae, have been selected to receive the prestigious Department of Defense (DoD) National Defense and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship.

Awardees receive a competitive package lasting for three years that pays for their tuition and fees, as well as includes a monthly stipend, a travel budget to encourage the Fellow’s professional development, and a mentor, among other perks.

The fellowship program was established in 1989 in order to inspire United States citizens to pursue training in “science and engineering disciplines of military importance.” The program was spearheaded by Congress and is sponsored by the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force, with a goal of encouraging awardees to pursue doctoral degrees in specific disciplines.

Shahili and Domae, both of whom received awards within the Electrical Engineering discipline, have plans to exemplify the goals and purpose of the fellowship. Shahili, who is currently an M.S. candidate and will progress to his Ph.D. program this fall, plans to use the fellowship to fund his research in novel materials for Terahertz Quantum Cascade Lasers and to pursue his Ph.D. He said of his pursuit of a doctoral degree, “It has always been my aspiration to pursue a Ph.D. that extends the frontiers of knowledge and addresses longstanding problems, and this fellowship just got me a step closer to realizing that goal.” 

Domae, who is also pursuing his Ph.D., noted that the Fellowship will allow him to be able to shift his focus from being a TA to developing his research, an area in which he believes the given mentor will be able to guide him: “I’m hopeful this additional mentor’s perspective will help me advance my research in new directions.”

While one of the program’s goals is to motivate the general population to pursue science and engineering fields, Shahili and Domae have known for some time that they were interested in STEM. Shahili remembers being “curious about how different things function” since his childhood, and eventually gaining interest in electronics. He eventually decided to major in Electrical Engineering because it combines his favorite subjects, and would like to use that knowledge to “commercialize the high performing THz QCLs that I design.”

Domae’s interest in engineering was sparked by high school robotics competitions, and was later propelled into electrical engineering after joining the ELFIN CubeSat lab as an undergraduate student at UCLA. Now, the fellowship will help him continue with his goals to “work in research and development” within the industry. 

Since the program’s genesis, over 4,000 NDSEG fellowships have been granted out of 60,000 applications, all with the goal of encouraging students like Shahili and Domae to continue pursuing their passions within science and engineering. While these fields are arguably demanding, Shahili hopes that students won’t let the hardships prevent themselves from pursuing arduous disciplines such as electrical engineering: “If you encounter difficulties in your path to realizing your dreams, cherish them and know that the more you are pushed, the higher you will go in life.”