The DOD Selects 2023-2024 Minerva-USIP Peace and Security Dissertation Fellows

The Department of Defense today announced the 21 awardees of the 2023-2024 Minerva-U.S. Institute of Peace’s “Peace and Security Dissertation Fellowship,” providing fellowships of up to $20,000 to doctoral candidates who show great potential to advance policy and practice in the peacebuilding and security fields.

Since 2017, the Minerva Research Initiative, a DoD-sponsored, university-based social sciences program focused on research of particular relevance to U.S. national security, has joined with the U.S. Institute of Peace’s (USIP) Peace Scholar Fellowship program to award non-residential fellowships to students enrolled in U.S. universities. The awards support doctoral research related to broad concerns in conflict management and peacebuilding, including security and stability. More than 113 applicants from 66 U.S. universities applied for the 2023-2024 awards. 

“These awards complement the efforts of USIP’s Peace Scholar Fellowship Program to expand support for advanced graduate students and create opportunities for ongoing engagement,” said Dr. David Montgomery, DoD’s director of social science. “We are proud of the doctoral candidates being funded through this collaboration and look forward to seeing their projects develop.”

The 2023-2024 Peace Scholar Dissertation Fellows include:

2023-24 Minerva-Funded Peace and Security Scholars

  • Haley Allen DeMarco (Yale University), “Staffing the Secret Police: Security Personnel in Authoritarian Argentina”
  • Salah Ben Hammou (University of Central Florida), “The Varieties of Civilian Praetorianism and the Politics of Post-Coup Trajectories”
  • Tessa Devereaux Evans (Cornell University), “More of a Threat Than Guns: The Determinants of Insurgent Gender Governance”
  • Myung Jung Kim (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign), “Negotiating Justice, Rebel Sponsorship, and War Outcomes in the Shadow of International Criminal Prosecution”
  • Enrico Antonio La Viña (University of California, Davis), “Vigilantism From Above: Democratic Backsliding and State Repression in the Philippines”
  • Emily Myers (Duke University), “Rethinking Rebel-Civilian Ties in Civil War”
  • Miryam Nacimento (City University of New York – The Graduate Center), “Coca Growers and Peasant Cultures: Explaining the Impact of Coca Prohibition on Peasant Identities in Colombia”
  • Ilayda Onder (Pennsylvania State University), “Cooperation, Rivalry, and Tactical Diffusion in Militant Networks”
  • Ana Paula Pellegrino (Georgetown University), “The State That Forges Organized Criminal Groups”
  • Beenish Pervaiz (Brown University), “Old Wars, New Tools: How Alliance Politics Shapes Vertical Nuclear Proliferation and Technological Diffusion in Pakistan and India”
  • Erika Ricci (University of Central Florida), “The Militancy Cycle: Exploring Violent Extremism Through the Italian Red Brigades”
  • Natan Skigin (University of Notre Dame), “Punitive Solidarity: How Victims’ Narratives Shape Civic Engagement and Accountability in Drug Wars”
  • Madeleine Stevens (University of Chicago), “Annihilating ‘Subversion’ and Dehumanizing ‘Delinquents’: Enforced Disappearance from the Cold War Through the War on Terror”
  • Angie Torres-Beltran (Cornell University), “The Political Consequences of Violence Against Women (Non-stipendiary fellowship)”

2023-24 USIP-Funded Peace Scholar Fellows

  • Alana Ackerman (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), “Refugees Without Refuge: Persecution and Displacement Across Borders in South America”
    Shahab ud Din Ahmad (John Hopkins University), “Conflict and Late State Formation in Colonial Peripheries: Discretionary Rule and Informality on the Afghan Frontier (1955-2018)”
  • Amanda Blewitt (New York University), “‘Living Peace’ in a Violent Environment: Local and Everyday Peacebuilding in Honduras”
  • Frieder Dengler (American University), “System Encounters: Rules of Inter-State Conduct in Early Modern Sino-European Relations”
  • Sky Kunkel (Purdue University), “The Local Effects of UN Peacekeeping (Non-stipendiary fellowship)”
  • Laura Mendez Carvajal (Kent State University), “‘Self-help’ Discourse in Foreign Aid and Inequality: Peasants’ Agency in Rural Colombia”
  • Rebecca Wai (University of Michigan), “It Takes More Than a Village: How Refugee-Host Cooperation Promotes Peace and Economic Development”

The competition for the 2024-25 cohort opens in September 2023. Visit the Peace Scholar Fellowship Program on USIP’s website to see the 2024-25 request for applications.

The Minerva Research Initiative is jointly administered by the Basic Research Office in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and the Strategy and Force Development Office in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, in partnership with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Office of Naval Research. To learn more about Minerva’s partnership with USIP, visit

DOD Announces 2023 Laboratory-University Collaboration Initiative Fellows

The Department of Defense today announced the 2023 class of the Laboratory-University Collaboration Initiative (LUCI).

LUCI fellows are accomplished researchers within defense laboratories who seek to collaborate with prominent DOD-funded academic researchers – either recipients of the Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship or principal/co-principal investigators under the Multi-Disciplinary University Research Initiative. Each awarded LUCI project will be eligible to receive up to $200,000 per year for three years.

