ARL longtime student intern wins DOD fellowship

June 16, 2015

By Joyce P. Brayboy, ARL Public Affairs Office

Steven Lacey was valedictorian of his graduating class at North Carroll High School in Hampstead before he started his undergraduate career in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Maryland College Park.

He went on to explore materials development research as a college sophomore at the Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center, located at Aberdeen Proving Ground, as well as several other internships within the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.

Lacey was one of approximately 200 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellows who recently received a three-year fellowship that starts this fall. NDSEG Fellowships are one of the most competitive technical graduate fellowships in the country and are awarded to applicants who will pursue a doctoral degree in 1 of 15 disciplines related to DOD areas of interest.

The Baltimore native originally came to Defense to work with ECBC in the areas of material development and smoke obscurants where he synthesized optically tunable nanomaterials.

"My passion was energy storage and conversion but this great opportunity came up. I thought, wow, this is going to give me more experience in a unique research area," he said.

Over the years, Lacey has been an ARL Summer Student at Adelphi Laboratory Center working with two-dimensional battery materials such as graphene, where he now serves as a guest researcher. He has also worked with armor experts developing ballistic and stab-resistant shear thickening fluid body armor within ARL's multifunctional materials branch at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

His diverse research experience has led Lacey to think about a doctoral thesis topic that encompasses what he's learned over the years such as low-dimensional nanomaterials for energy, composites, and flexible electronics. "It got me to where I am today," Lacey said. "All of the internships, great mentors throughout the undergrad years within ECBC, ARL in Adelphi and Aberdeen culminated into winning this fellowship."

When Lacey applied for the NDSEG Fellowship, he also applied to two others at the advice of his professor. After receiving an Honorable Mention from the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program, he was excited to open an email beginning, "Congratulations!"

"Oh my gosh, I did it," he said. "I nearly jumped for joy because all of my hard work and effort had culminated into this moment. I was grateful beyond words."

The NDSEG Fellowship acceptance wasn't just Lacey's success. Family and friends shared his endeavors with their co-workers and classmates, resulting in an extended family of support, and his parents were so proud. "It's amazing to have so many people who care," he said.

Lacey balances his academics with sports, music, and socializing. Balancing can also be a challenge that sometimes requires making a sacrifice. Lacey recalls joining the UMD club soccer team in his freshman year, and having to quit as the academic workload and sports commitment became too much. He had to make a choice between his love of soccer or his passion for engineering.

Lacey studies battery fundamentals at ARL and develops next-generation transparent conducting electrodes for flexible electronics at UMD. It is still early in the doctoral program for Lacey to decide his path, be it Defense science, university teaching or something he has yet to discover, he said.

Lacey's tips for Summer Students:

  • Whatever you do, always give 100 percent because the hard work and effort definitely pay off.
  • Take advantage of every opportunity presented to you. I have been in three distinctly different areas of Defense research. All three experiences have made a substantial impact on my scientific skillset.
  • You are not going to be compatible with everyone you meet. Focus on the experience, the daily research and the different projects. The summer project may not be exactly what you are interested in; but it often winds up evolving into something great.
  • Build your network!
  • Persevere!

Whether it was taking 1st place in ASM International's Undergraduate Design Competition for his senior Capstone team's carbon nanotube body armor, publishing his Defense research in high impact journals (; or work that he has yet to complete, Lacey leaves a mark.


Last Update / Reviewed: June 16, 2015