Student Erin Peters selected for Department of Defense SMART Scholars program

May 19, 2022 | King University

BRISTOL, Tenn., May 19, 2022 — King University student Erin Peters has been accepted to the Department of Defense’s (DOD) SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program.

The prestigious award includes scholarship funding, as well as a guaranteed job with the DOD following graduation. In her future work with the program, Peters will be part of a team that focuses on the monitoring of biological warfare, and support and education in developing nations.

Peters, who is working toward a double major in biology and mathematics, is the first King student to be accepted and the only DOD awardee in her specific program. The 2021 acceptance rate for biosciences applicants was 1.2%.

“It feels amazing. It is really incredible. Sometimes I still can’t believe it,” Peters said of her acceptance into the program. “Working with the Department of Defense is sure to be challenging, but I expect the rewards will be well worth it. I know I am going to learn so much, and I just can’t wait to get started.”

The upcoming senior was nominated for the award by Kelly Vaughan, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of King’s Department of Biology. Vaughan has worked with Peters as an advisor and professor, and led her work in the research lab, which is supported by the Burke Endowment.

“One thing that sets Erin apart is her aptitude in both mathematics and biology. She does not simply memorize facts, but learns them,” Vaughan said. “She is adept at fitting pieces of what she has learned in one class with what she learns in other classes and the research lab, and assembling those pieces to solve a puzzle.”

Peters plans to graduate from King in spring 2023, and she’s examining future plans for her career and additional education.

“Before receiving the award, my plans after graduation were to attend graduate school,” she said. “Thanks to the SMART Scholars program, my goals have now shifted to working for the Department of Defense, and possibly attending graduate school part-time instead.”

Vaughan is confident Peters has the skills and attitude necessary to have a successful career.

“I cannot overstate how impressed I continue to be with Erin,” Vaughan said. “She shows a level of maturity and dedication far beyond most students.”

The SMART – or Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation – Scholarship-for-Service program is funded by the DOD, and is a combined education and workforce development opportunity for STEM students. The mission of the program is to enhance the department’s civilian workforce with innovative researchers, engineers, and scientists throughout the United States.

For more information about King, visit For more information about the Department of Defense SMART Scholars program, visit



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