Louisiana Tech University Mechanical Engineering senior Richard Fontenot has earned a SMART (Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation) Scholarship from the U.S. Department of Defense for his academic and research success.
The SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program provides science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students who excel in studies and complex research with a full scholarship and opportunities to research during summer internships with experts in their fields.
In addition to being a top-notch student, Fontenot has honed his research skills over the past three years, performing innovative research focused on heat transfer and spacecraft applications, specifically controlling thermal energy of spacecraft using ferrofluids, on projects with Dr. Arden Moore, associate professor of mechanical engineering and nanotechnology engineering for Louisiana Tech’s College of Engineering and Science and Institute of Micromanufacturing, and his team at The Multiscale Energy Transport and Materials Laboratory.
Last summer he added a remote internship with the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to his resume.
After graduation in May, Fontenot will continue to work with the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate over summers and will pursue a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering at Rice University, where his SMART Scholarship will cover all educational expenses and a health insurance allowance, as well as provide him with an annual stipend.
At Rice, he will take the hands-on research experience that he’s had at Louisiana Tech to focus on spacecraft and heat transfer research.
“The fellowship creates a clear path for graduate school, and that path is in a large part because of Louisiana Tech,” Fontenot said. “I’ve had opportunities as a Tech student that I don’t believe I would have had at another school. Dr. Moore is a world-class researcher, and he makes time to meet with me for weekly research meetings. I’ve learned a lot working in his lab, but the most important two things I’ve learned with research are patience and perseverance. If something doesn’t work correctly the first time, and it rarely does, stay stubborn, and ask for help if you need it.”
Fontenot said he is thankful for the opportunities that he’s earned through Louisiana Tech and the connections he’s made at the Tech.
In addition to research with Moore, including proof of concept research on a reliable, variable emissivity surface using ferrofluid for small spacecraft applications that is about to be published and on which he’s the first author, Fontenot has spent his senior year developing a thermal management solution to prevent catastrophic failure resulting from thermal runaway in lithium-ion batteries with a team of his fellow mechanical engineers, Abigail Morgan, Nicholas Mueller, and Carli Raupp. The team will present the project at the 2021 College of Engineering and Science Senior Projects Conference on Friday, May 7.
“The support system at the University and at the College of Engineering and Science has been incredible. Everyone has been invested in my success: Dr. Moore and my fellow students, especially my senior design team, have helped me become a better communicator and researcher. Dr. (Hisham) Hegab (dean of the College of Engineering and Science) and Dr. (Heath) Tims (associate dean of undergraduate studies for the College of Engineering and Science) have also shown great interest in my growth as a student.”
“Richard’s prestigious scholarship is well-deserved,” Moore said. “Besides his academic talent, work ethic, and leadership skills, his positive attitude and ability to function well on a team have benefited every project he has been a part of. As a faculty member at Louisiana Tech, I am grateful that we have students of this caliber in the classroom and in the laboratory.”
Fontenot is currently serving as a College of Engineering and Science Senator for Louisiana Tech’s Student Government Association, president of the Mechanical Engineering honors society, Pi Tau Sigma, and is an active member of COES Ambassadors. He’s also a proud Eagle Scout. He earned the College of Engineering and Science Outstanding Senior award in 2021 and Outstanding Junior award in 2020 and the Louisiana Tech University Freshman Engineering Student of the Year award in 2018.