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NEWS | Nov. 10, 2022

NSWCPD’s Thiago Szymanski Awarded SMART Scholar SEED Grant for Fiscal Year 2023

By Joseph Fontanazza

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division Research Electrical Engineer Dr. Thiago Szymanski was recently announced as a recipient of the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholar SEED Grant for Fiscal Year 2023.

Per a Department of Defense (DoD) press release, “The SMART Scholar SEED Grant program aims to develop a cadre of future DoD subject matter experts who will conduct high-impact research at SMART sponsoring facilities. It provides opportunities for scholars who have pursued PhDs through the SMART program to deepen their expertise in targeted, strategically important STEM areas, allowing them to lead their own research efforts while receiving valuable mentoring within their sponsoring facilities.”

Szymanski joined the SMART Scholarship Program while he was a Center for Advanced Power Systems (CAPS) member and a doctoral graduate student at Florida State University (FSU). He brought his exemplary work to NSWCPD full-time in 2021 and has exceeded decision-makers’ expectations before receiving the SEED Grant for Fiscal Year 2023.

“It feels great to be recognized for my work. What first attracted me to the SMART program is that I saw it as an opportunity to invest in my future. Unlike a typical scholarship, I felt that SMART was willing to provide me with additional tools to help me succeed as an engineer and scientist in the DoD,” Szymanski said, adding, “Being awarded the SMART SEED Grant further validates that feeling and I feel honored that SMART and NSWCPD values my ideas.”

The SMART Scholarship Program provides a full scholarship and the opportunity to work at a DoD facility after graduation. NSWCPD selected Szymanski for the SMART scholarship because of his doctoral research assessing the accuracy of multiple interface power hardware-in-the-loop (PHIL) simulations. His initial work assignment at NSWCPD continued his work with PHIL.

PHIL is one of the many tools that can be used to aid the Navy in becoming carbon emission-free by 2050.

“All the current data shows us that we need to reevaluate how we currently do things in the energy sector. In my opinion, the Navy is no exception. The Department of the Navy currently has a plan to neutralize its carbon emissions by 2050, but this will only be achieved through a conscious effort to explore renewable energy solutions. As an electrical engineer, this is an exciting time where we can all come together to help shape a better future,” Szymanski said.

The SEED Grant will enable Szymanski to focus his research on renewable energy generation and storage, modeling the behavior of an integrated power network system of systems, and simulating those complex relationships in a laboratory environment. His analysis will directly contribute to the Navy more effectively using shipboard power to increase the capabilities of its vessels.

“Within the Navy, PHIL has also been used to prototype hybrid energy solutions for our fleet. I am hoping that the SMART SEED Grant provides the Navy with further insights and capabilities in PHIL, making the testing of new technology cheaper, safer, and more efficient,” Szymanski said.

NSWCPD’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Dr. Michael Golda expounded on the significance of Szymanski’s work.

“We keep a destroyer around for 35+ years so whatever system we are designing today has to be flexible to still be doing what the Navy needs in 2057. That all depends on making the right choices as we design that system. The way we manage that risk is through modeling and simulation and that’s where Thiago’s strength and area of expertise is,” Golda said on Szymanski’s importance to NSWCPD.

Golda saw the former FSU graduate student as an ideal candidate for the SMART Scholar program in 2018 and his assessment has been further vindicated through this SEED Grant recognition. The CTO predicts greater accomplishments on the horizon for Szymanski.

“The Navy’s interest in advanced power systems is just going to continue. He’s [Thiago] on the ground floor of the next generation of Navy capabilities. We are transitioning from diesel, gas turbines, and steam plants to integrated power on ships…that trend is just going to continue and accelerate, and he is in an area that provides the key information that we need to design the systems that we need for the future,” Golda said.

It would be easy to become complacent with the recent praise and adulation, but that is not in Szymanski’s nature. The SEED Grant recipient remains eager to keep NSWCPD on the cutting edge of energy innovation, and he also wants to give back.

“I hope that my SMART SEED Grant can grow into different projects. A vision a lot of us have is to create another state-of-the-art test facility within NSWCPD on real-time simulations and hardware in the loop testing. This facility would behave similarly to the Land Based Engineering Site (LBES), which has had tremendous success,” Szymanski said.

“I would love to be a subject matter expert in the field of real-time simulations and hardware-in-the-loop testing at NSWCPD. I would also love to continue working on outreach and mentoring, especially with local and underrepresented grounds within STEM,” he added.

NSWCPD employs approximately 2,800 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel. The NSWCPD team does the research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service and logistics engineering for the non-nuclear machinery, ship machinery systems, and related equipment and material for Navy surface ships and submarines. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.