Former Cerro Coso student Jessica Cash is the recipient of a prestigious SMART (Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation) Scholarship from the U.S. Department of Defense. SMART scholarships are awarded to students pursuing advanced degrees in STEM fields. Upon graduation these scholars are hired as research staff at defense laboratories around the country to increase the number of civilian scientists and engineers.
A doctoral student at the University of Florida, Cash grew up in Ridgecrest, graduated with two A.A. degrees, Pre-Engineering and General Science, from Cerro Coso in 2009, and received her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) in 2011. She worked as a student intern at the China Lake Naval Research Lab studying film formation and properties for optical waveguide devices, high temperature composite resins, and ionic liquids.
While at Cerro Coso Community College, Cash was named a member of USA Today’s 2nd All-California College Academic Team and upon transferring she was selected as a UCSB Regents Scholar. She credits the supportive environment of her instructors at Cerro Coso with encouraging her later on in her schooling when the challenges were particularly rough. “Their passion for teaching others isn’t something you always find at other colleges and it goes with you when you move on,” she said in an interview.
Currently, she is pursuing her Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry at the University of Florida as a member of Dr. Brent Sumerlin’s polymer chemistry group. Her research centers on the development of novel self-healing dynamic-covalent polymers. While biological systems will start repairing themselves immediately when damaged, as everyone who has experienced a paper cut knows, man-made systems don’t. “Imagine what would happen if you were in a car accident and your vehicle had the ability to heal itself,” said Cash. “Then translate that into commercial use in other environments. The possibilities are endless,” she exclaimed.
Recipients of the SMART scholarship earn full tuition, a stipend and a book allowance for up to five years of undergraduate and graduate education, along with summer research internships at DoD research facilities and employment opportunities following graduation.