STEM related activity

A new initiative for students who transfer to UAH, MATRIX seeks to improve the academic performance, retention, and graduation rates of those with a demonstrated financial need and academic promise in the STEM fields.

Michael Mercier | UAH

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) is pleased to introduce the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Assistance for Transfer Improvement and Excellence (MATRIX) program, a brand new initiative to provide support for transfer students who have both a demonstrated financial need and academic promise in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Funded by a five-year, $1 million award from the National Science Foundation’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) program, MATRIX seeks to improve the academic performance, retention, and graduation rates for financially disadvantaged students who transfer to the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in UAH’s College of Engineering.

"Those selected for MATRIX will receive scholarships about $10,000 per year for up to two consecutive years beginning with their first fall semester at UAH," says Dr. Kavan Hazeli, an assistant engineering professor who serves as the program’s principal investigator. "Their first year in the program will focus on community building and undergraduate research, and their second year will focus on professional development, networking, and internships. They will also have the possibility of staying in the program for a third year based on their performance."

In addition to recruitment and retention, the program’s objectives include creating specific transfer student cohorts to assist with campus acclimation, improving transfer students’ use of on-campus academic support services, and research opportunities in the fields of advanced materials, aircraft design, batteries and energy, fluid mechanics and combustion, plasma physics, propulsion, and robotics.

"Another major benefit of this program is the professional development, networking, and internship opportunities available to our MATRIX students, thanks in large part to our long-standing partnership with engineering companies here in the Tennessee Valley," says Dr. Hazeli. "The internships in particular will provide these aspiring engineers with valuable hands-on experience, which will give them a competitive edge when they enter the professional workforce after graduation."

To help spread the word about the program, Dr. Hazeli and his co-investigator, Dr. Gabe Xu, have enlisted the help of UAH alumnus – and Dr. Hazeli’s current Ph.D. student – Destin Sandlin. "They asked me if, as part of my Ph.D., I could help work with transfer students for research – and the research is incredible," says Sandlin, whose popular YouTube channel "Smarter Every Day" has over 5.5 million subscribers. "And that’s the thing about UAH – this is a school located right next to Marshall Space Flight Center and you’ve got all these Army organizations nearby. There is a ton of research that happens at UAH."

Three possible areas of research that a MATRIX scholar can pursue are featured in Sandlin’s "Smarter Every Day" video about the program:

Smarter Every Day

"It truly is a unique opportunity," says Dr. Hazeli, whose own research focuses on the development of next-generation, high-strength, lightweight multi-functional materials and composites for critical structures with automotive and aerospace applications. "For students who might otherwise not be able to afford to attend a school with a national reputation for STEM research such as UAH, this program allows them to be passionate and ambitious about their goals and dreams without worrying about how they’re going to pay for their education. It’s simply about believing in yourself, feeling responsible for the community, working hard, building knowledge, and improving the quality of life."

Students interested in applying for a MATRIX scholarship must meet the program’s eligibility requirements:

  • Be a transfer student (i.e., have between 24 and 60 academic credit hours). Special consideration may be made for "transfer freshmen."
  • Be a U.S. citizen (as defined by section 101 (a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act), an alien admitted as a refugee (as defined by section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act), or a permanent resident of the U.S.
  • Be admitted to UAH as a transfer student and enrolled full time in a degree program in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
  • Demonstrate financial need, which is defined for undergraduate students by the U.S Department of Education rules for need-based federal financial aid via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • Hold a minimum GPA of 2.75.

Applicants must also submit one reference letter from an instructor at their transfer institution, as well as an essay of no more than 500 word describing their academic and professionals career plans and selecting an area of research interest from those offered by MATRIX. Once accepted, MATRIX scholars must also maintain full-time status, improve their GPA, receive favorable reports from their research mentor, and attend seminars, workshops, and socials hosted by the program.


Dr. Kavan Hazeli