Engineering grad student wins Department of Defense scholarship

April 30, 2021

A Mississippi State engineering student has been awarded a highly competitive scholarship from the United States Department of Defense.

David Failla

Mechanical engineering grad student David Failla recently earned a scholarship from the Department of Defense.

David Failla, a mechanical engineering student pursuing both a master’s and Ph.D. in the Bagley College of Engineering, is the recipient of the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation Scholarship as part of the DoD’s SMART Scholarship-for-Service-Program.

The scholarship provides recipients with full tuition for up to five years, summer internships, a stipend and full-time employment with the Department of Defense after graduation. The unique opportunity offers students hands-on experience at one of over 200 of the nation’s most innovative laboratories across the Army, Navy, Air Force and larger Department of Defense. During summer internships, SMART Scholars work directly with an experienced mentor, gaining valuable technical skills.

“I am very thankful for the support that I have received to pursue this endeavor from my academic advisor, Dr. Matthew Priddy, and my supervisor with the Engineering Research and Development Center, Dr. Jesse Sherburn,” Failla said. “I am also very thankful for the love and support of my family, especially my wife Catherine. I could not have achieved my goals so fast and so successfully without their help.”

Failla’s research focus is on the computational modeling of mechanical properties and residual stresses in as-built laser-powder bed fusion additively manufactured parts. His goal is to advance applications in medicine via spinal implant technology, advance understanding of the fundamental sciences, and to either replace or optimize current manufacturing methods.

After earning an associate’s degree from Pearl River Community College in 2015, Failla earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Mississippi State in 2018. He is currently pursuing both a master’s and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering as part of MSU’s dual enrollment program.

A native of Picayune, Mississippi, Failla aims to complete his master’s degree in the fall of 2021 and his Ph.D. in the spring of 2023. He plans to fulfil his SMART Scholarship-for-Service requirements by working in the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory at the Engineering Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

“David’s selection for the SMART scholarship is wonderful recognition of the many things the CMML research group knows about him,” said Matthew Priddy, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. “David’s commitment to research is exemplary and only matched by his enthusiasm for all things engineering and his interest in seeing others succeed. David started with our group as an undergraduate researcher in 2017 and it has been really fun to see him grow and mature as his role has evolved over the last 4 years.”

The Department of Defense is the largest employer of scientists and engineers in the nation with nearly 300,000 STEM professionals. For over a decade, SMART has trained a highly skilled STEM workforce that competes with the evolving trends of industry to support the next generation of science and technology for our nation.

The SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program is a combined educational and workforce development opportunity for bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. students to gain technical skills in critical STEM fields. The goal of the program is to create a highly skilled civilian STEM workforce that keeps pace with the dynamic trends in technology and innovation to help protect national security. The scholarship application is open annually from August through December.

The Mechanical Engineering Department is the largest engineering programs at Mississippi State. The department has a long history of quality engineering education and research and aims to education students in fundamental engineering principles, thus enabling the understanding of existing and next generation technologies relevant to research and engineering practice.

Mississippi State’s Bagley College of Engineering is online at and can be found on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and YouTube at @msuengineering.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at

By Philip Allison