CVM Graduate Student Earns SMART Scholarship from US Department of Defense

Krisa Camargo and Reveille in front of a maroon Texas A&M Association of Former Students background
Krisa Camargo and Reveille

Krisa Camargo, a graduate research assistant in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Interdisciplinary Faculty of Toxicology (IFT) program, has been awarded a Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship from the United States Department of Defense (DoD).

The scholarship will cover Camargo’s tuition, textbooks, health insurance, and an annual stipend for the final two years of her Ph.D. dissertation work, as well as guarantee her a summer internship and future civilian position with her DoD sponsoring facility upon graduation.

“It was a pleasant surprise and a nice relief,” Camargo said. “I can now focus on my research and get into the details prior to defending my dissertation.”

Camargo will spend summer 2020 working directly with an experienced mentor at the Army Public Health Center in Aberdeen, Maryland, to gain valuable skills and field experience.

Upon graduation, she will begin her service commitment and contribute to national security at the same Army facility as a civilian employee.

“This is a major accomplishment that our program and the entire university are very proud of,” said Dr. Ivan Rusyn, University Professor and chair of the toxicology program at Texas A&M. “This is a very competitive program and Krisa has taken initiative to seek external funding to help her proactively shape her career aspirations.”

At the Army Public Health Center, Camargo will work within the toxicology division to support the war fighter, their families, and the environment by characterizing the potential risks associated with military-related substances like smokes and obscurants.

“Ideally, you want functional products without adverse health effects for either the public or the environment,” she said.

Since her father served in the United States Coast Guard (USCG) for more than 21 years, Camargo has moved more than seven times across the Eastern seaboard. As a result, her military family has grown over the years and she is excited to work for the military as a civilian and SMART scholar.

At the CVM, Camargo is a trainee at the Texas A&M Superfund Research Center (SRC) under the mentorship of CVM professor Dr. Weihsueh Chiu; Dr. Thomas McDonald, Regents Professor in the School of Public Health; and Dr. Anthony Knap, professor in the College of Geosciences and director of the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group.

“The SMART scholarship, with its ultimate goal of protecting military personnel and their families from health impacts of military-related substances, is a great fit for Krisa and we are very proud of her accomplishment,” Chiu said. “Moreover, it serves as a great example of how our toxicology training program in Regulatory Science seeks to prepare trainees for careers across a range of sectors.”

Camargo is writing her dissertation on the characterization of environmental mixtures in Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel soils and sediments.

“Within the Superfund Research Center, I’m primarily working with sediments or soils,” Camargo said. “I characterize the contaminants potentially in these samples and quantify their respective concentrations. Then I ask, ‘What should we do about it?’ ‘Are they of concern?’ and ‘What is the exposure risk associated with these samples?’”

This work guided her decision to pursue the SMART scholarship, she said.

“Dr. Rusyn and the faculty in the Superfund center opened the door (to the DoD opportunity) by encouraging me to be bold with my career,” Camargo said. “Each individual who visited represented a range of career sectors which included consultants, state or federal government officials, industry scientists, and academics.”

Through those visiting speakers, she began to develop her interest in government and regulatory risk assessment. After learning about the SMART program from one speaker and researching the opportunity more, she found it to be a great fit, especially as the military is and continues to be near and dear to her.

Camargo grew up in Virginia for one of her father’s USCG tours and attended George Mason University for her undergraduate degree in neuroscience.

“I’m excited about returning ‘home!’ I’ve missed the East Coast,” Camargo said. “It’ll be nice to go back to the D.C. area but also do something I enjoy.”

To apply for the SMART scholarship, Camargo submitted her application that consisted of her doctoral proposal, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement about her interest in the program. Upon review of a SMART committee panel, she was preliminarily selected prior to interviewing with her selected DoD sponsoring facilities.

The SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program was established as a concentrated effort to enhance the DoD workforce with talented, innovative, and brilliant scientists, engineers, and researchers. For more than a decade, SMART Scholars have been working within labs and agencies of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and additional DoD to support the war fighter and create an impact to secure our nation.

For more information on the SMART Program or to learn how students can apply, please visit www.smartscholarship.org. The application window is open from August through December every year.

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Interim Director of CVM Communications, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; jgauntt@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216