‘I’m not going to take it for granted’

UTA doctoral student earns prestigious scholarship from Department of Defense

Wednesday, Jun 28, 2023 • Herb Booth : Contact

Minh Tram, a doctoral student in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at The University of Texas at Arlington, has received a prestigious Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarship from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

Mihn Tram
Minh Tram

“This is an amazing opportunity, and I’m not going to take it for granted,” Tram said. “There aren’t many chances for an academic to get involved with this type of program, and depending on where I’m needed, I may gain access to things that I’d never know about in the civilian world.”

Tram, who has been a student at UTA since 2017, focuses his research on creating novel augmented and virtual reality capabilities for human-robot interaction. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science and just completed his first year as a doctoral student. For the last three years, he has worked in the Robotic Vision Lab, run by Assistant Professor William Beksi, which focuses on robot perception, human-robot interaction and autonomous systems.

Tram uses simulation software to observe and train humans and robots to perform more intuitively and alleviate the amount of processing necessary to do a task. His work could be used, for example, to make autonomous robots require less oversight and maintenance.

“Minh is one of my best students,” Beksi said. “He is doing pioneering research in my lab that will enable us to improve machine learning via virtual reality. This will have broad positive impacts across a variety of fields, including robotics, education and workforce development.”

SMART scholarship recipients earn full tuition, a significant annual stipend and a book and health allowance. They also complete a summer internship at a DoD facility and are assigned an experienced mentor. The full scholarship and other benefits allow participants to focus on complex research to further the DoD’s mission and create a lasting impact. The program is a one-for-one commitment: For every year of degree funding, the recipient commits to working for a year with the DoD as a civilian employee.

- Written by Jeremy Agor, College of Engineering