The selection process for this competitive fellowship engaged program officers from the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force; leaders from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering’s Basic Research Office; and technical experts from supporting defense contractors. From 57 white papers, evaluators chose 19 that demonstrated the potential for creative, high-impact research in topic areas critical to the DoD. After an interview phase, the BRO selected the following 12 projects, with 18 total principal investigators from the Service laboratories, as the Department’s 2023 LUCI cohort:

Principal InvestigatorTopicProject TitleCollaborator
Spencer Olson
(Air Force Research Laboratory)
Quantum Information ScienceMicro-Optical Cavities for Scalable Coherent CouplingMonika Schleier-Smith; Jon Simon
(Stanford University)
Steven Rodriguez
(Naval Research Laboratory)
Applied MathLow-Dimensional Manifold Discovery from Unstructured Data of Meshless MultiphysicsSteven Brunton (University of Washington)
Meagan Small and Jordan Baumbach
(Army Research Laboratory)
Fundamentals of Bio-engineeringEvolution of Fungal Enzymes for Degradation of Polymeric MaterialsAhmad Khalil
(Boston University)
Mulugeta Haile
(Army Research Laboratory)
OtherBiomimetic Vestibular Physical Reservoir Computing as a Universal Stability Controller for Nonlinear Dynamical SystemsYing-Cheng Lai (Arizona State University)
Ibrahim Boulares and Owen Vail
(Army Research Laboratory)
MaterialsBeyond the 2D Limit: Band Engineered Control of Exciton Condensates in Coupled van der Waals SystemsPhilip Kim
(Harvard University)
Tanya Tschirhart
(Naval Research Laboratory)
Fundamentals of Bio-engineeringConnecting Electron Flow and Gene Expression in Cells for Multi-Channel ElectrogeneticsCaroline Ajo-Franklin
(Rice University)
James Delehanty
(Naval Research Laboratory)
Cognitive NeuroscienceNanoscale Sensors and Actuators for Advanced Measurement and Control of Neuronal Cell Function In VivoRafael Yuste (Columbia University)
Corey Trahan and Mark Loveland
(Army Research Laboratory)
Artificial Intelligence
Modeling Coastal Hydrodynamics Using Neural OperatorsGeorge Karniadakis (Brown University)
William Kennedy and Dass Chandriker
(Air Force Research Laboratory)
MaterialsCircularly Polarized Lasers Using Intrinsically Chiral Hybrid Perovskite CrystalsNick Kotov
(University of Michigan)
Patrick Callahan and Keith Knipling
(Naval Research Laboratory)
MaterialsUnderstanding the Deformation Behavior of Refractory High Entropy AlloysMitra Taheri
(Johns Hopkins University)
Blair Connelly and George de Coster
(Army Research Laboratory)
MaterialsDeconvolution of Topological Photocurrents: Ultrafast Spin Flips Without UncertaintyMercedeh Khajavikhan; Demetrios Christodoloudis (University of Southern California)
Manoj Kolel-Veetil
(Naval Research Laboratory)
OtherAI/ML-Assisted Advancement of Degradation Science of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) on 2-Dimensional Nanoconfining SubstratesSurya Kalidindi (Georgia Institute of Technology)

Administered out of the BRO, the LUCI program fosters collaboration between DoD laboratory scientists and DoD-funded university scientists in priority defense research areas including applied mathematics, cognitive neuroscience, engineering biology, novel materials, quantum information science, and manufacturing science.

“We are delighted to contribute to the Department’s core mission by supporting a science and technology workforce that can excel in basic research, shape innovative research directions, and access the most advanced work under way in the broader scientific community,” said Dr. Bindu Nair, director of the Basic Research Office. “LUCI allows our lab scientists to pursue necessary high-risk research by giving them time to develop long-term ideas while tapping the creative energy and innate curiosity of university partners.”

DOD Invests $40 Million to Establish Research Centers of Excellence at Minority-serving Institutions

Oct 17, 2023

The Department of Defense today announced the establishment of four new research centers of excellence at minority-serving institutions of higher education, as part of its Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-serving Institutions Research and Education Program.

Selected through a merit-based competition, the awardees and their academic partners will conduct research over a five-year period in technology areas critical to the Department’s drive for Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control:  advanced computing and software, future-generation wireless technology, integrated sensing and cyber, and renewable energy generation and storage.

The awards total $40 million and will enhance research programs and capabilities in critical scientific and engineering disciplines, while expanding HBCU’s and MII’s capacity to participate in DoD research programs and activities.  These awards will also increase the number of graduates in STEM fields, including those from under-represented minorities, which is critically important to the Department’s mission.

“These COEs will boost the Department’s ability to conduct transformative research in areas that are vital to safeguarding national security.  We look forward to them contributing stimulating ideas and innovations that could lead to the development of novel technologies and methodologies,” said DOD HBCU/MI Program and Outreach Director Evelyn Kent. “Establishing the centers at minority-serving institutions also strengthens the STEM pipeline by improving the skillsets of future scientists and engineers, preparing them for careers that will help advance the Department’s research enterprise.”

The COEs were awarded based on a merit review by a panel of experts.  DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory will make the awards to four winning institutions.

The four awardees are:

  • Arizona State University – Center of Excellence in Future Generation Wireless Technology (FutureG):  Arizona State University and collaborator Ohio State University will investigate FutureG network challenges and opportunities, including multiple-input/multiple-output and waveform designs, physical-layer and signal processing technologies, distributed control and machine learning algorithms, and innovative security mechanisms.
  • Florida International University – DoD Center of Excellence for Integrated Renewable Energy and Energy Storage:  Florida International University will partner with Pennsylvania State University to provide solutions that improve DoD’s operational readiness through modern renewable energy generation systems, seamlessly integrated with energy storage.
  • Georgia State University – DoD Center of Excellence in Advanced Computing and Software:  In partnership with Duke University, Georgia State University will perform research in several key areas, including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, natural language processing, efficient deep neural networks, human-AI teaming and security, and trust and explainability in AI and machine learning systems.
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University – Research and Education Program for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-serving Institutions (Integrated Sensing and Cyber):  Virginia Polytechnic Institute along with Pennsylvania State University will research and develop integrated sensing and cyber technologies that can operate at the intersection of cyberspace, electronic warfare, radar, and communications in highly contested environments.