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NEWS | Feb. 9, 2021

NSWC Corona Scientist Awarded $300K Research Grant for Measurement Technology

By nathan fite, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona

A Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Corona Division scientist was awarded a $300,000 grant to help blast his research from a laboratory in the Inland Empire to all corners of the Department of Defense (DOD).

Dr. Joseph Fiordilino, a mathematician and scientist working on directed energy applications in NSWC Corona’s Measurement Science and Engineering Department, received funding for his grant proposal “Improving modeling and simulation and experiments to aid directed energy atmospheric measurements.”

The grant was awarded through the Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholar program, a DOD-funded science, technology, engineering and math program.

“I was very happy to receive this grant because this research is one of my top priorities and I really see the work as important to defense,” said Fiordilino. “I’m a firm believer that validation benefits modeling and simulation, and this will affect DOD test and evaluation as well as experimentation.”

Fiordilino said the funding will allow him to continue developing directed energy modeling and simulation code and validation data sets to meet new warfighter demands, which are evolving year over year.

“When you are working with directed energy applications or weaponry – let’s say lasers for example – you need to be able to measure their power and their performance with all environmental factors considered to know their true efficacy and lethality,” he said. “You need to make sure you get the right level of energy you want precisely at the target. We're going to be performing experiments in our high-energy laser metrology laboratory to build validation datasets and compare those against our measured directed energy outputs. We need to scientifically and mathematically prove that our applications are working well and as intended.”

Fiordilino said his research will help validate any high accuracy or high fidelity DOD laser or atmospheric propagation code, not just his own. This adds an extra layer of value to the project while also helping to develop better instrumentation and standards for use by the directed energy community.

“Ultimately, if you don’t have the validation datasets to compare the code against, you don’t know whether they’re predictive for the intended application,” he said. “That’s why the validation component is so critical.”

While working on various directed energy application projects, Fiordilino said he could perform verification but needed data sets for validation. Now, the plan is to develop his own data sets and eventually package them for distribution across the DOD.

“I love working here because I always feel incredibly supported as a scientist,” said Fiordilino. “When I pick my research topics, I’m always trying to think of how what I’m doing can benefit both the Navy and the Department of Defense as a whole. When it came to this research, my thought process was that we have technical expertise in measurement technology, so we may as well do some good experimentation and build the datasets we are going to need ourselves. Then, maybe we can save the rest of the DOD from reinventing the wheel.”

This work aligns to one of NSWC Corona’s primary missions, assuring the accuracy of measurements. The research will also support the establishment of measurement traceability to the International System of Units (SI) for DOD high-energy laser instruments.

Fiordilino received the award through the SMART Scholar Seed Grant Pilot Program (SEED). The program awards research grants up to $100,000 per year for up to a maximum of three years to help support promising SMART scholars establish foundational research or engineering effort in their area of interest as they transition from the pursuit of their doctorate degrees to active DOD professionals. The goal of SEED funding is not only to support scientific and technical research but to also grow and develop the scholars as working professionals.

“This grant will allow him to continue to pursue the kind of research that truly makes a difference in our military’s future,” said Technical Director Dianne Costlow. “His enthusiasm for the work he does and the results he delivers are directly in line with the kind of innovative culture we strive to foster at NSWC Corona. We are excited to see where his research takes him and are proud to have him on the team.”

Fiordilino applied for the SMART Scholar program in 2013 while pursuing his master’s degree in New Jersey. In 2014, he received news that he was accepted for a mathematics doctoral program and selected for the SMART scholarship program. Under SMART, he served as an intern with NSWC Corona over three summers while in college and was formally hired on as a scientist in 2018. The SMART program picked up the costs of his education while also ensuring he was hired by a sponsoring agency like NSWC Corona upon graduation.

“As a mathematician, I like to pick up new tools and techniques so that when I encounter a new problem, I have a variety to pull out of my toolbox,” said Fiordilino. “There’s a famous quote that says ‘If all you have is a hammer in your toolbox, everything looks like a nail.’ As far as science is concerned, I try to strive to have much more than just a hammer.”

For more information on the SMART Scholar program, visit

NSWC Corona Division has served as the Navy's independent assessment agent since 1964. With more than 3,800 engineers, scientists and support personnel, Sailors and contractors, NSWC Corona is located in Norco, California, with detachments in Fallbrook and Seal Beach and personnel in 14 additional locations. The Naval Sea Systems Command field activity provides transparency for warfighting readiness through data analytics and assessment, engineers the fleet’s Live Virtual Constructive training environment, and assures the accuracy of measurements as the engineering advisor for the Navy and Marine Corps metrology and calibration programs.