WPI Joins Scholarship Program To Support Graduate Education and Research

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Marketing Communications

WPI is proud to announce a new partnership with Draper, an independent engineering innovation nonprofit, which makes WPI a participant in the Draper Scholars program. 

The program provides opportunities for graduate students to conduct research under the collaborative supervision of a Draper scientist/engineer and a WPI faculty member. The research has to fit in one of Draper’s 14 strategic areas of national importance, which include AI and machine learning, quantum sensors, space technology, and strategic systems. 

The application process is twofold: University faculty and Draper technical staff team up and submit a collaborative research proposal to Draper. Once selected for funding, the faculty identifies a qualified student to be approved as a Draper Scholar. Draper will then cover partial tuition and stipends for the selected scholars, for two years for MS students and five years for PhD students. Draper Scholars have access to Draper’s facilities and can tap into the knowledge of its staff.   

Draper Scholars will realize unique connections as they work alongside world-class researchers while also receiving the opportunity for a funded graduate degree in their passion area. WPI’s faculty and graduate students who participate in the program will pursue real-world, cutting-edge research in emerging fields and technologies with support from Draper.  

Nine WPI faculty members will participate in the program and conduct research with graduate students starting in the fall. Faculty approved for the program include Shamsnaz BhadaRaghvendra Cowlagi, Carlo Pinciroli, Nitin Sanket, Patrick SchaumontShahin Tajik, Raisa TrubkoZhenglun Alan Wei, and Yu Zhong. Projects include research on artificial intelligence and machine learning; cyber, biotechnology, autonomy, hypersonics; and materials design and development.     

Professor and Associate Dean of Graduate Studies Alexander Wyglinski says he expects the sponsored scholarships from Draper to benefit WPI and its students in many ways. “WPI is in a position to recruit the best and brightest in these emerging fields,” he says. “Having these graduate students pursuing this industry-sponsored research to solve real-world challenges in areas of national importance is significant for WPI since it continues to support our overall graduate education and research enterprise, as well as highlights WPI’s ability to be a reliable and exciting partner with industry.”  

WPI’s participation in the Draper Scholars program is a result of conversations that began with Peter Huie, an outreach team member in WPI’s Office of Corporate Partnerships (OCP), and Brian Sheehan, a systems engineer at Draper; both are leadership members of the New England chapter of INCOSE (International Council on Systems Engineering).   

Serving as the front door to corporate partnerships at WPI, OCP arranged for an introductory meeting with Draper and identified the Draper Scholars Program as an opportunity for collaboration. OCP partnered with Graduate and Professional Studies, -Office of the Vice Provost for Research, and Office of General Counsel; in remarkable speed, agreement terms were negotiated and a “matchmaking” event was organized, with presentations by WPI faculty with research in Draper’s focus areas and lab tours attended by a delegation from Draper. With the help of WPI and Draper leadership, teams self-organized and submitted proposals in December 2023. Seven separate WPI projects, being worked on by nine faculty members, were accepted for funding. 

“The number of research projects chosen for funding and participation in the Draper Scholars program is a very impressive result for the first year of this collaboration,” says Antje Harnisch, Assistant Vice Provost for Research.  

WPI is now one of fewer than 20 schools nationwide chosen to participate in the Draper Scholars program. Other participating institutions include Brown University, MIT, and the University of Michigan. 

Executive Director of Corporate Partnerships David Ortendahl says he looks forward to supporting this new program to ensure its long-term success. He added, “Our role in the Office of Corporate Partnerships is to provide a seamless process for our partners to engage with WPI and vice versa, driving the momentum forward with our internal and external partners to facilitate shared goals. We are proud to celebrate the WPI community members recently accepted into the Draper Scholars program.”  

This is an ongoing program, and WPI and Draper will continue to offer match-making events in future years, hoping for many more collaborative research teams and Draper Scholars.