Dr. Alison Smith, a Southeastern Department of Computer Science graduate, won the 2018 Service to America Awards (Sammies) People’s Choice Medal. Her nomination was in the Promising Innovation category, and she was selected as the People’s Choice winner through an online public vote.
The Sammies are presented by the Partnership for Public Service “to honor unsung heroes in our federal government who have made important contributions to the health, safety, and prosperity of our nation.” This annual awards competition, the Oscars of federal service, embraces a vigorous selection process for nominees. Smith, a materials chemist with the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana, was nominated for her work with pioneering the use of nanoparticles to assure authenticity of sensitive military equipment. As a result of her achievements, the nation’s security and lives of military service members can be better protected.
Along with the help of her team, Smith grew nanoparticles in unique geometric patterns then placed them on the electronic components of equipment. Light is reflected by these nanoparticles in a certain way, creating original markers, or fingerprints. These fingerprints can then be read with properly equipped cameras, including the ones on smartphones, to allow military to identify authenticity. Not only can these fingerprints not be replicated or tampered with, but functionality of the part is also not affected.
According to Naval Surface Warfare Center Director of Research Jonathan Dilger, Dr. Smith’s innovative research has “opened the door to a new age of anti-counterfeiting and antitampering measures” that could help prevent malfunctions in strategic weapons systems.