Dr. Theresa Scarnati, a mathematician, was an intern with the program for two summers before being hired by AFRL. After earning her Ph.D., Scarnati volunteered as a mentor for the program. This year, she supervises five students working on projects she designed.
“Before coming to Dayton as an intern, I didn’t even know working for the DoD was an option,” she said. “I thought it was either industry or academia.”
For Scarnati, the AFRL internship provided both a career connection and a love connection: She met her fiancé, Dr. Chris Paulson, a Sensors Directorate electrical engineer and ATRC mentor, during a Dayton summer.
“He organized the summer social events,” Scarnati said. “We have game nights, we went to Cedar Point … when I started working (at AFRL), we started dating.”
Dr. Fred Garber, an engineering professor at Wright State and Zelnio’s partner in running the ATRC program, is consistently amazed at the quality of the students chosen for the program.
“It floors me every year,” he said. “They come from places all over, begin working on projects they have no idea about with somebody they just met, and they ramp up the learning curve within the week. We have more leaders than followers.”